Both Cole and Houston's offense struggle in loss

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 9-4 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With Justin Verlander providing quite the show the night before, the Astros were back at it on Wednesday night with Gerrit Cole on the mound. Here is a quick recap of the third game of the four-game series with Chicago:

Final Score: White Sox 9, Astros 4

Record: 33-17, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Ivan Nova (3-4, 6.96 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Gerrit Cole (4-5, 4.11 ERA).

1) Cole hits 100 strikeouts in rough outing

Gerrit Cole was not nearly as dominant on Wednesday night as in recent starts, allowing solo home runs in the second and fourth innings to put Chicago up 2-0. He was able to strike out six over those four innings, then got number seven on the night in the fifth to get to triple digits on the season.

Despite the offense backing him up to give him a 3-2 lead, Cole would struggle in the sixth as the White Sox roared back, loading the bases while scoring two runs on four consecutive hits to lead off the inning. That would be the end of Cole's night, and Josh James, despite getting two big outs to keep Chicago from scoring to that point, would allow a grand slam to blow the game open at 8-3 and give Cole 6 earned runs on the night.

2) One strong inning not enough

Houston's bats were able to take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth after Alex Bregman put them on the board with a one-out solo home run then going on to get their second and third runs on RBIs from Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz.

Houston would start a rally that would come up just short in the ninth, loading the bases and getting a sac fly to make it 9-4, but would get stopped there. They'd be unable to counter-act four double plays and even a triple play in the up-and-down offensive night.

3) Brady Rodgers returns 

After taking Collin McHugh's spot on the roster with McHugh going on the injured list, Rodgers made his first appearance for Houston since 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. After getting a strikeout against his first batter, he was met with a monstrous solo home run which put Chicago up 9-3. He'd go on to retire the next two batters in order to complete the eighth. He'd then return to the mound for the ninth, getting a 1-2-3 inning to cap off his decent return.

Up Next: The Astros and White Sox will wrap up this series tomorrow night with the final game starting at 7:10 PM. Corbin Martin (1-0, 3.86 ERA) will make the third start of his career for Houston and go up against Lucas Giolito (5-1, 3.35 ERA) for Chicago.

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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