Houston's bullpen woes continue

Astros blow four-run lead before losing in extras to Giants

Astros Jose Altuve
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Astros Jose Altuve

After snapping a five-game losing streak with a win to start the three-game series with the Giants on Monday, the Astros had a chance to secure the series victory on Tuesday. Here is how the middle game went:

Final Score (10 innings): Giants 7, Astros 6.

Record: 7-10, third in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Trevor Gott (1-0, 1.50 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Cy Sneed (0-3, 6.75 ERA).

Astros build another early lead behind another solid Bielak start

The Giants would strike first on Tuesday, hitting a solo home run off of Brandon Bielak in the top of the second to grab a 1-0 lead. Houston's offense would answer right away in the bottom of the inning, getting a one-out triple by Kyle Tucker, followed by an RBI-double by Martin Maldonado to tie the game. Later in the frame, a go-ahead two-RBI double by Josh Reddick gave Houston a 3-1 lead.

Alex Bregman made it a three-run lead in the bottom of the third, leading off the inning with a solo home run. San Francisco would get that run back in the top of the fifth, getting a run on a walk and two hits in the inning, making it 4-2. With that extended inning, Bielak would hit 84 pitches, and that would be it for him. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR.

Houston extends their lead, San Francisco rallies to tie and force extras

First out of the bullpen was Enoli Paredes for the top of the sixth. He made it a 1-2-3 inning, retiring the Giants in order. In the bottom of the inning, the first three batters all singled to load the bases with no outs. It looked like it may go to waste after a third-to-home double play left runners on first and second with two outs, but Myles Straw would deliver an RBI-single. Jose Altuve got a much-needed RBI-single in the next at-bat to push the lead to 6-2.

Paredes returned in the top of the seventh but would get two outs and walk a batter before Dusty Baker went to his bullpen again to bring out Blake Taylor. Taylor would get the third out, but not before issuing a walk to set up a three-run home run by former-Astro Hunter Pence, making it a one-run game at 6-5.

Still a one-run game in the top of the eighth, Andre Scrubb took over on the mound and kept the lead intact by stranding a leadoff walk and two-out single to complete the inning. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth for Houston's offense, they would bring in their current closer, Ryan Pressly, for the second-straight night. He would blow the save, allowing a walk and single to put runners on the corners to set up the tying RBI-single. He would recover to get the final two outs, sending the 6-6 game to the bottom of the ninth, where Houston would come up empty, forcing extra innings.

Giants get a go-ahead run and win in extras

In what has seemed like a regular occurrence in 2020, Cy Sneed was on the mound to start the tenth inning. He would not fare any better than his last outing, where he blew a one-run lead in the thirteenth and allowed a walk-off to Oakland, allowing back-to-back singles to start the inning to put the Giants ahead 7-6 for their first lead of the night. He would get two more outs before Houston brought in their new reliever, Brooks Raley, to get the third out.

In the bottom half, George Springer would pinch-run for Michael Brantley, and moved to third on a groundout to start the inning, but would get left stranded there as the Astros would fall in extra innings, allowing the Giants to tie the series.

Up Next: The final game of this three-game set will start Wednesday at 6:10 PM Central, an earlier start than the first two games. The pitching matchup is not yet finalized with San Francisco still taking their rotation day-by-day, but Houston will send Zack Greinke (0-0, 3.00 ERA) to the mound.

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The Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“Another one!”- DJ Khaled

That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.

The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.

Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!

One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.

As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.

To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.

I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.

The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.

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