Astros win series opener against the Rangers

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 4-3 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Back at home after a series split in Los Angeles, the Astros looked to work on little sleep in the series opener against the Rangers. Here is a quick rundown of the game:

Final Score: Astros 4, Rangers 3.

Record: 62-37, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (12-4, 2.99 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Mike Minor (8-5, 2.86 ERA).

1) Gurriel stays red hot to start up the offense

After a scoreless first inning, Houston jumped out to a 1-0 lead off the bat of Yuli Gurriel who hit his ninth home run in the month of July in the bottom of the second. That started a home run barrage that would take place in the bottom of the third.

It started with Jose Altuve who led off the inning with a solo home run to extend the lead to 2-0. Not to be outdone, Alex Bregman was up next and hit one of his own to make it 3-0. Still not avoiding batters, Mike Minor left a fastball in the zone to Yordan Alvarez in the next at-bat, which he turned around for a colossal home run, 474 feet to make it back-to-back-to-back home runs and a 4-0 Houston lead.

2) Verlander with a great start, gets tagged late

While the offense was putting up highlights of their own, Justin Verlander was quietly stringing together another gem of a start. While he had no 1-2-3 innings, the outs he was getting were mostly via strikeout.

After not allowing a run through the first 5.2 innings of his six innings of work, Verlander would give up back-to-back home runs to put a slight stain on his otherwise dominant night. He would finish off the sixth with his twelfth strikeout of the night on his 116th pitch, leaving the game with a 4-2 lead.

That made it a season-high in pitch count for Verlander and matched his second-highest strikeout total. His final line: 6 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 K, 2 HR.

3) Bullpen holds Rangers down to finish things off

With Verlander's night complete after six innings, Houston went to their bullpen for the final three. Will Harris was the first reliever on the mound, taking over in the seventh. He faced a tough inning, watching a runner reach on an error before allowing a hit then a passed ball to set up an RBI-groundout to trim the lead to one run at 4-3. Harris would limit the damage there, though, preserving Houston's lead another inning.

Josh James also found it tough to get through the Rangers quickly, allowing a single and a walk in the top of the eighth. He worked around the trouble, stranding both runners to keep it at 4-3. Roberto Osuna would come in for the save in the top of the ninth and would get it for his twenty-first of the season.

Up Next: This series will continue tomorrow with the first pitch of game two at 6:10 PM on Saturday. The Astros will likely have another bullpen day and therefore have no dedicated started named yet, but the Rangers are expected to start Ariel Jurado (5-5, 4.63 ERA). Houston was able to knock Jurado out after five runs in four innings in his last start.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

Houston Astros/Facebook

The Astros had a bad 4-6 road trip and looked forward to getting home to Minute Maid Park where they have been dominant this season. The pitiful Detroit Tigers arrived in Houston with a record since the All Star Break of nine wins and 27 losses. They literally do not have one non-pitcher who would make a healthy Astros' roster. That includes the way over the hill sure fire Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. Splitting four games at home with the Tigers would have been a fail. The Astros did not fail, though "only" taking three out of four seems a little disappointing. The S.S. Astros Good Ship Lollipop has sprung a couple of leaks. Neither that can't be plugged with good health, but the Astros have two notable health issues.

Carlos Correa's next endorsement deal should be for peanut brittle, emphasis not on the peanut. Some guys just have a propensity toward getting injured. Unfortunately the Correa resume grows that he is one of those guys. That back problems have resurfaced is troubling, to no one more so than Correa himself. It's clear the guy loves the game and is spectacularly talented, but durability is one component of greatness and to this point Correa simply has not demonstrated durability. If he can't produce a fully healthy bigtime season or two in the next year or two, any visions of a Manny Machado-like 10 year 300 million dollar contract will be up in smoke. Still, Correa turns only 25 years old next month so there's time to prove sturdiness, but more sand has seeped through the hourglass. For the 2019 Astros the dropdown is huge from Correa at shortstop to either Miles Straw or Aledmys Diaz being in the lineup. As for 2020, please tell anyone saying the Astros should trade Correa to be quiet.

The loss of Ryan Pressly for most if not all of the rest of the regular season is a big blow to the bullpen. Of even bigger concern is whether he can get back and get sharp to start the postseason.

This doesn't mean the ship is sinking. The Astros enter the weekend just one game behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League, and the Astros own the tiebreaker (having won the season series 4-3). They are three back of the Dodgers for best in MLB, the Astros have a three game lead in the tiebreaker with LA (intradivision record). The Yankees play at the Dodgers this weekend so if you're a glass half full person: a Dodger or Yankee loss is guaranteed three days in a row! If you're glass half empty: a Dodger or Yankee win is guaranteed three days in a row!

NFL on the horizon

A little over 2 weeks until the Texans begin their 18th season of play in the National Football League. We've all heard the saying, the 18th time is the charm. So is this the season the Texans are finally a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Probably not. The Texans do not look like a notably improved football team. On paper their schedule is clearly more difficult than last season's. Within the AFC the Chiefs clearly have more overall talent and are better coached. The Patriots still exist. One of these years Tom Brady really will slip. Maybe at age 42 this is the season.

If Jadeveon Clowney opts to sit out, or is traded, anyone thinking he won't be missed, is wrong. Clowney is not a superstar but he's really good. The Texans will be easier to run on without him. And while not an elite pass rusher, Clowney has to be accounted for. Anyone thinking, ah, he's hurt all the time anyway…wrong again. Clowney missed one game last season, and the season before that he played in every game.

If you want a couple of reasons for plausible optimism, here you go. Coming off of last season Deshaun Watson does not rate as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. He could well vault into that echelon this season. The Texans' offensive line remains something between a question mark and a glaring weakness, but really, can it be worse than it was the last couple of seasons? DeAndre Hopkins is about as good as it gets today at wide receiver, the same for J.J. Watt at defensive end though the clock is ticking down on his prime.

The Texans probably begin their season by losing at New Orleans. On the other hand the Buccaneers started their 5-11 2018 season by beating the 13-3 to be Saints in New Orleans.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Connor McGregor pitches some "number 12" brand of whisky. As a human being he seems much more a piece of number two. 2. Two peas in a pitching pod: Justin Verlander 15-5, 2.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts. Gerrit Cole 15-5, 2.75 ERA, 238 strikeouts. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans


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