Astros fall back below .500

McCullers Jr. impressive in return, but Rangers blank Astros in pitcher's duel

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After taking the opener thanks to timely hits and a great outing from their starter, the Astros resumed play on Wednesday with the Rangers trying to lock up the series win. Here is a quick rundown of the middle game of the three-game series:

Final Score: Rangers 1, Astros 0.

Record: 24-25, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Kyle Gibson (2-5, 5.18 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ryan Pressly (1-3, 4.00 ERA).

An unexpected pitcher's duel

Wednesday's game would unfold as an unexpected pitcher's duel. For the Astros, Lance McCullers Jr. made an excellent return from the IL, going seven full shutout innings while allowing just two hits. Those two hits were the Rangers' only baserunners over those seven innings. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 86 P.

Pressly allows the winning run as Gibson tosses the complete-game shutout

After McCullers Jr, Josh James entered and worked around a two-out single for a scoreless eighth. Ryan Pressly was on for the ninth, trying to keep the game scoreless to provide Houston with a walk-off chance. Instead, a leadoff single would later result in the first run of the game on a two-out double just inside the foul line down the first-base side to give Texas a 1-0 lead in the top of the ninth.

Pressly walked his next batter, prompting another call to the bullpen to bring in Enoli Paredes. Paredes would get the final out of the frame with a strikeout. The run allowed by Pressly would be the only of the game, as the Astros would come up empty in the bottom half, dropping the middle game of the series as Kyle Gibson would toss a complete-game shutout against the Astros to get the win.

Up Next: The series finale between these two teams will start a bit earlier on Thursday, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM Central. Framber Valdez (3-3, 4.08 ERA) will make another start for the Astros, while Jordan Lyles (1-4, 7.80 ERA) will be on the mound for the Rangers.

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Should Watson be in the MVP conversation? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2020 NFL season has a lot going on. Even if we take the coronavirus out of it, there's still a lot to digest. There are so many great performances being put up, one can make an argument for several players to win league MVP. The quarterback position typically gets more credit than others. If I restrict the argument to quarterbacks only, we're looking at Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Derrick Henry are the leading contenders at running back. On defense, there really isn't a standout defender. The defense gets no love, but there are several guys in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Deshaun Watson has been putting up numbers that have matched or rivaled some of the top MVP candidates over his last seven games. That stretch has coincided with the firing of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien. Coincidence? I think not. Taking the reigns off a wild horse can often lead to said horse running free and flourishing! So question: Should Watson be getting league MVP considerations? I think so.

For starters, he's been one of the best players in the league over the course of the last seven games. 18 passing touchdowns and only two interceptions. The only quarterback with a better touchdown to interception ratio over that same span is Mahomes (19 and 2, as opposed to Watson's 18 & 2). Factoring in total season stats, of course Mahomes is doing much better. He's on a better team with a much better coach and general manager. The same could be said for Wilson and Rodgers. Put Watson on any of those teams and their records wouldn't be any worse than what they are now.

The Texans are 4-3 since firing O'Brien. While that isn't a great record, consider the fact they started the season 0-4 and looked like a total disaster. Watson looked like he was caged and couldn't wait to be freed. The team's record could be even better if the defense had a pulse. The proper supporting cast has a lot to do with a player's MVP candidate's chances. Now that one of his favorite weapons, Will Fuller, and the team's best corner, Bradley Roby, are both suspended for the rest of the season by the league for violating the substance abuse/PED policy, things will get much tougher for Watson.

If he continues to put up these cartoon like numbers, I don't see why he wouldn't be in the MVP conversation. He's currently fopurth in passing yards, sixth in completion percentage, tied for fifth in passing touchdowns, eighth in QBR, and third in quarterback rating. Watson is emerging as the star he was projected to be coming into the 2017 draft. I'm not saying Watson deserves to be the league MVP, but he deserves to be in the conversation. His MVP candidacy should be treated like the family gathering hierarchy: once you reach a certain age and/or status, you're no longer resigned to the kiddie table. Now you get to sit with all the adults, engage in their conversations, and gain access to things you couldn't previously. Watson won't win the MVP award, but I strongly believe he could finish top five. Especially if he keeps making lemonade with the lemons he's been given.

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