Despite Yordan Alvarez reaching base four times, Houston's offense couldn't get it done against the Angels on Saturday. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images
After outslugging the Angels in Friday's opener to start the series with a win, the opportunity stood in front of the Astros again to secure a series victory and set up a potential sweep. The Angels would prevent that, though, by outplaying Houston on Saturday night.
Final Score: Angels 4, Astros 2
Astros' Record: 82-59, first in the AL West
Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (7-7)
Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia (10-7)
Garcia gives up four over five
For the third time in his last five starts, Luis Garcia would allow three or more earned runs while not making it through six innings. The Angels tagged him in the top of the first, getting two runs on three hits, including a one-out RBI double followed by an RBI groundout, putting them ahead 2-0.
After erasing a one-out single in the second, a leadoff single in the top of the third would turn into a one-out two-run homer, doubling Los Angeles' lead to 4-0. Garcia would finish that frame, then posted a 1-2-3 fourth and erased a leadoff walk in the fifth to end his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 82 P.
Astros drop the middle game
Houston trimmed the lead to three runs in the bottom of the fourth, getting a one-out single by Jose Siri, who stole second before the Astros would load the bases with one out. Yuli Gurriel scored Siri with an RBI fielder's choice, but the Angels limited the damage there, keeping it 4-1.
Brandon Bielak took over for Luis Garcia in the top of the sixth, stranding two runners to keep it a three-run game. He returned in the top of the seventh, posting a 1-2-3 frame, and kept going in the top of the eighth with another scoreless inning as the score remained 4-1.
After a scoreless top of the ninth by Blake Taylor, Houston started a rally in the bottom half, getting a single and a walk to set up an RBI double by Garrett Stubbs to cut the lead to two runs. That left the tying run on second with one out. The rally would come up short, with both runners ending the night stranded as the Angels would finish the win to set up a rubber game in the finale.
Up Next: The finale of this series will be a 1:10 PM Central start on Sunday. Jaime Barria (2-3, 5.16 ERA) will take the mound for Los Angeles, while Houston will hand the ball to Lance McCullers Jr. (11-4, 3.19 ERA).
Over the course of the last few years, I've noticed a marked change in my writing. It coincided with the ebbs and flows of the sports culture here in Houston. Namely, the Rockets and Texans falling off while the Astros tried to keep the city's hopes afloat. Even with winning titles, going to consecutive American League Championship Series, and staying a top contender, the Astros couldn't hold the city's collective attention (in some realms) as much as the Texans.
I don't care what you say. Football is king here in Texas. The Astros winning helped the city get over the debacle that was on Kirby and Polk. What they truly desired was a respectable football team. Having gone without for years, finally getting one, it not being up to par, being okay for a while, then taking a nosedive, it made fans feel like they were in a Twilight Zone of sorts.
Enter DeMeco Ryans. Not only has he changed the culture in the organization, but they're winning too! Who'd have thought the Texans would be in the Wildcard position this late in the season? Absolutely NOBODY! Well, I won't say nobody. There were some overzealous fans wearing Battle Red and Deep Steel Blue-tinted glasses who would say this same thing no matter what happened in the offseason. This is why DeMeco Ryans is the NFL's Coach of the Year right now, and there's no debate to be had.
The first reason was already listed above. He came to the Texans organization and changed the culture. From top to bottom, the expectations and thought processes have changed for the better. Gone are the days of people feeling like they're walking on eggshells around an arrogant jerk who had no reason to be such a blowhard. No longer are the sidelines patrolled by one and done coaches who were more of a placeholder than a purse on a church pew on Sunday morning. He brings a presence, an aura if you will. When he walks in a room, people genuinely are excited to see and talk to him. He obliges willingly and fully engages by talking directly to people and making eye contact. Never heard him yell or be condescending.
Secondly, and perhaps most notably, he's winning. Last year at this same time, the Texans were 1-8-1 and in last place in the AFC. They finished the year 3-13-1 and picked second overall in the draft. As of this writing, they're 6-4, second place in the AFC South, and sixth place in the AFC as one of the Wildcard teams. They're scheduled to play the Jags this weekend with sole possession of first place in the division on the line. No other team in the league has made as big a jump in the standings from last season to this one than the Texans. NRG Stadium was the loudest some have heard it the last couple wins against the Bus and Cardinals. Craziest part: it wasn't even full to capacity.
Changing the culture and winning goes a long way. Perhaps the biggest influence DeMeco has had is his commitment to player development. When he was with the 49ers, they raved about how he turned them into better players. Fred Warner was emotional over losing DeMeco as a coach for what he's done for Warner's career. Pairing a coach like him with players like C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson Jr, and others with the same level of commitment has this team in place to not only win, but be a factor for years to come.
I've seen coaches make some unreal turnarounds in my lifetime. It usually comes with a ton of other sweeping changes. While he did have the number two and number three picks in this past draft, this team was in shambles. The salary cap was a mess, draft capital was abysmal, and the team was devoid of talent. General manager Nick Caserio came in and cleaned up a lot of it before DeMeco was hired, so he should get some credit. However, he set a table for DeMeco to come in and work his magic. It's hard for a GM to make those moves and not have a coach to help finish the job. He bought the groceries, but had no chef. DeMeco came in and not only cooked a great meal, but he set a nice table and cleaned the kitchen when he was done.
If this man doesn't win Coach of the Year, fire everybody who has a vote. No coach in the league has done what he's done over the course of this season from last season. Improving the winning of a franchise and changing their culture to the point where the fan base did a complete 180-degree turnaround means the award should already have his name on it. The trophy should be in Houston in a lock box at a secure location. There should be plans already made, but flexible enough for their impending playoff run. If you can name a better candidate, I'd love to hear your argument. Send it to me on November 33rd. Promise it'll be the first thing I read that day.