Slow starters; does history suggest the Houston Astros can still make the postseason?

There was a heightened sense of anticipation around Houston for the start of the 2016 baseball season. The Astros had defied all expectations in 2015 to finish with an 86-76 record in the regular season, before defeating the New York Yankees in the American League wild card game, and then putting up a brave fight in a 3-2 loss in the Division Series to the eventual champions, the Kansas City Royals. With the core of a promising team still in place and the experience of a run to the play-offs in the previous season, Astros fans could be forgiven for their optimism and expectations of another tilt at postseason baseball.

One month into the season, however, and things look a little different for the Astros from the positive outlook on Opening Day. They sit at the bottom of the AL West with a 7-17 record (tied for worst in the American League with the Minnesota Twins), and seven games back from the AL West frontrunners, the Texas Rangers. Only time will tell if the Astros can mount a play-off challenge from this distant position – but given their poor start, does history give us any indication as to the likelihood of a second consecutive season of postseason baseball?

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Beijing or bust; is there a new ‘Crucible curse’ affecting winners of the China Open?

Much is made in snooker about the ‘curse of the Crucible’ – the fact that no first-time winner of snooker’s World Championship has retained his title, dating back to the first tournament held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in 1977. That particular curse continued this year, with last year’s winner Stuart Bingham knocked out in the first round by Ali Carter.

But what if there was a second, different curse affecting players at the Crucible? Peter Ebdon alluded to this on commentary of this year’s championship, during Judd Trump’s second round match against Ding Junhui. Just two weeks prior to the start of the World Championship, Trump had beaten Ricky Walden 10-4 to seal his second China Open title; but now, Trump was about to be knocked out at the last 16 stage of snooker’s most prestigious event. Ebdon speculated – is there a curse affecting winners of the China Open?

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