Houston's bats power up again

Astros pound Rangers to win fourth straight game

Astros' Kyle Tucker batting
Kyle Tucker's hot streak continued Friday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Kyle Tucker's hot streak continued Friday night.

After taking the first game of this series in wild fashion in extras the night prior, the Astros tried to get their fourth straight win on Friday night at home against the Rangers. They would get a nice start from Zack Greinke, but Houston's offense was the star of the show again, powering past Texas.

Final Score: Astros 10, Rangers 4

Astros' Record: 22-17, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-1)

Losing Pitcher: Wes Benjamin (0-2)

Houston puts up double digits

The Astros were able to jump out to a large lead Friday night and never looked back. It started with a three-run second, with RBI singles by Kyle Tucker and Myles Straw and a sac fly by Michael Brantley. Tucker started the scoring in another multi-run inning in the bottom of the third, getting his second RBI single in as many innings, leaving the bases loaded.

Straw followed with an RBI walk, as did Martin Maldonado next, before a fourth run in the frame would score on a double play, putting Houston at seven runs. After a scoreless fourth, Straw would get another RBI in the bottom of the fifth on a single, then Maldonado made it double digits with a two-run homer.

Greinke rebounds from recent struggles

After three straight disappointing starts where he lasted just four innings while allowing multiple runs, Zack Greinke would get back on track in this start. He allowed a run in the top of the third, another in the top of the fourth, then a final one in the top of the seventh, but would otherwise navigate his way to a quality start and his third win of the season by lasting seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 103 P.

Astros extend winning streak to four games

Kent Emanuel was first out of the Houston bullpen, taking over for Greinke in the top of the eighth. He allowed a two-out solo home run to make it a 10-4 game, retiring the other three batters he faced. Joe Smith entered to finish things off in the ninth, extending Houston's winning streak to four games.

Up Next: The third of this four-game set will be an hour earlier on Saturday, starting at 6:10 PM Central. Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.60 ERA) will try to get his first win of the season and help Houston win this series, while Dane Dunning (2-2, 3.78 ERA) will go for the Rangers.

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The Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“Another one!”- DJ Khaled

That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.

The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.

Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!

One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.

As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.

To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.

I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.

The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.

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