Astros take game one of three against Rangers

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: Astros 7, Rangers 2

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After having their winning streak snapped on Wednesday night, the Astros had a day off to regroup before starting the weekend series with the Rangers in Arlington. Here's how Friday night's game went:

Final Score: Astros 7, Rangers 2

Record: 13-6, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (3-0).

Losing pitcher: Drew Smyly (0-2).

Star of the game: Though there was plenty of offense to go around for the Astros, Justin Verlander delivered a great performance on the mound, allowing just one run on three hits and three walks to go along with his eight strikeouts over his seven innings and 107 pitches. The win moved him to 3-0 on the year.

Notes: After being held to one run on Wednesday night in Oakland, the Astros were on fire to start the game on Friday, getting a leadoff double from George Springer to set up Jose Altuve for a two-run homer, followed by Alex Bregman who made it back-to-back jacks to put Houston ahead 3-0 before Drew Smyly could record an out. Altuve struck again in the next inning, getting a two-out RBI-single to extend the lead to 4-0. That score held until the top of the fifth when Michael Brantley led the inning off with a double before Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit back-to-back RBI-doubles, then later George Springer hit what looked to be a home run but was instead ruled the third RBI-double of the inning, extending Houston's lead to 7-0. After being held scoreless through the first five innings, the Rangers did finally get on the board in the bottom of the sixth on a solo home run off of Justin Verlander, but Verlander would still go on to post a great line with his seven innings pitched. Chris Devenski took over in the eighth, getting a quick scoreless inning before Reymin Guduan came in for the ninth. Guduan allowed a towering one-out solo home run to the Rangers then walked the next batter, ending his appearance to bring in Josh James who was able to notch the last two outs to wrap up the win.

Up Next: The second of three games in this series will get underway at 7:05 PM on Saturday night. Houston will send Gerrit Cole (1-2, 3.24 ERA) to the mound to face Adrian Sampson (0-1, 5.93 ERA) for the Rangers.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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