Astros win their sixth straight to lock up the series

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 8-6 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Winners of five straight games after the bludgeoning of the Rays in the series opener, the Astros looked to secure another series win with Gerrit Cole on the mound on Wednesday night. Here is a recap of the middle game of the three-game set:

Final Score: Astros 8, Rays 6.

Record: 87-47, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Will Harris (4-1, 1.60 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Diego Castillo (2-8, 3.76 ERA).

1) Cole gets the strikeouts, but also allows four runs

A few baserunners which turned into runs kept a decent night by Gerrit Cole from being a terrific one. Cole allowed one run in the top of the second after walking the leadoff batter who was able to advance to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a sacrifice fly, putting the Rays ahead 1-0.

His other runs came in the top of the fourth after a one-out single turned into a two-run home run to extend Tampa Bay's lead to 3-0. Outside of those miscues, Cole was still able to put together a dominant night including racking up double-digit strikeouts yet again.

After finishing the sixth inning with 98 pitches and his twelfth strikeout of the night, A.J. Hinch allowed him to continue to at least start the seventh. He allowed a leadoff triple on a ball down the first-base line, then a one-out go-ahead RBI-single, then one last strikeout for the second out before Hinch would go to the bullpen. Cole's final line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 14 K, 1 HR.

2) Astros pull away late to secure the series win

Meanwhile, on offense for Houston, they were held scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning. Down 3-0 at that point, they were able to tie the game after a leadoff double for Jose Altuve who moved to third on a groundout, then scored on an RBI-single by Alex Bregman. With two outs, Yuli Gurriel provided yet another clutch hit to continue his hot stretch over this summer, getting a game-tying two-run home run.

After Tampa Bay broke the 3-3 tie in the top of the seventh against Gerrit Cole who would leave with two outs, Will Harris was the first out of Houston's bullpen and recorded the final out. In the bottom half, the Astros were able to get Cole off the hook on an RBI-double by Aledmys Diaz to tie the game. They continued to string together hits, taking a 5-4 lead later in the inning on an RBI-single by George Springer then adding another on a throwing error, making it 6-4.

Harris remained on the mound for Houston in the top of the eighth and put together a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. The Astros added some insurance in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases before an RBI-single by Martin Maldonado then a bases-loaded walk by George Springer to make it 8-4.

Roberto Osuna took over on the mound in the top of the ninth and allowed a lead-off walk then a one-out two-run home run to trim the lead to 8-6. He was able to get the final two outs to finish the game and give Houston the series victory and their sixth-straight win.

Up Next: With Tampa Bay heading home for the weekend and Houston heading up to Toronto to kick off a five-game road trip on Friday, the two teams will wrap this three-game series up with an afternoon game on Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM, and while Zack Greinke (14-4, 2.83 ERA) will be on the mound for the Astros looking to stay undefeated with his new team, we do not yet have a starter named for the Rays.

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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