Houston wastes another chance at a sweep

Astros drop finale in slug-fest with Red Sox

Houston couldn't out-slug Boston on Thursday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a chance to sweep this three-game series against Boston, Houston tried to replicate the success of the first two games on Thursday night against the Red Sox. Instead, the Astros would come up short in a slug-fest where Houston's bullpen would once again give up too many runs.

Final Score: Red Sox 12, Astros 8

Astros' Record: 35-27, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Darwinzon Hernandez (1-2)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (0-1)

Greinke lasts just three innings

After notching a one-run complete game in his last start against the Blue Jays, Zack Greinke would encounter a disappointing start in this one against the Red Sox. After a 1-2-3 first, Boston put up two runs against him in the second, one on an RBI single and another on a bases-loaded walk as they would send eight batters to the plate in the frame.

They scored two more on him in the next inning, with a leadoff solo homer and then a two-out RBI single, pushing him out of the game early after using 64 pitches to get through those three innings. His final line: 3.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 64P.

Both teams continue to trade runs

Those four runs had the Astros down 4-3, as they could put up three of their own over that span on a solo homer by Yuli Gurriel in the second and two-RBI double by Yordan Alvarez in the third. Houston regained the lead in the top of the fifth, getting four runs on a bases-loaded walk by Gurriel and a two-RBI double by Kyle Tucker with a run scoring on an error in the same play, making it 7-4.

Boston tied the game up in the bottom of the same inning, putting two on base against Brandon Bielak on two singles to set up a three-run homer to make it 7-7 going to the sixth. In the top of that inning, Jose Altuve put Houston back in front with a solo home run to make it 8-7, but Boston roared back with a big inning of their own.

Astros drop the finale

Blake Taylor started the bottom of the sixth trying to get through at least an inning but instead would allow a game-tying sac fly turned error before he would leave with two outs. Enoli Paredes entered to try and get that last out, but he would not be able to get it done, allowing four runs, one each on a bases-loaded hit by pitch and walk, then a two-RBI double to extend their new lead to 12-8.

After a scoreless seventh and eighth, Houston would watch the four-run deficit go final in the top of the ninth as Boston would salvage a game in this series to avoid the sweep. The loss keeps Houston behind Oakland, for now, on top of the AL West standings as the Astros continue to try and overtake them for the division lead.

Up Next: Houston will finish this nine-game road trip with a three-game set in Minnesota against the Twins, starting with the opener at 7:10 PM Central on Friday. Jose Urquidy (4-3, 3.76 ERA) will try and get the win for the Astros, while Matt Shoemaker (2-7, 7.28 ERA) will be on the mound for the Twins.

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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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