Houston takes the opener against Oakland

Alvarez's homers help lift Astros out of early hole against A's

Yordan Alvarez's two homers were huge in Tuesday's series opener against Oakland. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

After finishing their recent grueling stretch of twenty games in twenty days with a four-game sweep of the Indians in Cleveland, the Astros returned home for the final six games before the All-Star break. First up was a three-game set against the A's, and despite Oakland building up a significant early lead, Houston would roar back into it and get the victory in the opener.

Final Score: Astros 9, A's 6

Astros' Record: 53-33, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (3-3)

Losing Pitcher: J.B. Wendelken (1-1)

Oakland comes out swinging against Valdez

Things looked dreary for Framber Valdez and the Astros from the get-go. Oakland came out swinging, literally, turning the first two pitches around for back-to-back hits to threaten early. That turned into a three-run inning as they'd get five hits in total and send seven batters to the plate.

Valdez didn't fare any better in the second, once again giving up a three-run frame, this time on three hits, giving the A's six runs and eight hits, both season highs for Houston's starter, in just the first two innings. He would rebound to get a few more innings, erasing a single in the third, a walk in the fourth, and one of each in the fifth. His final line: 5.0 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 0 HR, 93 P.

Houston roars back into it on Alvarez's power

Luckily for Valdez, he'd get off the hook thanks to his offense bailing him out with some big hits of their own. After Oakland's three-run first, Yordan Alvarez shifted momentum temporarily back Houston's way with a two-run homer to make it 3-2. After Oakland pushed the lead back to four runs in the second, Houston clawed one run back on a two-out RBI single by Myles Straw.

Then, in the bottom of the fifth, the Astros put two of their first three batters of the inning on base, setting up another Alvarez homer, this one a three-run game-tying blast to make it a brand new ballgame and getting Valdez out of losing position. After a scoreless top half of the inning by Bryan Abreu, Houston grabbed their first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth on a two-RBI single by Jose Altuve, making it 8-6. They didn't stop there, with Yuli Gurriel adding another on an RBI groundout.

Astros take the opener

Abreu remained in the game on the mound for Houston in the top of the seventh and erased a leadoff double by retiring the next three A's in order. Ryne Stanek was next out of Houston's bullpen as the setup man in the top of the eighth and did his job with a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game. Still 9-6 in the top of the ninth, closer Ryan Pressly entered and earned another save by finishing off the win for Houston, their fifth in a row.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start time on Wednesday. Sean Manaea (6-5, 3.13 ERA) will be on the mound for Oakland, going up against Luis Garcia (6-5, 3.14 ERA) for Houston.

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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