Houston continues to fall in the standings

Losing streak extended to five games as Astros drop opener to A's

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Finally able to get out of Los Angeles for a change of scenery after the four-game sweep by the Angels, the Astros were in Oakland Monday night for a five-game set against the division-leading A's. Here is a quick rundown of the series opener:

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 0.

Record: 21-20, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Chris Bassitt (3-2, 3.12 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.38 ERA).

Javier goes five innings 

Cristian Javier had a mostly decent outing on Monday, keeping it a close game while he was on the mound. He would last five frames, reaching 94 pitches along the way to reach a season-high. Although the A's would force him into extended at-bats, he only allowed two runs.

Those came in the bottom of the second when a lead-off single set up an RBI-double by former-Astro Tony Kemp to give Oakland the 1-0 lead. After Houston erased Kemp as he tried to steal third, Sean Murphy followed that with a solo home run to double the lead to 2-0. Javier would keep the score there, going three more scoreless innings. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Bullpen struggles continue as A's take the opener

After Javier, Cionel Perez would take over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth. He would face three batters, getting two outs and allowing a single, before the Astros moved on to Andre Scrubb. Scrubb finished the sixth, then retired for the seventh. He completed that inning, but not before allowing a leadoff walk that would eventually score after moving to third on a one-out single and sacrifice fly, making it a 3-0 Oakland lead.

Cy Sneed was next out of the bullpen for the Astros, and he too would be bitten by a leadoff walk, as that runner would score on a one-out RBI-single to extend the lead to 4-0 before Oakland blew it open with a two-RBI single later in the inning to make it 6-0. That would be the final score as the A's would shutout the Astros to take the first game of the five-game set.

Up Next: This series continues on Tuesday with a doubleheader starting at 5:10 PM Central. The first game should feature Zack Greinke (3-0, 2.91 ERA) on the mound for the Astros opposite Frankie Montas (2-3, 6.06 ERA) for the A's. The second game, which will start about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first, will have Mike Minor (0-5, 5.94 ERA) starting for Oakland while Houston is expected to have a bullpen-led game with the starter TBD.

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It's easy to blame Bill O'Brien for the Texans woes. He is a lousy GM, a below average play caller and his offense is boring, predictable and ineffective. Not once has he had a top 10 offense in the league. So he does not get a pass here.

But Deshaun Watson shouldn't, either.

Last year, Watson was in the MVP conversation entering the game in Baltimore. Four of the nine games he played before that, Watson had an ESPN Total QBR over 85, which is playing at an elite level.

Since that 41-7 debacle (where his QBR was 13.6), Watson has played 10 games. He has topped 85 just once (and barely - 85.6) in the win over the Patriots. While QBR is not the be all end all, it shows a trend. And before you blame the talent around him or the ridiculously stupid DeAndre Hopkins trade, eight of those games were with Hopkins in the lineup.

Over his last 10 games, Patrick Mahomes has done it five times (and just missed last week at 84.7). Lamar Jackson has done it six times in his last 10. Russell Wilson is six for his last 10. Dak Prescott? Three. Aaron Rodgers? Three. Ryan Tannehill? Three. Josh Allen? Two. Lamar Jackson led the league last year with an 83 for the season. Watson was sixth at 71.3. To be a top 10 quarterback, you had to average 64.1. In two games this season, Watson sits 20th, about where he was over the last six regular season games and two playoff games last year.

In essence, Deshaun Watson - who often gets compared to those players - is not on their level. Yes, O'Brien has a lot to do with it, but it's also time to start looking at Watson's performance and regression as an NFL quarterback.

In 2018, Watson had four such games. In 2017, four in six starts. And now ONE since that Baltimore game. In fact, he has topped 80 just once in that stretch, and 60 just three times.

What it tells us is Watson has been an average quarterback over his last 10 starts. The Texans invested heavily in an offensive line to protect him. They have added depth at WR but a net loss without Hopkins. Elite quarterbacks turn in performances like that roughly half the time. Getting more consistent has always been an issue for Watson. But since that Baltimore game, he has not been close. And he is being paid to be elite.

In the end, O'Brien is still the main culprit. He has hand picked all the players around Watson, he designed the offense, and he controls everything.

But it's time to quit giving Watson a pass. Right now, he is part of the problem.

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