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 dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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