The regular season is in the books

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 8-5 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With the best record in the league already locked up with the win on Saturday, the Astros went into the 162nd and final game of the 2019 regular season with a chance to get one last tune-up and add to some individual numbers and records. Here is a rundown of the final game before the postseason:

Final Score: Astros 8, Angels 5.

Record: 107-55, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Dillon Peters (4-4, 5.38 ERA).

1) Houston's main bats finish strong

In their last chance to add some hits and RBIs to their final regular-season stat lines, the Astros' bats took advantage. Right away in the top of the first, George Springer led off the game with a single, then scored on an RBI-double by Jose Altuve to put Houston ahead 1-0.

Springer would go on to go 4-for-4 on the day with two RBIs including a solo home run in the second. Aledmys Diaz also hit a solo home run that inning, then in the top of the third Yuli Gurriel launched a two-run blast to extend the lead to 5-0. In the fourth, they added three more including Springer's other RBI, a double, along with an RBI-double for Michael Brantley and RBI-single for Alex Bregman. Bregman would go 1-for-1 with that RBI and two walks.

2) Cole gets his 20th win and ninth-straight 10+ strikeout start

Gerrit Cole once again had to take the mound the day after Justin Verlander set some historical marks and reached incredible milestones. Cole didn't shy away from getting his own, though, tossing a great game himself.

He allowed one run, a solo home run in the bottom of the third which made it a 5-1 game at the time. He also faced trouble in the fourth, loading the bases with one out after a single, hit batter, and walk, but would fight back with two strikeouts to end the inning. He would come out for one more inning, seeking two more Ks to reach ten on the day.

He would do so, striking out the last batter he would face in the 2019 regular season to reach ten on the day, doing so for the ninth-straight start, a feat no other pitcher has ever done. The five innings of one-run baseball also lowered his ERA to 2.50, further making it a difficult decision to vote between him and Justin Verlander for the Cy Young. Cole's final line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 1 HR.

3) Houston finishes with a win

That set up four innings for the bullpen to cover, starting with Brad Peacock in the bottom of the sixth. Peacock wouldn't have the cleanest inning, getting just two outs while allowing a two-run home run to cut the lead to 8-3. Bryan Abreu would get the final out of the sixth then return for the seventh, a 1-2-3 inning to hold the five-run lead.

Joe Smith took over for the bottom of the eighth but allowed two RBI-doubles to cut Houston's lead down to 8-5 before Chris Devenski would be brought in for the final out of the inning. In the bottom of the ninth, Devenski remained in the game and recorded the first two outs before the final pitching change to bring in Will Harris who would get the final out of game 162.

Up Next: The regular season is now behind the Astros. In front of them, eleven wins needed to lift the Commissioner's Trophy for the second time in three years. Their first playoff game will be ALDS Game 1 on Friday, time TBD but likely in the afternoon, and opponent not yet determined as the winner of the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A's in Wednesday's Wild Card game will travel to Houston to face the Astros in Game 1.

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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