Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
After dropping three of four in Minnesota against the Twins to start the week, Houston traveled to Mexico for a two-game international series against the Angels in Monterrey. Here's a recap of the series opener from Saturday night and three hits from the game:
Final Score: Astros 14, Angels 2
Record: 19-14, first in the AL West.
Winning pitcher: Wade Miley (2-2, 3.20 ERA)
Losing pitcher: Trevor Cahill (1-3, 6.95 ERA)
1) Scoring early and often
Alex Bregman started the game on the right foot for Houston, hitting an opposite-field solo home run to start the scoring in the top of the first to grab a 1-0 lead. They would continue to score in each of the first six innings of the game, getting a sacrifice fly from Tyler White, two-run home run from George Springer, two runs from Yuli Gurriel on a solo home run and RBI-triple, and four big runs off the bat of Michael Brantley, two on a home run in the third then two more on a two-RBI double to give Houston a 10-2 lead after six innings.
They'd go scoreless in the seventh, then picked right back up in the eighth on a sac fly from Springer then Bregman's second homer of the night, this time a three-run homer to extend the lead to twelve runs at 14-2.
2) Quality start for Miley
With the game in Monterrey, a higher elevation town with a warm/humid climate, a high run total was expected in this matchup. However, it was not expected to be so one-sided, and Wade Miley did a great job accounting for that on the mound. Miley allowed just two runs over his six innings of work, one being Albert Pujols' usual toll against Houston with a solo home run. Overall he allowed the two runs on six hits to go along with two walks and two strikeouts. Miley did have a scary moment in the game when a ball off the bat of Mike Trout was lined right at him, but it hit in an opportune spot on his shoulder, avoiding any significant damage.
3) Bullpen wraps things up
With Miley done after six two-run innings, the Astros went to their bullpen to finish off the lopsided game. Hector Rondon worked around a couple of walks in the bottom of the seventh to throw a scoreless inning, then Ryan Pressly extended his phenomenal streak of consecutive scoreless innings by working around a couple of singles in the eighth. Josh James took over in the ninth and closed out the twelve-run win.
Up Next: Weather permitting, Houston and Los Angeles will wrap up this quick two-game series in Monterrey tomorrow at 3:00 PM. Justin Verlander (4-1, 2.45 ERA) will get the start for Houston and will go up against Matt Harvey (1-2, 6.54 ERA) for the Angels.
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.