LANCE ZIERLEIN

Stream of consciousness with Astros, Rockets, and Texans

A.J. Hinch is the man, but even he isn't perfect. Jason Behnken / Getty Images
  • A.J. Hinch is one of my favorite managers/coaches of all-time in Houston. Probably at the top spot, however, he made all the wrong moves in a critical game and many of those moves were easily avoidable.

  • It’s easy to second-guess Hinch for pulling Dallas Keuchel based on the way Keuchel had been dealing after his first-inning blues, but the come in with Joe Smith? Of all the arms in the bullpen, Joe Smith? He wasn’t even on the playoff roster for the ALDS. He can’t be in on a clutch situation.

  • Ron Darling was really, really excited about Nathan Eovaldi being from Alvin and having the King of Alvin - Nolan Ryan - in the front row behind home plate. It consumed Darling.

  • What is happening with these catchers? It’s both sides too. You aren’t catching knuckleballers, guys! Wild pitches are one thing, but this many passed balls is ridiculous.

  • For all of Alex Bregman’s greatness at the plate, his greatness in the field deserves almost as much attention. That guy is a human vacuum. Hoovers it up and has release quickness and arm strength to make the difficult look routine. And the way Boston is pitching around him? That’s Barry Bonds stuff. The respect Alex Cora has for Bregman after watching him all last season is obvious.

  • I honestly don’t even know if Whitney Mercilus is playing for the Texans anymore. Is he wearing some type of hobbit cloak that turns him invisible or something?

  • With all of the pine tar / sunscreen videos out there and the reports about the Astros trying to spy on opposing dugouts, I’ve just come to realize that “gaining competitive advantages” is not only understood in baseball, but condoned. The sport is built on that very premise. It will never change.

  • While I wasn’t very excited about the addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets roster, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was very interested in seeing how this plays out. I had some doubts about Chris Paul and James Harden sharing the ball and that was never an issue. Hope I’m wrong again.

  • The Rockets best shot at winning a title is if Clint Capela takes yet ANOTHER leap forward as an NBA talent. With all of the dunks, rebounds and blocked shots he should pile up, Capela is a sneaky All-Star candidate this year.

  • I thought Ozark Season 2 was okay, but I wasn’t in love it. I am, however, hyped to watch Making a Murderer 2 on Netflix starting October 19th.

  • Plantar fasciitis can suck the hole. Every morning when I wake up and put my right foot on the floor for the first time, it’s like I’m stepping on a nail. It stays like that for about 7-10 minutes. I hope many of the Red Sox get this.

  • I know the Jaguars have been terrible defensively over the last two games, but I don’t have great confidence that our Houston Texans can keep them reeling in that area. Houston just doesn’t matchup well against the physical nature of the Jaguars defensive front and Jalen Ramsey does a good job on Deandre Hopkins. I hope I’m wrong, but I see a bad result coming on Sunday.

 

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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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