Houston starts the second half strong

Astros exit All-Star break with dominant win over White Sox

Houston's offense came out of the All-Star break firing on all cylinders. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After an incredibly exciting end to the first half of the season with the magical walk-off win over the Yankees in Houston, the Astros started their first series out of the All-Star break in Chicago to face the White Sox. Despite falling behind a run in the first inning, the rest of the game was dominated by Houston as they would pick up the win.

Final Score: Astros 7, White Sox 1

Astros' Record: 56-36, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (7-2)

Losing Pitcher: Dylan Cease (7-5)

McCullers Jr. moves past early trouble for a stellar start

Lance McCullers Jr.'s night started about as bad as it could have, with his first two pitches getting turned around for a leadoff triple and RBI double, giving the White Sox a 1-0 lead. He rebounded quickly and effectively, sitting down the next three batters to end that inning, then erased one walk each in the second and third. The walk in the third would be the last batter to reach base against him, as he would go on to retire thirteen in a row to get through seven innings of one-run baseball while notching a season-high ten strikeouts. His final line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 94 P.

Houston takes and builds the lead

After the early run by Chicago, the Astros turned the offensive momentum to their favor in the top of the third. They loaded the bases with two outs, setting up Yuli Gurriel for a two-RBI double to go in front 2-1. Michael Brantley doubled the lead to two runs in the top of the fifth, sneaking a solo homer just inside the foul pole with two outs, making it 3-1.

They then blew it open in the top of the seventh against the White Sox bullpen, getting runners on second and third with two outs before Kyle Tucker would bring in a run on an infield single, his 50th RBI of the year. After Abraham Toro loaded the bases by being hit by a pitch, Myles Straw plated all three runners with a bases-clearing double, pushing the lead to 7-1.

Astros start the second half with a win

Bryan Abreu took over on the mound out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth. He, like McCullers Jr. before him, kept Chicago off the bases with a 1-2-3 inning on three groundouts. That left the ninth for Andre Scrubb, and despite allowing a leadoff single, was able to erase it to wrap up the dominant six-run win for the Astros to come out of the All-Star break with a win.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will start at 6:15 PM Central on Saturday. Chicago will send Lucas Giolito (7-6, 4.15 ERA) to the mound, and Houston will counter with Jake Odorizzi (3-4, 3.61 ERA).

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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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