Astros make it three straight wins

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 6-4 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Back in Houston after the road trip last week, the Astros looked to extend their two-game winning streak to start the series with the Royals. Here's how the game wound up:

Final Score: Astros 6, Royals 4

Record: 21-14, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Gerrit Cole (3-4, 4.17 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Jakob Junis (3-3, 5.52 ERA)

1) More long balls lead another big offensive night

The Astros picked up where the left off over the weekend, getting another strong offensive night highlighted by several home runs. George Springer started things off with a solo dinger in the bottom of the first to give Houston a 1-0 lead, then Carlos Correa doubled that lead with a solo shot of his own to extend his hitting streak to 16 games and make it a 2-0 game in the bottom of the second.

Houston threatened to break it open in the third, loading the bases with one out, but would only come away with one run after an RBI-walk from Josh Reddick to extend the lead to 3-0. After the Royals roared back to take a 4-3 lead, it was Robinson Chirinos who put the Astros back in front with a two-run opposite-field home run in the bottom of the sixth to make it 5-4. That score would hold until the bottom of the eighth when Springer struck again, getting an RBI on what should've been a triple but the Royals were able to get him sliding past third base, but still resulted in an insurance run to make it a 6-4 game.

2) Cole strikes out nine 

Gerrit Cole had an up-and-down night, starting the game with three scoreless innings during which he struck out four, then allowed two-run home runs in two consecutive innings over the fourth and fifth. Luckily, Chirinos backed him up with the two-run home run to take him off the hook and put him in position for the win. Cole would finish with the four earned runs on seven hits, zero walks, while striking out nine to increase his league-leading number to 74.

3) Bullpen and defense hold on to the one-run lead

Will Harris was first out of the bullpen to finish off the seventh inning for Cole and was able to get those two outs quickly. That allowed him to continue on in the eighth, but after loading the bases with two outs he was pulled in favor of Hector Rondon. Rondon would get out of the bases loaded jam, but not without an incredible play on defense from Jose Altuve to field a ground ball just in time to get the runner out at first to end the inning. That would set up Roberto Osuna who would enter in the ninth and tally his eighth save of the year after a scoreless ninth.

Up Next: The Astros and Royals will continue this series tomorrow night with first pitch at 7:10 PM from Minute Maid Park. Collin McHugh (3-3, 4.97 ERA) will look to improve his early-season numbers for Houston as he goes up against Danny Duffy (0-1, 3.27 ERA) for Kansas City.

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

Photo by Getty Images.

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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