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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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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