Houston's offensive struggles continue

Disastrous first inning leaves Astros in 2-0 ALCS deficit

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

After an offensive struggle to start the series where they'd muster just one run in a 2-1 Game 1 loss, the Astros made the quick turnaround to start Game 2 on Monday afternoon. If they could manage a win, it would even the series and turn the ALCS into a best-of-five.

They would be unable to even it up, though, losing after another disappointing and frustrating performance in Monday's Game 2. Tampa Bay goes up 2-0 in the series while the Astros are left desperate for a change of momentum to get back in the series. A quick recap of the game:

Final Score: Rays 4, Astros 2.

Series: TB leads 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Charlie Morton.

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr.

Disastrous first inning for Houston

Houston started Game 2 offensively much as they performed in Game 1, doing enough to get into position to score, but coming away empty. George Springer started the game with a single, then moved to third on a one-out single by Michael Brantley, but a tough-luck lineout by Alex Bregman straight at the shortstop and a strikeout by Kyle Tucker would leave both runners where they stood.

Things took an even further downward turn in the bottom of the inning when a two-out single gave Tampa Bay their first baserunner followed by a groundball that should have ended the frame. Instead, a throwing error by Jose Altuve to Yuli Gurriel, who couldn't pick it, extended the inning. That manifested itself immediately as a costly mistake, as Manuel Margot would score both runners and himself on a three-run home run to center.

McCullers Jr. deals, but can only get one run of support

With their gifted 3-0 lead, the Rays got what they needed from Charlie Morton. Despite allowing five hits, he would hold the Astros scoreless as they would continue to strand runners and lack the consistency to string together hits for runs. They would, however, raise Morton's pitch count enough to end his day at five innings. That set up four innings needed by Tampa Bay's bullpen, starting with Peter Fairbanks, who was welcomed by a one-out solo home run by Carlos Correa in the top of the sixth to get Houston on the board.

That was the first run of support for Lance McCullers Jr, who, aside from the bad pitch that resulted in the three-run homer in the first, was spinning a gem for most of the game. McCullers Jr. allowed a single with no outs in the third inning and then retired the next fourteen straight, nine coming on impressive strikeouts. That streak ended with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, when Mike Zunino would make it a three-run game again with a solo shot. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 2 HR, 100 P.

Rays go up 2-0 in the series as Houston's rally comes up short

Andre Scrubb would come out of the bullpen to take over for McCullers Jr. in the bottom of the eighth. He recorded a 1-2-3 inning, sending the game to the ninth to give the Astros one last chance to make a comeback. Houston would start a rally, loading the bases with no outs on three-straight singles by the bottom of their order. That brought George Springer to the plate, who would ground into a double play. That brought in a run, but that's as close as the Astros would come, dropping the game 4-2 and falling into a 2-0 deficit in the ALCS.

Up Next: ALCS Game 3 will be a night game, with first pitch scheduled for 7:40 PM Central from Petco Park in San Diego. The Astros have landed on Jose Urquidy to take the mound, while the Rays have not yet named their starter.

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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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