TEXANS LOSE AGAIN

Texans-49ers: Garoppolo comes up big as 49ers drop Texans

DeAndre Hopkins was a bright spot. Houstontexans.com

Week 14 against the two-win San Francisco 49ers is the game the Houston Texans needed right now. They are struggling to win with an offense that turns the ball over too much and at the wrong time. The 49ers are a team that doesn't force a lot of turnovers; something the Texans need to limit if they want to win and get at least one more before the end of the season. But just because a team doesn't force a lot of turnovers doesn't mean that's the only way the Texans can lose this game. They were facing Jimmy Garoppolo in just his second game as the starter for San Francisco and he led them to a victory in his first game last week.

He did it again on Sunday, beating the Texans 26-16 at NRG.

Just because Jimmy G has hype and the Texans have been struggling didn't mean this game would somehow be exciting. The first half was anything but. The Texans defense, especially Jadeveon Clowney, were wrecking shop early against the 49ers. They forced a three and out to start the game and the pressure forced Garoppolo to throw an interception to Kareem Jackson on the next drive. Despite that effort, the Texans were only able to get a 55-yard field goal from Ka'imi Fairbairn to lead 3-0, a good start.

Most of the first half was punts, but the 49ers were slowly finding rhythm and with 6:36 left before the break they tied the game at 3 points. They forced another punt from the Texans and then took the lead after 6 plays in which the Texans defense couldn't contain fullback Kyle Juszczyk who caught 2 passes for 60 yards on the drive. The last play was a 2-yard touchdown run by Carlos Hyde and a 10-3 lead for the 49ers.

But a change at quarterback for the Texans caused by an injury to Tom Savage brought a different feel to the offense. With just over two minutes left before halftime T.J. Yates stepped in and led the Texans on a 9-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 7-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins, his 10th of the season tying him for the league lead. But it wasn't a tie score because Fairbairn missed the extra point and the 49ers still led 10-9. The Texans defense didn't hold with under a minute to play and the 49ers kicked another field goal and a 13-9 halftime lead.

T.J. Yates wasn't done showing off. The Texans had the ball to start the second half and it took only six plays to move down the field for his second touchdown pass of the day to Hopkins and a 16-13 lead. Hopkins at this point was already at 10 catches for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns, once again showing why his new contract was a good move by the Texans front office.

San Francisco wasn't done. They went down the field for another field goal and a tie game at 16 points. On their next drive the Texans were forced to punt. San Francisco took over and got a big 61 yard pass to Garrett Celek, then took the 23-16 lead when Garoppolo threw a touchdown to Celek. They had now scored points on five consecutive drives. 

The game wasn't over as the Texans defense stepped up and; after a second down sack by Brian Cushing forced a 3rd and long. A deep pass by Garoppolo was nearly intercepted and the Texans took over on their own 40  because of a short punt by Brad Pinion. They got nothing going after some overthrown balls and gave the ball right back in a close game. But a huge sack by LaTroy Lewis on third down gave the ball back to the Texans after just six plays. The only downside to that drive was that the 49ers took almost five minutes off the clock, leaving the Texans with only 6:31 left in the game.

In an uncharacteristic move, DeAndre Hopkins had the ball popped out of his hands and the 49ers recovered at the Houston 32 yard line. They now had good field position with a 7-point lead in the 4th quarter. They would get another field goal from Robbie Gould- his fourth of the day- and take a 10-point lead with just under 4 minutes left in the game. 

The Texans got the ball back with almost 4 minutes left but could not finish it off with a touchdown. The were in range for Fairbairn but he missed from 52 yards and the score stayed 26-16 49ers. San Francisco was able to run the clock out and walk away with the 26-16 victory.

This was a really tough loss for the Texans. The defense--especially Clowney--played really well. When Yates took over for Savage and led two scoring drives there was a feeling of hope. But it was all for naught as the Texans fell once again to a team that played just slightly better than them.

They are now 4-9 on the season with at least two more tough games in front of them. Maybe T.J. Yates’ performance today will be enough to show why he should be the starter,  but I doubt it. Savage will likely be there next week when the Texans face the Jaguars on the road. Anything they do from this point on will be for pride. That's just not enough in the NFL and fans will just have to hope that every injury returns next year and they have a shot at winning the big one.

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Houston's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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