PROTECTING THE FRANCHISE

Texans battling Bears for key free agent

Photo by Tom Szczerbowski / Stringer/Getty Images

After they allowed a league-high 65 sacks in 2018, the Houston Texans have been on a mission to upgrade their offensive line to protect their quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Starting with the acquisition of LT Laremy Tunsil and drafting Tytus Howard, the Texans' line took a step in the right direction as Houston gave up a total of 45 sacks during the 2019 season.

With 20 fewer sacks when compared to the previous season, there is still some work that needs to be done to ease Watson's chances from hitting the ground in 2020, and after missing out on their year-long pursuit Trent Williams, the Texans have shifted their focus to former New Orleans Saints guard, Larry Warford, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. If the Texans can find a way to land Warford, the addition of the Pro-Bowl guard has the potential to become Bill O'Brien's best acquisition of the summer. The Chicago bears are also interested in Warford's services according to a recent report.

In 2013, Warford began his career as a third-round pick for the Detroit Lions before signing a four-year, $34 million deal with the Saints in 2017. In New Orleans, the 6-foot-3, 317-pound prodigy out of Kentucky, started all 44 regular-season games at right guard and became a three-time Pro Bowler. Despite playing a big part in their success over the past three seasons, the Saints released the guard on Friday to free up $7 million in salary-cap space. He specializes in pass protection and has allowed only seven sacks during this three-year tenure in New Orleans, per PFF.


Should the Texans lure Warford down I-10 West to sign in Houston, the potential signing may mark the end of the current starter, Zach Fulton, who is set to become a free agent following the 2021 NFL season.

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After rallying in the ninth inning in Game 1 to take the pivotal opener of this best-of-three ALWC series, the Astros were in the driver's seat to try and end the series on Wednesday with another win at Target Field. Here is a quick rundown of Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 3, Twins 1.

Series: HOU Wins 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Cody Stashak.

Houston gets the first hit and first run in the fourth

Through the first three innings, neither team could get a hit off of Jose Berrios or Jose Urquidy, though the Twins did load the bases in the bottom of the first on two walks and an error, but Urquidy would strand the runners before getting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

Meanwhile, the Astros lineup was retired in order in three perfect innings by Berrios. That changed in the top of the fourth when Houston would get back-to-back two-out walks to set up the first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Dusty Baker makes another early call to the bullpen before Twins tie it up

Urquidy was able to keep the 1-0 lead by working around a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, the first hit for the Twins. He returned in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before a strikeout for the first out. Dusty Baker would pull another early hook, like Greinke the day prior, dipping into his bullpen early to end Urquidy's day at just 76 pitches in the fifth. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 76 P.

Brooks Raley was who Baker called on to face the top of the Twins' lineup. He would walk his first batter, putting runners on first and second, get a strikeout for the second out, then allow an RBI-double to Nelson Cruz that almost scored a second, go-ahead run. Instead, the runner was out at home thanks to a terrific defensive play by Carlos Correa, bulleting the ball to Maldonado at home, who made a great tag to save the run and keep it tied 1-1.

Correa homers, Astros advance to ALDS

After Raley completed the fifth inning for Urquidy, Cristian Javier was the next reliever out to begin the bottom of the sixth. He would toss a 1-2-3 frame, sending the tie game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa broke the tie with a long, loud two-out solo home run to center-field, putting the Astros back in front 2-1.

Javier held on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh by working around a leadoff walk, then returned for the eighth. He would get through it scoreless, despite allowing a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, who would be pinch-ran for by the speedy Byron Buxton. After a strikeout for out number two, Javier would catch Buxton between first and second base in a rundown, getting the big final out of the inning.

Houston added insurance in the top of the ninth, getting two on base before an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, his second of the day to make it 3-1. That left things up to closer Ryan Pressly, making his first appearance of the postseason. He would notch the save, advancing the Astros to the ALDS for their fourth-straight year.

Up Next: The Astros will now have a few days off to travel to the west coast before starting their ALDS with the winner of the A's / White Sox ALWC series. Game 1 of their ALDS will be on Monday, October 5th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with start time TBD.

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