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2020 could be a breakout year for Keke Coutee, here's why

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Keke Coutee's pro-career started with an extraordinary performance for the Houston Texans. In a Week 4 victory over the Colts, the then-rookie receiver set a new league record for the most receptions in a debut with 11 catches for 109 yards. Nearly two years later, Coutee has not come close to matching the on-field production from his first professional game.

A portion of Coutee's lack of productivity stems from operating in a small role within the Texans' crowed receiving core, but injuries may have been the most significant factor. Over the past two seasons, several injuries have limited Coutee to 15 games since his debut inside Lucas Oil Stadium in 2018.

"Keke had to deal with injuries, but when he plays — he has been very productive," Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien said on Tuesday. "He is a guy who has dealt with some hamstring and some ankle [injuries]. I think the big thing for Keke is health."

The 23-year-old prodigy from Texas Tech has an opportunity to increase his role with the Texans this upcoming season. Houston's receiving group could have a plethora of obstacles due to DeAndre Hopkins' departure, and Coutee could help fill in the void — especially as a slot receiver.

Impressed by his development, O'Brien says Coutee has looked great in training camp working with the receiving and special team corps. And with additional assistance coming from Randall Cobb during practice, year three has the potential to be a breakout season for Coutee — if health stays on his side.

"He's a very confident and good player, but the big thing is health — which is the case for a lot of guys," O'Brien said. "Some of their journeys to a consistent career takes a little bit longer than other guys, and some of it is luck. But I think he is on the right track."

In nine games with the Texans last season, Coutee recorded 22 catches for 254 yards, averaging 11.5 yards per catch in 2019.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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