Houston now heads out on the road

Astros outscore Rangers to take the series

Astros Zack Greinke
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Astros Zack Greinke

After splitting the first two games of this three-game set with the Rangers, the Astros were on the field Thursday afternoon trying to end their homestand with a series win by taking the rubber game against Texas. Here is how they fared:

Final Score: Astros 8, Rangers 4.

Record: 21-15, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-0, 2.91 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (4-2, 2.67 ERA).

Another hot start for the Astros

As they have done many times this year, the Astros put together a hot start to a game by putting up multiple runs in the first inning. In the bottom of the inning, the first three batters all reached base on aggressive early swings, the third bringing in a run on an RBI-single by Michael Brantley. With two runners still on base, Aledmys Diaz would get his season's biggest hit so far, a three-run homer to make it a 4-0 Houston lead.

Greinke throws a quality start 

The Rangers were able to chip away some at the lead against Zack Greinke, getting hits and runs off of him in the second, fourth, and sixth innings sandwiched between quick innings in the first, third, and fifth. Still, he recorded another quality start by finishing six innings and left in line for the win by holding on to the lead given to him by his offense. Greinke's final line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 0 HR, 104 P.

Meanwhile, the Astros were able to tack on more runs to their total on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker in the fifth and a solo home run by Martin Maldonado in the sixth, making it a 6-3 game after six frames. Cy Sneed took over on the mound for Greinke to start the seventh, and after a quick 1-2-3 inning, would return for the eighth. The Rangers would make it a two-run game against him, getting a one-out solo home run to make it 6-4.

Houston takes the series to end the homestand

Sneed would retire one more batter, then Cionel Perez entered and erased a walk and a single to get the last out of the inning. Houston was able to push the lead back to four runs in the bottom of the eighth, getting two on base to set up Michael Brantley for two more RBI in this series on a two-run double, making it 8-4. In the non-save situation, Blake Taylor took over on the mound for the top of the ninth and recorded the last three outs to wrap up the win, giving the Astros the series victory.

Up Next: With this homestand complete, Houston will now take to the road to play eleven games over the next nine days, including two doubleheaders. The road trip starts Friday at 8:10 PM Central in Los Angeles with Lance McCullers Jr. (3-2, 5.06 ERA) on the mound for the Astros opposite of Dylan Bundy (4-2, 2.47 ERA) for the Angels.

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Allen had high praise for Diggs. Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images.

Impersonal as it might seem to have their dynamic on-field relationship end with an exchange of phone texts, Bills quarterback Josh Allen made it clear on Thursday how much receiver Stefon Diggs meant to him during their four seasons together in Buffalo.

Allen made no mention of Diggs’ mercurial temperament or the occasional sideline flare-ups by expressing only praise in his first opportunity to discuss his now-former teammate being traded to the Houston Texans earlier this month.

“Just thanking him for everything that he did for me, and (I’ll) always have a spot in my heart for him. I’ll always love that guy like a brother. And I wish him nothing but the best,” Allen said, in disclosing what he texted to Diggs. “My lasting memory of Stef will be the receiver that helped me become the quarterback that I am today.”

Brought together in March 2020, when Buffalo gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire Diggs in a trade with Minnesota, the duo went on to re-write many of Buffalo's single-season passing and scoring records, and lead the team to four straight AFC East titles.

Diggs, now 30, also brought an inescapable sense of drama with him in raising questions about his commitment to the Bills and whether his tight relationship with Allen had soured.

A day before being traded, Diggs posted a message, “You sure?” on the social media platform X in response to someone suggesting he wasn’t essential to Allen’s success.

Whatever hard feelings, if any, lingered as Buffalo opened its voluntary workout sessions this week were not apparent from Allen or coach Sean McDermott, who also addressed reporters for the first time since Diggs was traded.

“Stef’s a great player, really enjoyed our time together. Won a lot of games and he was a huge factor in winning those games. We’ll miss him,” McDermott said. “You never replace a player like Stef Diggs, and we wish him well.”

Allen turned his focus to the future and a Bills team that spent much of the offseason retooling an aging and expensive roster.

Aside from trading Diggs, salary cap restrictions led to Buffalo cutting respected center Mitch Morse, the breakup of a veteran secondary that had been together since 2017, and the team unable to afford re-signing No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis.

“I don’t think it’s a wrong thing or a bad thing to get younger,” said Allen, entering his seventh NFL season. “I think it’s an opportunity for myself to grow as a leader. And to bring along some of these young guys and new guys that we’ve brought in to our team. And that’s an opportunity, frankly, that I’m very excited about."

Despite the departures, the Bills offense is not exactly lacking even though general manager Brandon Beane is expected to target selecting a receiver with his first pick — currently 28th overall — in the draft next week.

Receiver Khalil Shakir enters his third year and tight end Dalton Kincaid enter his second following promising seasons. Buffalo also added veteran experience in signing free agent receiver Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins.

While Beane acknowledged the Bills lack a true No. 1 receiver, he noted there’s less urgency to fill that spot now than in 2020 because of how much the offense has developed under Allen.

“Now that Josh has ascended to the player he is, is that a requirement? I don’t think so,” Beane said.

Diggs’ role also began diminishing in the second half of last season, which coincided with Joe Brady replacing Ken Dorsey as offensive coordinator. Brady placed an emphasis on adding balance to a pass-heavy attack and getting more receivers involved, which led to an uptick in production for Shakir and Kincaid.

While Diggs’ numbers dropped, Buffalo’s win total increased.

With the Bills at 6-6, Diggs ranked third in the NFL with 83 catches, seventh with 969 yards and tied for third with eight TDs receiving. Buffalo then closed the season with five straight wins in which Diggs combined for 24 catches for 214 yards and no scores.

”(Diggs) meant a lot. You look at the statistics, they don’t lie,” Allen said, in referring to Diggs topping 100 catches and 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons in Buffalo. “I don’t get paid to make changes on the team. I get paid to be the best quarterback that I can be and try to lead the guys on this team.”

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