On the Texans

Barry Laminack: For Bill O'Brien, it is win or else

It's time for Bill O'Brien to win. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The 2018 NFL season should be make or break for Bill O’Brien. He has one year left on his contract with the Houston Texans, and now that Rick Smith will no longer be the GM, O’Brien is pretty much out of excuses. And while some people would probably prefer not to see O’Brien back again next year,  I think you have to give him one more year.

The 2017 season was an injury plagued disaster. By now you know about the injuries to Watt, Mercilus, and Watson. But don’t forget that both tight ends, Foreman, and Fuller all missed significant time.

Oh, and there was the whole Cushing suspension fiasco.

When you think about it, 4-12 was about all that could be expected.

(Speaking of 4-12, kind of makes 9-7 and a playoff game look a lot better now, doesn’t it?)

Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t think O’Brien is a great coach by any stretch of the imagination, but I think he’s a good coach – at least better than some are willing to give him credit for being – and I think there would be plenty of teams that would snatch him up if the Texans don’t want him. But make no mistake, he is going to have to do something special to earn a new contract.

In other words, it’s playoff or bust.

I was talking with Jerome Solomon on The Usual Suspects yesterday and we discussed how much time O’Brien should be given next season. Assuming they avoid another injury filled season like 2017, I say you give him the entire year. If he misses the playoffs with a healthy squad, then you don’t bring him back.

One thing that plays in the Texans favor however is that when it comes to making the decision – should it be necessary to fire O’Brien mid season – they have the very capable Romeo Crennel on staff who can step in and finish out the season.

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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