Houston's relievers can't get it done

Houston's bullpen falters again, Rangers secure series win

Houston's bullpen faltered once again on Saturday. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After a tough loss in Friday's opener where a comeback to force extras was wasted, Houston returned to Globe Life Field on Saturday to try and even the series. Although they would lead early, their bullpen would once again be the cause of some of the issues that resulted in another loss, giving the Rangers a secured series win with a potential sweep in the cards for Sunday's finale.

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 26-20, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Kolby Allard (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Andre Scrubb (1-1)

McCullers battles through five innings while teams trade runs

Both Houston and Texas put together lengthy innings at the plate in the first. The Astros sent seven batters to the plate in the top half, starting with Jose Altuve extending his hitting streak to sixteen games to start things off. They went on to load the bases with no outs, getting an RBI fielder's choice grounder by Yordan Alvarez and a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel to jump out to an early 2-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, the Rangers worked back-to-back walks to start Lance McCullers Jr.'s day.

He went on to strike out four batters in the frame, one reaching on a wild pitch, and before things moved to the second, he had already used 40 pitches. Chas McCormick extended the lead by one more run, hitting a leadoff solo homer to start the second inning, making it 3-0. McCullers Jr. dealt with more traffic in the following innings, erasing a single and walk in the second, then allowing a two-RBI double in the third, making it a one-run game. His offense got one of those back in the top of the fourth, as an RBI groundout would make it 4-2. He finished two more innings, allowing a solo homer in his fifth and final inning, leaving with a 4-3 lead. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 105 P.

Houston's bullpen blows another one

Brandon Bielak came out of the bullpen for the bottom of the sixth, getting two outs before hitting a batter and prompting Dusty Baker to move on to Andre Scrubb to finish the inning. Scrubb remained in the game in the bottom of the seventh, greeted by another homer by Adolis Garcia, a solo shot to tie the game 4-4. Scrubb would get one more out before Enoli Paredes would come in to try and keep it a tie game.

Instead, he would load the bases with a walk and an error, then giving up a two-RBI double to give the Rangers their first lead of the day at 6-4 and continuing Houston's bullpen woes. They would score two more on some defensive miscues on the final play of the inning, extending the new advantage to 8-4. That score would go final as Houston would go scoreless the rest of the way. The loss gives the Rangers a chance for the three-game sweep on Sunday, potentially returning the favor for Houston's recent four-game sweep.

Up Next: The finale of this series will start at 1:35 PM Central on Sunday, featuring a pitching matchup of Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.27 ERA) for the Astros and Mike Foltynewicz (1-4, 5.18 ERA) for the Rangers.

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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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