TEXANS IN TURMOIL

John Granato: With Gaine hire, Bill O'Brien has won the battle on Kirby, but can he win the war?

Bill O'Brien got his man in Brian Gaine. Will it pay off? Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Make no mistake about it, Bill O’Brien won the battle. But has he won the war? It needs to be a long drawn out war. If it’s a quick one he’s a goner.

BOB got his guy in Brian Gaine. When Gaine left the organization a year ago the whispers were that BOB was none too happy about it. That was his guy. Well now he’s got his guy but Rick is still lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce should things not go well on Kirby next season.

The problem with that is that it’s a game that Rick has weighted toward his side. The roster is Swiss cheese. Look at all the holes on the offensive line and defensive backfield, a lack of talent at wide receiver and tight end and no depth for special teams.

My worry is that BOB is only going to get one year to fix all that with no first or second rounder. Does he deserve more? That’s arguable. He has his detractors and rightfully so.

What has he proven as a head coach? He won two division titles in a weak division and while his offense turned into the scariest in the league with Deshaun at the helm they still only managed a 3-3 record thanks to BOB’s questionable play calling in crunch time.

Can he fix all these problems in one offseason and prove that he was the right choice over Rick? That’s your task, Mr. O’Brien and it looks like Mission Impossible with all there is to do and no picks to do it with. It’s not hopeless though. There is plenty of money to spend on free agents although it’s dearth of tackle talent. All dressed up and nowhere to go.

But there is an ace in the hole for BOB. Rick left one thing  behind that could be his undoing: No. 4. No. 4 can cure all evils. No. 4 made the most mundane offense in the league over the last three years into the most dynamic. No. 4 made the worst offensive line in the league serviceable. Kendall Lamm was actually OK when No. 4 was on the field!!!! That alone should have garnered MVP consideration for Deshaun.

I, for one, am rooting for BOB. I want to see the team win. I want the playoffs to actually mean something as opposed to the playoffs we’ve had here in the past where we knew that they could only go so far with the talent they had. I want to see Deshaun vault to the top of the NFL quarterback hierarchy. I want to see JJ great again.

One thing I don’t want is Rick back in the GM seat. That’s something I’m just not interested in. I’ve seen that movie for 11 years and I know the ending. It ends badly every time. The good guys never win. The evil empire always breaks through its defenses and kills the good guys’ season. With Rick standing on the deck of the starship overlooking the fight there’s nothing but battle red blood all over the field.

I don’t know if BOB’s the answer. I loved the hire at the time. Since then, meh. I loved the offensive adjustments he made with Deshaun at qb but there really isn’t much more to hang your hat on. He knows more football than we ever will but we can see deficiencies in time management and replays. Those are things he can get better at but four years is a big enough sample size to know that it’s a problem.

There is a lot to fix but I’m betting on Bill O’Brien to win the war. Ironically Rick could lose it because of his greatest move; drafting Deshaun Watson. His greatest achievement could be his undoing. That and all the crappy draft picks he’s made.

But the clock is ticking, Bill O’Brien. You’ve won the battle but the war isn’t over.  




 

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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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