Astros fall to 4-4 on the year

Greinke much improved, Astros fall to Angels in extra innings

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After finishing the opening game of this three-game series at approximately 12:30 AM Central on Friday night / Saturday morning, the Astros and Angels were back in action on Saturday evening, with Houston looking to lock up the series win and extend their division lead. Here is a recap of the middle game:

Final Score (10 Innings): Angels 5, Astros 4.

Record: 4-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Ryan Buchter (2-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Nivaldo Rodriguez (0-1, 0.00 ERA).

Greinke looks much improved, but falters in sixth inning

After combining for 15 runs the night prior, both teams had slow starts on Saturday evening. For the Angels, that came at the hand of Zack Greinke, who put together a vastly more impressive start than his 2020 debut where he went just 3.1 innings and allowed three runs.

Greinke did not allow a baserunner until the bottom of the sixth inning when the Angels would get their first hit with one out. That would break the seal on their offense, as Los Angeles would end up tagging Greinke with two runs on a sac-fly and RBI-single, ending his night two outs into the inning as Blake Taylor would get the final out. Greinke's final line: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K.

Angels stay in command through eight

Houston was able to create some chances in the early parts of the game, but couldn't convert them. They had runners on in five of the first six innings, but would not be able to get on the board over that span. Josh Reddick led off the top of the seventh with a double, moved to third on a groundout, then scored to cut the lead in half on a two-out RBI-single by George Springer.

Taylor remained in the game for Houston on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, and he continued his impressive start to his rookie campaign by working around a two-out single to keep it a one-run game. Ryan Pressly would make his 2020 debut out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth to try and give Houston's offense a chance in the top of the ninth. He was greeted with a lead-off triple, which would eventually turn into a run on a two-out RBI-single to push Los Angeles back in front by two at 3-1. That would also mark the end of Pressly's night as Brandon Bailey would come in to get the final out of the frame.

Teams trade blows to go to extras, Angels come out ahead in tenth

In the top of the ninth, Josh Reddick was able to get Houston back within one run with a one-out solo home run. After Garrett Stubbs kept Houston alive with a two-out single, George Springer would give the Astros their first lead of the day with a two-run home run, making it a 4-3 Astros advantage. Now in a save situation, Roberto Osuna came in for the bottom of the ninth. He would get one out, then allow a runner before being taken out mid-at-bat with an injury.

Cy Sneed would enter quickly, and after a wild pitch to move the runner to second allowed an RBI-double to former-Astro Jason Castro to tie the game 4-4. Sneed would hold the Angels there, sending the game to extra innings. Alex Bregman would start the top of the tenth on second base per the 2020 rules and would be joined by Kyle Tucker, who received an intentional walk to start the inning with two on base and no outs.

Though the Astros would load the bases with two outs, the Angels would get out of the jam with a strikeout. Nivaldo Rodriguez would come out of the bullpen for the bottom of the tenth and allowed the walk-off to tie the series at one apiece.

Up Next: The finale of this series will start at 3:10 PM Central on Sunday. The pitching matchup will be two pitchers looking to rebound from underwhelming season debuts. Josh James will be on the mound for Houston after allowing three runs over three innings in his first start, and Shohei Ohtani is starting for Los Angeles, who allowed five runs without recording an out in his.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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