FIXING THE PROBLEMS

Lance Zierlein: Texans need a lot of work to repair the damage

Bob McNair needs to take his car to the shop. Now. Bob Levey/Getty Images

For all of us who drive, one of the worst feeling in the world is when your car doesn’t start. Obviously it’s not a good thing because you can’t get to where you want to go, but the scariest part is not knowing how bad the issue is and how expensive the fix is going to be.

Some of the worst issues with the car can be taking place even while the car is able to run. It is slowly deteriorating and the price of repair is mounting with every few times you drive. That’s the silent killer. Sure, your car issues might be as simple as a replacing the battery, but it could be much worse and much more expensive. You don’t know until you get it into the shop.

Under Drayton McLane, the Astros were a solid vehicle that ran fairly well for years, but he stopped changing the oil, starting grinding the gears and didn’t bring the Astros in when he saw the check engine light. The result? He ruined the car. He ran it into the ground. The price of repair was so costly that it made more sense to get a new car which is what the Astros had to do with their 100-loss seasons and their early round draft picks. They have a new owner that is taking care of the car so far. All is well.

Bob McNair’s car

The Houston Texans aren’t broken, but they aren’t running well and they could do substantial damage if they don’t bring it in for repairs during free agency and the draft. Their air conditioning (secondary) used to work fine, but it’s getting old and running out of freon (talent) and needs to all new parts. The tires (offensive line) were low quality to begin with and now they are completely worn and provide no traction. Oh, and they need another tight end.

Free agency is a chance to make quick fixes to your issues as a team. Sometimes they can be long-term fixes like when Johnathan Joseph was signed in 2011. Some of the fixes are short-term like with Danieal Manning from 2011. And of course, some fixes simply don’t work at all like with Jeff Allen and Ahman Green. This year, the free agent market isn’t great and it’s looking more and more like the Texans opportunity to fix their problems may be nothing more than patchwork options until they can get new talent drafted over the next couple of seasons.

Free agent opportunities

The Texans must sign an offensive lineman and they must sign someone in the secondary. We all know they have overwhelming needs at guard, tackle, cornerback and safety. Signing a guard and/or tackle is a must. They don’t have a first or second round pick so the opportunity to get a good offensive tackle who is ready to play early on is slim. The Texans could choose to sign Nate Solder away from the Patriots, but keep in mind that he’s a band-aid option and an expensive one.

Adding a guard via free agency is a possibility, but with three picks in the third round (they will get a third third rounder with a compensatory pick for A.J. Bouye), the Texans should be able to find a capable guard who has a chance to step in and start right away. Now I’m not saying one tackle and one guard is all it takes. They need at least one tackle and one guard. They could sign Andrew Norvell or even Josh Sitton who was cut by the Bears and still draft a guard.

In the secondary, Johnathan Joseph is done, Kareem Jackson is on his last legs and may need to try a move to safety to extend his career, and Kevin Johnson was largely disappointing last season. The Texans must sign a free agent like Malcolm Butler to give their secondary a fighting chance in coverage. And while signing a cornerback should be mandatory, so should drafting one -- or two. Safety is a need, but if you do a good job of evaluating, making a splashy signing or draft pick isn’t necessary to find help.

The Astros and the Rockets seem to be running like brand new models. The Texans better get their repairs made quickly to keep up with the rest of the teams in the neighborhood.

 

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Houston's winning streak is up to nine

Astros secure series over Orioles as winning streak continues

Zack Greinke provided another long outing for his team on Tuesday. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After continuing their recent dominance with a lopsided win over this Orioles team on Monday in the rain-plagued opener, the Astros eyed number nine in a row if they could do it again on Tuesday. Though not as one-sided, the Astros would get the victory to secure the series win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Orioles 1

Astros' Record: 45-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (8-2)

Losing Pitcher: Jorge Lopez (2-9)

A tame start for Houston's offense

After a scoreless first inning on both sides, Myles Straw started the scoring with two outs in the top of the second, sneaking a ball off and over the left-field wall just out of the grasp of Austin Hays for a solo homer to put Houston ahead 1-0. After Baltimore tied the game in the third, the game remained gridlocked 1-1 until the top of the seventh, when Chase McCormick would reach on a one-out infield single then raced around to score on a Myles Straw RBI single, putting Houston back in front 2-1.

Greinke pitches into the eighth

Over that span, Zack Greinke was getting efficient innings against Baltimore's lineup. He allowed that trying run in the third, which came after a one-out walk moved to third on a single, then scored on a sac fly. That was one of his few moments with runners in scoring position, as he erased a single in the first, a single in the fourth, and a double in the seventh to maintain the new 2-1 lead.

The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eighth but came away with only one run of insurance on a McCormick sac fly, making it 3-1 as Greinke returned to the mound to continue working. He allowed a leadoff single then retired the next batter before Dusty Baker would come out to get him as the left-handed portion of the lineup was due up and a better match for Brooks Raley, who had been warming. Greinke's final line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 91 P.

Astros make it nine in a row

Raley completed the eighth for Greinke with two strikeouts to strand the inherited runner. With it still a two-run game in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save. He erased a two-out single to finish things off, giving Houston their ninth win in a row and securing the series with a chance at the sweep in the finale.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set will be another 6:05 PM Central start time on Wednesday. Thomas Eshelman (0-0, 1.93 ERA) will be on the mound for Baltimore to face the Astros, while Jose Urquidy (5-3, 3.65 ERA) will start for Houston.

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