PASSING THE TORCH

As Texans honor Johnson, his replacement - DeAndre Hopkins - shows he is pretty good, too

DeAndre Hopkins is a fitting replacement for Andre Johnson. Houston Texans

The Texans honored their greatest receiver on Sunday by inducting Andre Johnson into the Hall of Honor.

After watching that, their current franchise receiver went out and did his best Johnson impression in the second half. DeAndre Hopkins would finish with four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown in the Texans 31-21 win over the Cardinals.

The Texans moved to 4-6 on the season with the win, ending a three-game losing streak, but even after Sunday’s result, it seems destined to end as many of Johnson’s did.

Hopkins and to a lesser extent Lamar Miller are the last men standing on the offense, as injuries have taken away Deshaun Watson, William Fuller for much of the season and now D’Onta Foreman.

Hopkins is one of the lone bright spots left in what has been a season of disappointment and critical injuries. After Sunday, he has 62 catches for 879 yards and 9 TDs -- matching Johnson’s career high.

In his career, he is closing in on his third 1,000-yard season in five years in the league. He had 802 as a rookie, and 954 last season, when he often played poorly, did not battle for balls and looked lethargic at times.

This season he has been anything but.

He has fought for balls, made amazing catches, played defense when poor passes could have been intercepted. He has been physical -- often getting called for pass interference, but fighting for every inch. He has been a bright spot in what has become a lost season.

It was fitting that Johnson was honored, because Hopkins came to play on Sunday, with another strong effort, this one coming primarily against the Cardinals’ stud corner, Patrick Peterson. It was another highlight game in what is becoming a strong 2017.

Unfortunately, like many of Johnson’s great seasons, it is likely being wasted. But on Sunday, he played a lot like his predecessor.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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