Astros improve to 6-4

Astros overpower Diamondbacks in blowout win to start series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After grinding through back-to-back extra-inning games in the series with the Los Angeles Angels where they would ultimately come away with the victory, the Astros had a day off on Monday before getting back into action on Tuesday. They were in Arizona for the first of three games against the Diamondbacks. Here is a rundown of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 8, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 6-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.42 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 7.04 ERA).

Houston takes an early lead against Bumgarner and then piles on

Houston wasted no time going after Madison Bumgarner, with George Springer going after the first pitch of the game for a groundout, then Jose Altuve launching a solo home run on the next pitch to get an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first. They added to that lead in the second inning, with Carlos Correa leading it off with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-0. After two hit batters and a single, the Astros had the bases loaded for George Springer with one out, and he would deliver a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 3-0.

They would put runners on base in the next two innings, but would not score again until the fifth when a Bumgarner fielding error on a potential double-play would bring in a run and extend the inning. Houston would go on to load the bases, setting up Kyle Tucker for an RBI-single to make it 5-1 and end Bumgarner's night. Against Arizona's new reliever, Martin Maldonado worked a bases-loaded walk to make it 6-1, then Springer followed with a two-RBI double, blowing the game open at 8-1.

Javier gets first-career win in another impressive start

With a lead in hand when he went to the mound, Cristian Javier had another strong performance in his second-ever start. He allowed just one baserunner over the first three innings, a single in the second. After those three efficient innings, he would face some adversity in the bottom of the fourth. After allowing a double and one-out walk, he would give up his first run of the night on an RBI-single to make it a 3-1 game. Luckily, a great double play behind him would get him out of the jam and the inning.

Javier was able to settle back in after that rougher inning, getting quick, scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, earning him the win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR.

Yet another rookie pitching debut as Houston's bullpen finishes the win

Bryan Abreu was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the bottom of the seventh. He would not have an inning to remember, allowing a leadoff double followed later by two walks to load the bases. He then walked in a run, making it 8-2, and prompting another call to the bullpen. Enoli Paredes would enter and get the final out of the seventh inning.

Paredes ran into trouble of his own in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases after a walk and two singles, but with some help from Houston's defense would keep it a six-run lead heading to the ninth. In yet another Astros debut for a pitcher in 2020, Humberto Castellanos entered in the bottom of the ninth, and he recorded the final three outs to close out the victory for Houston.

Up Next: This series continues on Wednesday with the middle game of this three-game set at 8:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 5.40 ERA) will return to the mound in another start for the Astros, while Robbie Ray (0-2, 8.64 ERA) will look to turn things around in his early season with the Diamondbacks.

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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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