THE PALLILOG

Stop us if you have heard this before: Texans need to find a way to protect Watson against Jags

Stop us if you have heard this before: Texans need to find a way to protect Watson against Jags
Deshaun Watson takes his act to New York. Tim Warner/Getty Images

No must win game looms for the Texans Sunday against Jacksonville. Unless you are gaga over the Titans after their season opening humiliation of the Browns in Cleveland, the AFC South does not look to have a team capable of pulling away and ripping off 12 wins. Maybe not even 10. Last season the Texans extricated themselves from an 0-3 mess of a start to win the division, so 0-2 wouldn't mean curtains. But if the Jaguars turn out to be decent with rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew and a rejuvenated defense, the Texans dropping a home division game to fall to 0-2 would be problematic. At eight and a half or nine points the Texans are the third biggest favorite in the NFL this week. Baltimore at home is -13 vs. Arizona, New England is a whopping 19 point road favorite at Miami.

Except for one awful decision and throw Deshaun Watson looked like a top 10 quarterback at New Orleans. Alas his career will be inevitably altered for the worse if the offensive line play doesn't improve and Watson doesn't speed up that imaginary clock in his head by half a tick.

Developmental prospect or not, if second round draft pick Max Scharping isn't very soon good enough to move right tackle Seantrel Henderson out of the starting lineup, the pick looks bad.

It really would be nice if Head Coach Bill O'Brien stops uttering pedantic and/or condescending nonsense. The Texans' secondary alignment on the Saints' last completion before the game winning field goal was simply indefensible. Billy Bluster's pearl of non-wisdom: "We made a call there that we thought was the best call for us." As opposed to coaches who make calls they think are the worst for them? The call was absurd! Safeties stationed as close to Mississippi as to the line of scrimmage? Two cornerbacks lined up as if covering skunks who'd just taken swims in a toxic waste pool? It's as if the Texans thought they were up by four and not one. You don't suppose…? Nah.

And Coach, about using a timeout and then immediately losing another one because of a challenge after the same play…

Astros drop three straight

In winning three in a row at Minute Maid Park after getting demolished 15-0 in the series opener, the Oakland A's administered the latest reminder that as great as the Astros are they are a lock for nothing when their postseason starts in three weeks. The A's have a better record than the Astros over the last three months. So do the Indians. Any team can beat any other team in a three out of five baseball series. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply wrong.

Thursday's 3-2 loss to the A's dropped the Astros to 0-47 on the season when trailing going to the ninth inning. As I've covered before, all teams lose almost all of their games when down after eight. Few actually lose every one of them.

It has worked out quite well that the Astros were forced to move to the American League in order for the owners to approve the sale of the franchise from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane's group. Latest example: Yordan Alvarez is pretty much a lock to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Everything else being equal, as amazing as he's been Alvarez would have little shot at the NL rookie honor. Not with the Mets' Peter Alonso entering the weekend with 47 homers and 109 runs batted in. In the end you get credit for what you did accomplish, not for what you might have accomplished if called up sooner.

Not even counting his winning World Series Most Valuable Player George Springer's "career year" to date was 2017. He played 140 games that season with 34 homers and 85 RBI. Through 109 games played this season: 34 homers and 85 RBI. If he hadn't missed a month with a hamstring injury Springer might be right there with Alex Bregman as top alternatives to Mike Trout for AL MVP. Springer's contract is up at the end of the season, but he can't become a free agent until after next season when he'll already be 31 years old. Would the Astros say "too much" or Springer say "not enough" to a suggestion of four years 80 mil?

Down week for colleges

Overall it's a dud of a college football schedule this weekend. Not one Top 25 matchup on the card. UH plus nine and a half vs. Washington State feels like the right side Friday night at NRG Stadium. Texas can seemingly name its score -32 vs. Rice at NRG Saturday.

Buzzer Beaters

1. The "Texas Kickoff" really shouldn't take place the third full weekend of the season. 2. It would be a downer if Carlos Correa only gets to play in a championship series this year while rehabbing with Round Rock during the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. 3. Look away triskaidekophobes! Greatest athletes to wear #13 (A-Rod is disqualified and an honorable mention for Billy Wagner): Bronze-Steve Nash Silver-Dan Marino Gold-Wilt Chamberlain

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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.

UP NEXT

Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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