Houston had a pretty rough week, but things should be just fine

Shrug it off, Astros, it was just a bad week

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Last Sunday when you looked at the upcoming week of games, if you were like me you probably saw an opportunity for the Astros to overpower their opponents and stay in front of the Yankees as owners of the best record in the American League. Going into the series finale with the Orioles that day, they were also just a half-game behind the Dodgers for the best record in the league.

Things looked rough at first in that game with Baltimore, as Justin Verlander went on to post one of his worst starts of the season by allowing four runs over just five innings. But then, the Astros did what you would expect, they used their potent offense to get back into the game and in fact, took a two-run lead in the top of the ninth which looked to lock up the series sweep.

That's when things turned south for the Astros. Roberto Osuna blew the save, putting the Astros on the losing side of one of the biggest upsets in recent memory considering how poorly the Orioles have played this season. Still, it was just one game. Houston had a chance to move past that quickly with another game set in Chicago against the White Sox on Monday. The weather would work against Houston to ruin that plan, though, setting up a doubleheader on Tuesday.

Cole's missed start begins a tough stretch for the bullpen

The first game of Tuesday's doubleheader looked precisely like what Houston would have wanted on Monday night to erase the memory of the loss to Baltimore. Greinke went six innings while allowing just two runs, and he got some run support behind him, then the bullpen had three clean, quiet innings to shut things down.

Then, the first of Houston's bad luck started. Gerrit Cole's hamstring gave him discomfort during warmups for the second game of the doubleheader, and he would get scratched. Houston's bullpen, who had just used three of their arms in the first game, had to scramble for a full nine innings. While the collection of relievers allowed four runs, it was Houston's offense that disappointed in the loss, the first of a five-game skid.

One step forward, two steps back

One of the most frustrating parts of the losing streak was that multiple times Houston worked to get the momentum back in their favor with a successful offensive inning, only to see their opponent score in the next half-inning to halt that momentum in its tracks. While credit is due to the White Sox and A's who did a good job against Houston's pitching, it was not a normal thing that the Astros typically experience.

Look no further than the series finale with the White Sox. After trading blows back-and-forth most of the game, Houston received a big momentum boost with a game-tying two-run homer by Jose Altuve in the top of the eighth. Ryan Pressly, who had allowed just ten earned runs in the entire season so far, was on the mound in the bottom of the inning to hold things there and give the offense another crack at going ahead in the ninth. Instead, he had his worst inning of the season, allowing a grand slam which ultimately lost the game.

That was just one example where it seemed like Houston had the odds tilted against them. While the bullpen is still an area of concern for the Astros, this week was not merely their bad performers going out and letting the team down. It was an all-around tough week for all of Houston's pitching, and a compressed stretch for their bullpen to cover didn't help. Even Aaron Sanchez, who had been terrific in his first two starts with the Astros, had a tough game where he allowed six runs.

Losing streaks are part of the game

While losing streaks are incredibly frustrating, especially when a significant factor of them is only bad luck combined with not playing up to potential, they are bound to happen in a 162-game baseball season. Pair that with a team that's on 100-win pace whose losses are few and far between, and a losing streak of a few games can be perceived a little more drastic than they are. Had these losses been peppered throughout other weeks, these would have easily been games you look at and say, "Oh well, it just wasn't their day."

Things finally took a turn back to normal on Sunday when a good pitching day paired up with some timely offense, resulting in a much more standard game of Astros play which got them back in the win column. Luckily, Gerrit Cole looks to have avoided anything serious with his hamstring and should make his next start on Thursday against the Tigers at home.

They also activated Brad Peacock over the weekend, which means he will provide Houston's bullpen not only with a fresh arm but one that has been successful as a reliever in the past. More reinforcements for the bullpen appear to be on the way with Josh James working through his rehab tasks to make a return before the playoffs.

At the end of the day, a losing streak in August is not nearly as worrying as one in September. Considering the remaining schedule, I would fully expect that Houston goes on a considerable winning streak before another losing streak, and still have a significant chance of locking up the division early, finishing with 100+ wins, and potentially the best overall record.

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Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Over the next few weeks, we'll break down all the positions and hopefuls for the final 53-man roster. We begin with the team's most important position — quarterback.

It seemed like yesterday former general manager Rick Smith completed the most compelling trade in Houston Texans' history.

Three years later, Smith's risky decision has paid off. Not only has Deshaun Watson established himself as the best quarterback in franchise history, but one of the finest the league has to offer at his position. For a team coming into the 2020 season with a plethora of fresh faces, Watson's return as Houston's unheralded starting quarterback appears to be the only familiarity in what will be an abnormal year for the Texans.

Deshaun Watson: Starter

On the cusp of his fourth season, Deshaun Watson will be just as good as he was during his first three years in the league. Sure, the loss of DeAndre Hopkins will have its effect at the start of the year. However, Watson's supporting cast is too talented for him to regress.

In 2019, the 24-year-old quarterback finished the season with 3,852 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in 15 regular-season games. If Watson had played in the Texans' final regular-season game, he would have notched over 4,000 passing yards for the second straight year — averaging 256.8 yards per game. As one of the league's best dual-threat quarterbacks, Watson recorded seven rushing touchdowns to go along with 413 yards on 82 carries.

He nearly cut his 2018 sack numbers in half thanks to an improved offensive line (62), but 44 hits from behind the line of scrimmage are far from ideal for a franchise quarterback. Although nicknamed "The Houston Houdini," it may be beneficial for Watson to give up the ball sooner to avoid various unnecessary hits in 2020.

However, regardless of the number of times he hit the ground, Watson will be the starting quarterback in Houston. And there isn't anything anyone can do to dispute his case.

A.J. McCarron: Backup

A.J. McCarron appeared in two games for 69 snaps in 2019. Even though he does not see the field too much playing behind Watson, Houston has a reliable substitute should something happen to their franchise quarterback. The Alabama prodigy showcased his talents for a full 45 minutes during the Texans' Week 17 loss to the Titans. He threw for 225 yards to go along with 39 rushing yards and a touchdown — in what was his first start since 2015.

Although it was one game as the starter. McCarron's performance was enough for the Texans to re-sign the veteran quarterback to a one-year deal worth $4 million with $3.75 million guaranteed. In 15 career games, McCarron has thrown for 1,153 passing yards and six touchdowns — while completing 62.4% of his attempts.

Alex McGough: Third String

Drafted in the seventh round (No. 220 overall) by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, Alex McGough has yet to make an appearance in a regular-season NFL game. After the Jaguars waived him last January, McGough spent the 2019 season as a member on the Texans' practice squad.

McGough played four years at Florida International University, where he ended his collegiate career with 9,091 passing yards and 65 touchdowns for the Golden Panthers. In January of this year, the Texans signed the 24-year-old quarterback to a reserve-future deal.

Nick Tiano: Depth

Nick Tiano is one of nine undrafted rookies who signed with the Texans in April. The 6-foot-5 quarterback played his collegiate career at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga — where Tiano recorded 744 yards and 10 touchdowns in 28 career games.

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