Astros drop third straight game

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 7-6 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With a surprising and disappointing series loss to the White Sox to start the week, Houston traveled to Oakland for a four-game weekend series against the A's to try and get back on track. Here is a recap from the series opener from Thursday night:

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 6.

Record: 78-44, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Jake Diekman (1-6, 4.86 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chris Devenski (2-2, 4.42 ERA).

1) Pitcher's duel through the first three innings

The series opener got underway at a breakneck pace, with both former-Astro Mike Fiers and newly acquired Aaron Sanchez stacking three efficient innings. The two combined to get through the first three frames very quickly, taking just a total of 58 pitches to do so. The only hit over that span was a two-out single by Oakland allowed by Sanchez. However, the hits started coming in waves in the middle innings.

2) Alex Bregman starts the scoring

The top of the fourth looked to be another quick 1-2-3 inning where Mike Fiers would stay in control against the Astros. Instead, a two-out single by Michael Brantley brought Alex Bregman to the plate, and he connected on a line drive home run to start the scoring for the night and put Houston ahead 2-0.

That didn't just open up the hitting for Houston, as Oakland would respond immediately with a big inning of their own against Sanchez in the bottom of the fourth. He struggled in the inning, putting the first two runners on base to set up a go-ahead three-run home run to start the inning along with a solo home run later in the inning to extend Oakland's lead to 4-2.

Houston would work their way back to a tie with solo home runs by Carlos Correa in the fifth and Michael Brantley in the sixth, but Oakland quickly broke that tie in the bottom of the sixth. The A's launched their third and fourth home runs of the game against Sanchez with no outs in the inning, giving them a 6-4 lead.

Sanchez would get one more out before allowing two more baserunners prompting a call to the bullpen to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 4 HR.

3) Houston comes up just short

Hector Rondon took over for Aaron Sanchez in the bottom of the sixth and was able to erase two inherited runners to send the game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa trimmed Oakland's lead to one run by leading the inning off with his second home run of the night. Rondon returned for the bottom of the inning and kept the A's off the board, keeping the game at one run.

Michael Brantley would join Carlos Correa as Houston players with multi-home run games after a solo home run with one out in the top of the eighth tied the game 6-6. The balls kept flying out of the park, with Matt Chapman also having a multi-homer game for Oakland after a go-ahead solo shot off Chris Devenski in the bottom of the eighth.

Devenski would finish the bottom of the eighth, but Houston would come away empty in the top of the ninth, dropping the opener of the four-game series. The loss made it three straight for the Astros.

Up Next: Game two of this series will be Friday night with another west-coast starting time of 9:07 PM Central. Justin Verlander (15-4, 2.82 ERA) will get the ball for Houston and attempt to bounce back from a rough outing in his last start. Oakland is expected to start Tanner Roark (7-8, 4.06 ERA).

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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