Houston takes the series 3-1

Astros take series against Mariners after big offensive showing

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

A day after their first loss of the 2020 season and the loss of Justin Verlander to injury, temporarily at least, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park for the fourth and final game of the series against the Mariners. Josh James was on the mound making his first start of the year looking to provide some confidence in a pitching staff now down its cornerstone. Here is how he and Houston did on Monday:

Final Score: Astros 8, Mariners 5.

Record: 3-1, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-0, 2.70 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Kendall Graveman (0-1, 13.50 ERA).

James only goes three, but Altuve and Bregman get him off the hook

Josh James struggled to throw strikes on Monday, resulting in a short start when the Astros needed to find a way to conserve arms with the newly announced absence of Justin Verlander. James recorded a couple of strikeouts, worked around a walk and a single in the first, and then struck out the side to work around a hit-by-pitch in the second.

The third inning would quickly fall apart, though, as James started it off by walking the bases loaded with no outs. He would get a much-needed double play which brought in a run, but instead of stopping the damage there, allowed a two-run homer to make it a 3-0 Seattle advantage. James would walk one more batter before recording a strikeout, but with his volatile command and high pitch count, he would see that be the end of his day. James' final line: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.

Luckily for him, his offense would have a big third inning of their own. After getting two on base with an error and a walk, Jose Altuve would come through with an RBI-double to get one of the runs back. That brought Alex Bregman to the plate, who took advantage and launched his 100th-career home run, a go-ahead three-run homer to give Houston a 4-3 lead.

Bielak makes his debut as Astros extend the lead

Brandon Bielak went to the mound in the top of the fourth to make his major-league debut and start the night for the bullpen. Bielak was impressive in his first inning, getting two quick outs before recording a strikeout to send the Mariners down 1-2-3 on just nine pitches. He returned for the fifth, and once again retired Seattle in order.

Meanwhile, the Astros were able to add to their lead. Dustin Garneau, making his debut behind the plate for the Astros, made it 5-3 with a two-out RBI-triple in the bottom of the fourth. Jose Altuve added another RBI to his game, hitting a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth. They kept tacking on, with Michael Brantley hitting into the right-field corner for an RBI-double, and Josh Reddick doing the same a few batters later, pushing the lead to five runs at 8-3.

Bielak would continue his debut in the top of the sixth and worked around his first baserunners to erase a double and single by getting a big strikeout to keep it a five-run game. In the seventh, he would stay on the mound to keep eating up innings, but after reaching 53 pitches and allowing two runs, one unearned on an error, he would see his night end, though it would still go down as an impressive first appearance. Enoli Paredes would get two strikeouts to finish the inning.

Houston locks up the series win

Cy Sneed was next out of Houston's bullpen, and he worked around a two-out walk to maintain the three-run lead. Roberto Osuna would come in for the save in the top of the ninth and would record his first of the season by keeping Seattle off the board to secure the series win.

Up Next: The Astros will turn the page to the next series of 2020, a quick two-game set against the Dodgers in Houston. The series opener will be Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central from Minute Maid Park and will feature the pitching matchup of Framber Valdez for the Astros going opposite of Walker Buehler for the Dodgers.

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This Texans team seems to be embracing their young players. Photo by Cody Stoots

It's early August and still hotter than a pot of gumbo cooking outside on the south Louisiana swamp. Back to school pics are flooding social media. The Astros have all but clinched the AL West. Chocolate, frozen foods, and other sensitive items still melt before you can get them home. Hurricane season is upon us. We also have the no more weekends without football until early February! Rejoice!

The return of football means NFL training camps are underway. The Hall of Fame Game and ceremony kicked things off this past week. With that comes unofficial depth charts. This is when teams will put out a depth chart of who's getting what reps in practice and whatnot. It's not "official" because we aren't in season. It's "unofficial" because it'll inevitably change due to injury (God forbid), play, or possibly even a change in scheme from game to game.

Screenshot via: Mark Berman/Twitter

What I noticed is the rookies and younger guys are no longer buried on the depth chart simply because they're rookies or inexperienced. Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre are starters because they've played themselves into those positions. Kenyon Green has been banged up, or else he'd also be a starter. Christian Harris is a backup, for now, because the vets in front of him have a better grasp of the scheme so far. Nico Collins and Davis Mills have proven themselves to be head and shoulders above the others at their respective positions (#2 receiver and starting quarterback respectively).

Gone are the days of bygone eras in which teams would bury young guys simply because they didn't have the experience. This old school mentality has long since needed to be trashed. If a guy can play, he should get the most playing time. I understand that their first and second rounders are starters, but they're also more talented than others. Collins and Mills were thrust into the spotlight as rookies because the team was devoid of talent last season. They used their time to earn a starting spot and have proven that they're still thought of as such even with the influx of new talent.

Could they have traded for or drafted a guy to compete with Mills? Sure. But why not give the guy a shot? If that third round pick turns into the franchise quarterback, you solved a MAJOR question mark with a cheap option and can use draft capital to sure up other areas of need/best player available. Letting these young guys earn valuable playing time also lets you know whether or not they're a fit in more ways than one.

For example: if a guy can show enough athleticism to earn playing time, can he learn the playbook to entrench himself as a starter and vice versa? Is this someone we want to extend ASAP? Do we need to find a replacement because he isn't cutting the mustard? Imagine if these guys pan out and the team has cheap starters for three to four years and are able to spend money on bringing in vets to help round out a roster that could be ready to contend? Novel idea, huh?

All that being said, I'm glad young guys are getting their shots. The best players should always play, no matter their age or draft status. Some with higher draft status will get longer leashes and that's good business. However, if a guy isn't cutting it, he shouldn't be ahead of someone who can do just as good, if not better. Kudos to the Texans for turning the corner and getting the ship headed in the right direction.

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