Houston is still seeking home-field for the ALDS

Astros drop opener of final regular-season series to Oakland

Framber Valdez allowed four runs including two homers in his final regular-season start on Friday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With the division in hand, the Astros had another magic number to go after in the final regular-season series, and that was one win or a White Sox loss to ensure they'd have home-field advantage in the ALDS. Neither would come on Friday night, as Oakland would put together big innings to take the opener of the three-game series.

Final Score: A's 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 93-67, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Sean Manaea (11-10)

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-6)

Oakland tags Valdez with four runs

After a 1-2-3 first by Framber Valdez, Houston got on the board first in the bottom of the inning. A leadoff triple by Jose Siri set up an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz, making a 1-0 game. The one-run lead held until the top of the third, when a leadoff walk by Tony Kemp later turned into an RBI single, making it 1-1. Things got worse from there for Valdez, who allowed a go-ahead leadoff homer in the top of the fourth, then a two-run shot in the top of the sixth to end his night. His final regular-season line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 82 P.

Runs keep coming for the A's

Phil Maton was Houston's first reliever, retiring the three batters he faced after coming in for Valdez to finish the sixth. The Astros got one run back in the bottom of the inning, with a two-out walk setting up an RBI double by Jake Meyers to make it a two-run game.

Cristian Javier was next out of the bullpen, and he worked around a single for a scoreless seventh. Oakland figured him out in the eighth, though, putting up a four-run inning to push the lead back to six runs on a couple of errors and an RBI single and RBI ground-rule double.

Astros drop the opener

Jake Meyers notched his second RBI of the night in the bottom of the eighth, driving in Carlos Correa, who led the frame off with a single, making it 8-3. Jason Castros brought the Astros back to within two runs in the next at-bat, getting a three-run homer to cut the lead to 8-6. Yimi Garcia held the score there with a scoreless top of the ninth, sitting down Oakland in order, including two strikeouts.

Houston started a rally attempt in the bottom of the ninth, getting two on base to bring the winning run to the plate, but would come away empty as Oakland would take the opener. The White Sox winning earlier in the evening leaves the Astros magic number at 1 to clinch home-field in the ALDS.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will get started at 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Paul Blackburn (1-3, 4.71 ERA) will be on the mound for Oakland, while Houston will hand the ball to Jake Odorizzi (6-7, 4.14 ERA).

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Nick Caserio's history of drafting injury prone players has become a problem. Composite Getty Image.

Nick Caserio was hired to serve as the general manager (GM) of the Texans on January 7, 2021. Some saw it as another nod to the organization's obsession with the Patriots. Others saw it as the team finally getting their guy after pursuing him previously. They were even hit with a tampering charge while trying to talk to him about the job. Since he's been on the job, there have been highs and lows.

Recently, the news about Kenyon Green and Derek Stingley Jr put a stain on his tenure. Green was placed on season-ending injured reserve (IR) and Stingley Jr is expected to be placed on IR, likely missing six to eight weeks, per Aaron Wilson. Both guys were Caserio's 2022 first rounders. Both guys are starting to look like busts and have fans a little more than just upset.

Green's case was curious because he was said to have needed surgery before he tore his labrum during the Saints preseason game. He had knee surgery this past offseason. There were knee injury concerns when he was coming out of A&M. Adding to his injuries, Green has played poorly. To make matters worse, the Chargers drafted fellow guard Zion Johnson two picks later. Johnson played all 17 games last season as a rookie at right guard and has moved to left guard this season. The pick used to draft Green was part of a trade back with the Eagles. They used the 13th overall pick to take Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, a guy at a position this team could desperately use.

Stingley Jr was a highly touted recruit coming into LSU as a freshman. He played as well as any corner in the country that year. Oh, and they won a national title with arguably one of the best teams in college football history. His net two years in Baton Rouge were marred with injuries. Some believed his junior year was more him holding back to stay healthy for the draft. It worked because he was taken third overall, one spot ahead of Sauce Gardner. Gardner went on to be an All Pro as a rookie. While he's surrounded by more talent on the Jets' defense, people will forever link them because Stingley Jr hasn't lived up to expectations. He missed six games last season and is set to miss at least that many this season. When he has played, he's looked okay. “Okay” isn't what you want from a guy drafted third overall ahead of the other guy who was widely considered better than him.

For the 2021 draft, Caserio was handcuffed. He had no first or second rounders, and made a few trades that lessened his draft pool from eight to five picks. Of the five guys drafted that year, only Nico Collins seems to be a player. The 2022 draft was more productive. Although Green and Stingley Jr were the headliners and haven't played up to the hype, the others are carrying the load. Jalen Pitre and Dameon PIerce alone make that draft class dope. This past draft was seen as the one to save the franchise so to speak. Getting C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr got the team a franchise quarterback and edge rusher with picks two and three overall. The price paid to move back up to three was hefty and puts more scrutiny on Anderson Jr. They appear, so far, to have also found a couple other nice players. Tank Dell being the hidden gem of this class.

While people can't, and shouldn't, base Caserio's performance strictly off of the guys he's drafted, one must call it into question. The '21 draft was a wash. The '22 draft looks suspect, but has some redeeming qualities. The '23 draft will most likely be his saving grace. But should it? Former Texans GM Rick Smith nailed almost every first rounder he drafted. Even he was almost run out of town because folks didn't like what he did. Why should Caserio be any different? So what if he cleaned up the mess by the previous regime! That's what he was hired to do!

“Keep that same energy!” That phrase is used when people try to hold others to different standards. Where's that energy everyone had for Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby, Rick Smith, Gary Kubiak, David Culley, and Lovie Smith? When others weren't performing well, their heads were called for. I see some people holding Caserio accountable. For the most part, it appears as if he's getting a bit of a pass. I'll be interested to see if this continues should the team has another subpar season. If that pick they traded to the Cardinals is another top 10 pick and the Browns pick the Texans own isn't...if Green can't come back and/or Stingley Jr doesn't show any signs of being a lockdown corner...then what? Let's hope none of this comes to fruition. If it does, we'll have to revisit this conversation.

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