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

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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Will all the Texans playmakers be satisfied with their roles in the offense? Composite Getty Image.

ESPN Texans reporter DJ Bien-Aime joined The Mina Kimes Show this weekand shared his thoughts on the Texans outlook this season.

When looking at the Texans offense, Bien-Aime pointed to Houston's play calling as being a possible issue in 2024. Bobby Slowik did a terrific job in his first season as an offensive coordinator. But he will have his hands full keeping all his playmakers happy with Stefon Diggs joining the team, and Nico Collins expecting a ton of looks after signing a massive contract extension.

Which got us thinking, are there enough catches to go around?

We took a deep dive into the 2023 numbers and here's what we found. CJ Stroud averaged 21 completions per game. And here's a breakdown of how many catches his receivers averaged last year.

Nico Collins 5.3 catches per game

Stefon Diggs (with Buffalo) 6.29 catches per game

Dalton Schultz 3.93 catches per game

Tank Dell 4.27 catches per game

Texans running backs 3.05 catches per game

If we add those up, the total is 22.84. Which means the Texans top receivers should expect a similar amount of production compared to last season. Of course, players like Noah Brown, Robert Woods, and Brevin Jordan will take targets away from Stefon Diggs and company from time to time.

But it's good to know that the Texans top pass catchers should produce numbers close to their 2023 averages. Which is a big deal for a player in a contract year like Diggs.

Another thing to note. We're factoring in that the Texans are expected to run out of 11 personnel most of the time. Which means Diggs, Collins, Dell, Schultz, and Mixon will be the only pass catchers on the field the majority of the time.

Are there concerns about the defense?

Both Kimes and Bien-Aime designated Houston's secondary as the big x-factor this year. Bien-Aime named cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. as the only player in the secondary that he truly trusts. Is he right?

Be sure to watch the video above as we react to Kimes and Bien-Aime's outlook for the Texans this year, and share our thoughts on the possible pitfalls the team will have to navigate in the short and long-term.

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