SO FAR, SO GOOD

It's still early, but the Astros may have their groove back

George Springer has been red-hot. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It wasn't just a comeback 10-5 win over the Oakland A's to open the American League Divisional Series – on the heels of sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Series …

It was the way the Astros took the A's best shot, dusted themselves off and decimated the A's vaunted relievers with clutch hits, a two-out rally and home run barrage.

How the Astros got their groove back.

You remember visions of 2017 – Jose Altuve rounding third and heading for home, Carlos Correa pounding homers in the post-season, George Springer bashing hit after hit, and the cute, lovable Astros punctuating their first World Series title with Carlos Carrera getting on one knee to propose marriage. Aw, wasn't that the sweetest thing ever?

The Astros may not be so cuddly these days, especially with the A's, and the Yankees and Dodgers in the waiting room, still spittin' fire over the Astros sign-stealing scandal. We may see the Astros playing fair and square these days, Altuve's pretty little daughter running to daddy's arms, Alex Bregman raising money to feed the needy and Michael Brantley speaking so eloquently about social issues. But to the rest of the baseball world, the Astros are still low-down, dirty scoundrels and fans would like nothing more than to watch their team – be it the A's or anyone else – send this group of Astros home humiliated.

Get in line, it may be a long wait, and you probably won't like the ending. The Astros are 3-0 so far in the playoffs, bats blazing and making all the right moves. Sure they limped into the playoffs, two games below .500 during the COVID-shortened season. Well, they ain't below .500 now.

The Astros are a leg up in this best-of-five series against the A's. Since the schedule has them playing five straight days, the A's won't be able to hide starting pitcher Mike Fiers, who'll finally have to confront the Astros face-to-face after turning witness for the prosecution against his old teammates in the sign-stealing scandal.

If fans look at the Astros and see cheaters, like Jerry Seinfeld peered into Newman's eyes and saw pure evil, go ahead, the Astros will embrace their villain role. Carlos Correa isn't backing down: "What are they going to say now?"

That was after the Astros shoo'd away the Twins. What are they going to say now, after Correa blasted two homers, three hits and four RBI against the A's? George Springer blasted four hits, and Altuve, mired in a season-long slump, woke up with two hits and two key RBI? Kyle Tucker had two hits. The only thing missing from Bregman's homer was him staring into the dugout camera like the brash, in-your-face wise ass we love. You don't like it? Do something about it.

Yeah, yeah, the A's came into this series with a heralded bullpen, the best in the league. Except for now. The Astros relievers, Brian Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Cristian Javier and Ryan Pressly drilled holes in the A's bats, with no hits over five lockdown innings. Meanwhile the Astros battered seven A's relievers for seven runs. For sure, what are they going to say now?

It was only one game, but it was a statement win by the Astros.

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The Texans didn't have an answer for Derrick Henry. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Romeo Crennel made a valorous call that might have costed the Houston Texans from winning their second consecutive game on Sunday. Up by seven with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, Crennel decided to call a two-point conversion following Deshaun Watson's one-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

During the two-point conversion, Watson had a look at an open Randall Cobb, but Titans' defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons got a hand on the ball to deflect the pass. The failed conversion allowed the Titans to take a 42-36 victory over the Texans inside Nissan Stadium. Tennessee scored 13 unanswered points, which included a seven-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to A.J. Brown to send the game into overtime.

"I think I would do it again," Crennel said during his media availability on Monday. "You are on the road against a divisional opponent who is undefeated, and if you could get that two-point conversion — you shut the door on them. We had a guy open, but unfortunately, the ball got tipped and we did not make it. I would do it again because it was a good choice."

The decision to not kick the field goal caused somewhat of an uproar, but it is understandable why Crennel made the call. Crennel had faith in Watson to put the Texans in a position to close the game, similar to his 4th-and-4 call during last week's victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the end, Crennel's risky decisions could stem from the lack of faith he has in the Texans' depleted defense.

Houston's defense hit an all-time low against the Titans. They gave up a franchise-worst 601 total yards — with Derrick Henry accounting for 212 yards on 22 carries. But despite their struggles against the run, the Texans' secondary were just as faulty. They gave up a total of 338 yards through the air and allowed Tannehill to go 8-for-9 down the field during the Titans' final drive of regulation.

Had Houston's defense made a stop during the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the Texans could have ended the game 2-0 under their interim head coach.

"I wanted to go ahead and get the two points — I felt like that would have put the game out of reach for them," Crennel said. "If we had gotten it, we would have been in much better shape. But we did not get it. We did not perform well in overtime, and they [Titans] won the game."

Following Sunday's heartbreaking loss, Texans safety Justin Reid said it best, "Had we converted on the two-point conversion, this would be a totally different conversation. So it is what it is."

Up next, the 1-5 Texans will look to bounce back from defeat against the 4-1 Green Bay Packers, inside NRG Stadium on Sunday. Kick-off is at 12:00 PM CT.

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