Astros drop series opener against the Cardinals

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 5-3 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After closing out their recent homestand by winning a rubber game against the A's on Wednesday afternoon, the Astros took to the road to start a six-game stretch as visitors. First up was a weekend series against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Here is how the opener went:

Final Score: Cardinals 5, Astros 3.

Record: 66-39, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Andrew Miller (4-4, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ryan Pressly (2-2, 2.03 ERA).

1) Correa is back

Friday night's game ended the Astros' 50-game stretch without their starting shortstop, Carlos Correa. He was back on the field and in the lineup for the series opener, and he saw some action right away defensively, fielding a few groundballs and showing off his arm strength for a few throws to first.

He would not generate the first highlight on offense, though, as that honor would go to Michael Brantley. After a one-out walk by Alex Bregman, Brantley took advantage by launching a two-run homer to put Houston on the board and in front 2-0.

2) Another quality start for Urquidy

Jose Urquidy, who had a surprisingly good seven-inning one-run start against the Rangers his last time on the mound, provided an excellent follow-up against the surging Cardinals. He allowed just one run, which came in the fourth inning after he allowed three singles in what would be his worst inning of the night.

Otherwise, he was efficient and avoided too many high-leverage situations. He went on to complete six innings while allowing just the one run, making it back-to-back quality starts. Urquidy's final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 0 HR.

3) Houston's bullpen unable to hold up

Unfortunately, though Urquidy would leave in position for the win, Will Harris would allow a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Harris would complete that inning, then would be pinch-hit for by Yordan Alvarez who drilled a one-out double to put Houston in scoring position.

They went on to load the bases with two outs, bringing up Michael Brantley who notched his third RBI of the night, a walk to bring in the go-ahead run. Correa was up next with the bases still loaded but would strikeout to leave all three runners stranded.

Ryan Pressly was next out of Houston's bullpen, but he would have a forgetful inning. He allowed two baserunners then a three-run homer to lead off the inning and give the Cardinals their first lead of the night at 5-3. He would exit without recording an out with Chris Devenski coming in to replace him.

Devenski worked around a walk and a single to get through the eighth, sending the two-run game to the ninth. In the ninth, Houston would not be able to make a comeback, starting the series with a loss.

Up Next: Game two of this series between the Astros and Cardinals will be tomorrow at 6:15 PM and will be nationally televised on FS1. The pitching matchup will be MLB strikeout leader Gerrit Cole (11-5, 3.03 ERA) for Houston going against Daniel Ponce de Leon (1-0, 2.82 ERA) for St. Louis.

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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