Houston blows a four-run lead in the loss

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 9-8 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Houston needed a win on Friday night to even the four-game series and maintain their division lead. Here is a recap of the game between the Astros and Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 9, Astros 8.

Record: 57-35, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Shawn Kelley (5-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Roberto Osuna (3-2, 2.15 ERA).

1) Up and down night for Cole ends on a high note

Gerrit Cole did not have one of his most dominant starts on Friday, as evidenced by the solo home run he allowed in the first at-bat by the Rangers in the bottom of the first. He would allow two more solo home runs over the next three innings, along with a game-tying RBI-single in the bottom of the fifth.

In contrast from the home runs he allowed, Cole still had his strikeout power on display, working up to his second-highest total in a game this season at thirteen. Cole's final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 3 HR.

2) Alvarez hits home runs in back-to-back innings

Houston's offense was on display Friday night, starting with Yuli Gurriel erasing a 1-0 deficit with a two-run home run in the top of the second inning to put the Astros up 2-1. After the Rangers tied the game in the bottom of the second, Houston put some runners on base which allowed them to take advantage of an error to go back in front 3-2.

Joey Gallo and Jose Altuve both traded homers in the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth, respectively, then the Rangers tied the game 4-4 with an RBI-single off Cole in the bottom of the fifth. Yordan Alvarez gave the lead right back to Houston in the top of the next inning, getting a solo home run in the top of the sixth to make it a 5-4 Astros lead.

Later in that same inning, Tyler White was able to deliver a much-needed hit with runners in scoring position, plating two runs with a single to extend the lead to 7-4. Alvarez returned to the plate in the top of the seventh, and the at-bat was the same outcome, a solo home run to make it 8-4.

3) Bullpen blows the four-run lead 

With Cole's night finished after six innings, the Astros went to their bullpen starting with Will Harris in the bottom of the seventh. He would allow a solo home run to lead off the inning to former Astro Tim Federowicz, then a single and a one-out walk, bringing out A.J. Hinch to move on to Ryan Pressly.

Pressly was able to get the second out quickly but would watch one of Harris' runs come in on a bad throw by Robinson Chirinos trying to catch a runner stealing second, making it an 8-6 game. He would get a strikeout to end the inning. Houston tasked Hector Rondon with the bottom of the eighth, but he would allow a two-run homer with one out to tie the game 8-8.

The Astros came up empty in the top of the ninth, so they turned to Roberto Osuna to send the game to extra innings in the bottom of the ninth. He would allow a one-out single, followed by a walk, before allowing the walk-off run as the Astros would watch their once four-run lead completely erased in the loss.

Up Next: This series will continue with another night game at 7:05 PM tomorrow. The Astros will send Wade Miley (7-4, 3.28 ERA) to the mound to try and repeat the success he's had in his last two starts (two six-inning, one-run games) and the Rangers will counter with Mike Minor (8-4, 2.54 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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