Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Fresh off of their desperately-needed walk-off win on Friday night, the Astros hosted the Mariners for game two of the three-game weekend series which was televised nationally on FOX. Here is a quick recap of the game:
Final Score: Astros 6, Mariners 5.
Record: 52-32, first in the AL West.
Winning pitcher: Chris Devenski (2-0, 4.58 ERA).
Losing pitcher: Roenis Elias (2-1, 3.55 ERA).
1) Exciting second inning
With the recent offensive struggles for Houston, Seattle taking a 2-0 lead on a home run off of Justin Verlander in the top of the second inning looked like a big blow to the Astros' chances in the game. However, they'd respond with a huge inning in the bottom half to resurrect their offensive momentum.
Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel worked back-to-back walks to start the bottom of the second, then with one out Josh Reddick induced an infield error which allowed Brantley to score, trimming the lead to 2-1. Jake Marisnick was up next and gave Houston their first lead of the night with a two-RBI double. George Springer would extend the lead with a one-out RBI-single, then Jose Altuve would score one more to make it 5-2 with a sacrifice fly. The Astros would send nine batters to the plate in the successful inning.
2) Verlander needed all he could get
It was a good thing for Justin Verlander that his offense backed him up with that five-run third inning because he would need all five of them. After the two-run home run he allowed in the second, he'd also let Seattle get runners on second and third with no outs in the third, but was able to limit them to just one run that inning.
With the lead still 5-3 in the fifth, he'd allow yet another home run, a solo shot to get the Mariners within one at 5-4. After the long and stressful innings that led to that point, A.J. Hinch would not try to extend him past his 100 pitch count, going to the bullpen in the sixth. Verlander's final line: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 2 HR.
3) Bullpen tasked with another long outing
With Verlander's night over surprisingly short, it was up to Houston's relievers to preserve their one-run lead. Hector Rondon was first out of the bullpen but would only be able to record two outs while walking two batters before being lifted in favor of Will Harris who would finish off the inning.
Ryan Pressly would take over in the seventh, instead of his usual role as the eighth inning set up, and after two outs would see the game tied on a solo home run by Seattle. Collin McHugh was next to pitch the top of the eighth, and he looked great yet again out of the bullpen since his return from injury, striking out all three batters he faced.
Roberto Osuna was brought in for the ninth to try and keep the game tied and set up back-to-back walk-off wins for Houston. He was able to get through the inning by retiring the Mariners in order.
4) Gurriel does it in extras again
With the game still tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, the Astros had the top of their order up to try and win the game. George Springer nearly hit the winning home run on to straightaway center to lead off the inning but came up just a few feet short. They'd come up empty in the inning, resulting in back-to-back nights with extra innings.
Chris Devenski was the next reliever out for Houston, and he was able to work around a two-out single to give his team another chance at the walk-off. Michael Brantley, on his jersey giveaway night, started the bottom of the tenth off with a single. He moved to second on a wild pitch, then scored on an RBI-double from Yuli Gurriel, making it back-to-back nights with game-winning hits.
Up Next: The series finale between these two teams will take place tomorrow at 1:10 PM. Seattle will send Marco Gonzalez (9-6, 4.34 ERA) to the mound while Houston will start Gerrit Cole (7-5, 3.42 ERA). Cole (151 strikeouts) will have a chance to regain the top spot in the league in strikeouts if he can catch and pass Max Scherzer (156) who also pitches on Sunday.
The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.