Astros secure series win against Cubs

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 4 hits from the 9-6 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Houston had the chance to secure the series win against Chicago on Tuesday night after the win on Memorial Day. With injuries piling up, the game marked another debut, this time for catcher Garret Stubbs. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Astros 9, Cubs 6.

Record: 37-19, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Josh James (2-0, 5.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jon Lester (3-4, 3.59 ERA).

1) Memorable debut for Stubbs 

Garret Stubbs, just like Jack Mayfield the day before, squared up a ball in his first major league at-bat to record a double as his first hit. In his next appearance, he tied the game 3-3 on a blooper RBI-single. He'd finish 2-for-4 with an RBI at the plate while catching five different pitchers behind it in the win.

2) Forgettable night for Martin

While Stubbs had a great debut, Corbin Martin had his third straight rough appearance. Martin worked around a couple of singles in the first for a scoreless inning but got hammered in the top of the second as the Cubs would hit three solo home runs in the span of four batters.

He'd come back and work around a leadoff walk for a scoreless third, but with his pitch count rising and after allowing a two-out walk, would see his night come to an end. His final line: 3.2 IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 4K.

3) Strong offensive showing

Yuli Gurriel started the scoring on Tuesday night with an RBI-double to put the Astros up 1-0 in the bottom of the first. After going down 3-1, Alex Bregman answered with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the third, trimming the lead to 3-2.

Stubbs notched his first RBI in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game, then Houston went on to double up the Cubs with an RBI-single from Derek Fisher then a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, making it a 6-3 Houston lead. In the bottom of the sixth, after Chicago had just tied the game in the top half, Bregman delivered his second home run of the night, a two-run bomb to put the Astros back in front, 8-6.

They didn't stop there; Tony Kemp hit a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh, stole second, moved to third on an error, then scored on an RBI-double from Jake Marisnick to give Houston an insurance run at 9-6.

4) Bullpen tasked with providing long relief

With Martin's night done after just three and two-thirds innings, the Astros went to Josh James to eat up a few innings. James finished off the fourth with a strikeout, then racked up two more in a scoreless fifth. In the sixth, though, he'd let the Cubs come right back with a two-run home run followed immediately by a solo shot to make it a 6-6 game.

With a new 8-6 lead, Hector Rondon took over for the seventh and with a little assistance from a great catch in foul territory by Tony Kemp, got through a scoreless inning. Ryan Pressly came in, as usual, for the eighth, and was able to work around a leadoff double to maintain the three-run lead.

Roberto Osuna was brought in for another save opportunity in the top of the ninth. He saved fans the theatrics of the day before, getting through the inning with no runs scored to complete the 9-6 win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros and Cubs will wrap up this inter-league series tomorrow night with a 7:10 PM start time for the final game. The pitching matchup will be Wade Miley (5-2, 3.32 ERA) who will try to complete the sweep for Houston facing off with Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.34 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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