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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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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