Series Preview

Astros-Diamondbacks series breakdown: Greinke returns to Arizona

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PROBABLE STARTERS

Tues. Aug 4: Cristian Javier (0-0, 1.35 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (0-1, 4.09)

Wed. Aug 5: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 5.40) vs. Robbie Ray (0-2, 8.64)

Thurs. Aug 6: Zack Greinke (0-0, 5.00) vs. Zac Gallen (0-0, 2.70)

STORYLINES

  • Is Cristian Javier for real? Javier won Astros minor league pitcher of the year in 2019, and followed his award winning season with an award winning performance in his first career start. Javier filled in masterfully for the injured Justin Verlander, matching Dodgers phenom Dustin May tit-for-tat. The Astros came out on the losing end of that game, but Javier left a great first impression.
  • Who can step up in the bullpen? The bullpen will be a story all season long. Blake Taylor has solidified himself as a reliable option, but can anybody even name a reliable second option? Take note of this hypothetical pitching staff:

Gerrit Cole

Justin Verlander

Wade Miley

Colin McHugh

Jose Urquidy

Roberto Osuna, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, Joe Biagini, Cionel Perez

All of those arms were available to the Astros last season. Whether it be free agency departure, legitimate baseball-related injury, or COVID-related reasons, none of the above are currently available to the Astros. Keep in mind, those are 13 pitchers listed, which is what the Astros would usually carry in a normal season. It is no longer the Astros staff of yesteryear.

  • Can the Astros bats get going? The Astros offensive woes are overstated, as the team is still top 10 in MLB in offensive statistics like OPS, AVG, and Runs Scored, but the production hasn't come from the likes of Springer, Bregman, and Altuve for the most part.
  • Greinke's return to Arizona. Chase Field will certainly be a raucous environment, as -- oops. The stadium will be silent, but the cardboard cutouts could get rowdy as Zack Greinke makes his return to Arizona, where he led the Diamondbacks pitching staff for three-and-a-half years. It'll have been 371 days since the Astros acquired Greinke when he toes the rubber on Thursday. My, does it feel like 3,071 days ago.

PREDICTIONS

It's crazy to say that a series 10 games into the season is make-or-break, but the Diamondbacks are only 3-7, and a losing series would be a crushing blow for a team that came into the 2020 season with high expectations. Expect the Diamondbacks to come out energized and ready to go. Madison Bumgarner saves his best performances for big moments, Robbie Ray is a talented pitcher that's gotten off to a rough start, and Zac Gallen has been one of baseball's breakout stars over the last year. The Astros bats will have their hands full to say the least. Combine that with the fact that Arizona's offense that's due to break out in a big way gets to face an injured and overtaxed Astros pitching staff, and the deck is stacked against Houston. Arizona will take two of three.

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Another tough loss for Houston. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans lost again as their road game ineptitude continues. Former Texans stars DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt helped the Cardinals to the 31-5 victory.

1. The lack of talent is getting exposed earlier and earlier each week. The Texans have seen games slip away faster and faster from them each week. The team is overmatched almost everywhere.

2. Penalties remain a problem for the Texans. It seems like clockwork the team gets an illegal motion or illegal formation each week. Jordan Akins torpedoed a drive with a chop block. Max Scharping erased a positive play with a hold.

3. Davis Mills had some solid moments, but again, this team isn't good. It is hard to assess Mills with this team. He's making quicker decisions but he doesn't have the time or the players to make big plays.

4. The offensive line stinks. The interior of the line is still a mess and with Laremy Tunsil down the edges find themselves shaky as well. The running backs don't block well. The blocking tight ends don't block well. It is bad football in what was supposed to be a much-improved unit.

5. Desmond King was the best returner in the preseason. The team elected to give Andre Roberts an opportunity for a few games, but with his departure, the duties went to King. King is the most successful returner the Texans have had in a long while. Yes, it is that clear after just one game.

6. Max Scharping was benched in favor of Justin McCray. McCray produced similar levels of success. Scharping was benched last year for a journey-man veteran as well. The former second-round pick isn't getting it done.

7. Speaking of former second-round picks, Lonnie Johnson had an interception. That was the highlight of his day. Otherwise, Johnson frequently has me asking "what is Lonnie Johnson doing?" The former second-round pick at cornerback has been less than impressive at safety. Johnson seems to frequently be out of position or making the wrong choice in coverage.

8. DeAndre Hopkins had a solid day against the team that traded him away. Hopkins hauled in seven catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. After he scored, Hopkins looked to bring his hands together and mimic a prayer motion. I don't anticipate this was a nod to Arian Foster but perhaps could this have been about Jack Easterby?

9. The Texans had some sacks, but little of that action came when the game was close. Jonathan Greenard added two sacks to his total. The success Greenard is having is frustrating when you consider he couldn't get on the field last season. Charles Omenihu returned to action and had some pressures for the defense.

10. During the game reports surfaced that the Panthers might be interested in trading for Deshaun Watson. It was also reported by the Houston Chronicle Watson had vetoed a trade to Philadelphia, so the Eagles will not be involved in the Watson sweepstakes. The Panthers can only trade two first-round picks. The Miami Dolphins have three first-round picks they can trade for Deshaun Watson.

11. The Texans decided on a "culture" head coach in David Culley. His team has looked lifeless on the road. While the Texans took their beating, the Lions gave it their all against a good Rams team. Detroit is winless, but they play harder and better than the Texans. It grows clearer each week "culture" is meaningless if the team can't win.

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