DEALING WITH INJURIES

The Texans need great coaching for an evolving roster

Bill O'Brien will need to raise his game this week. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Once again, the injury bug has hit the Texans. This time they are lucky it’s not the quarterback or the pass rushers. The problem this year is that injuries have hit positions without a lot of depth like wide receiver and cornerback. But here they are, sitting on a five-game winning streak and some folks thinking they can win the division. That can still happen, but they can’t afford to be patient with back-ups while they already have three losses. The coaches will have to be the first ones to step up and make sure there’s no dip in production while the roster reshuffles.

So, someone will have to convince Bill O’Brien that he needs to adjust his offense this week because Sammie Coates and Vyncint Smith are suddenly going to see more snaps. He’s probably all too happy to throw them and newly acquired Demaryius Thomas out on the field, but he will have to be smart with his play calling. Without adjustments for the other players, DeAndre Hopkins will have to work harder to get open. If he has to do it all then there’s little chance it will all get done. I shouldn’t doubt what he can do though.

We saw last year what this team is when injuries get the best of them and O’Brien doesn’t change up the way he coaches. The adjustments won’t have to be as dramatic as they were before, but the game plan can’t be the same as it was last week. He is going to have to put on a coaching performance that gets him in the top ten coach of the year candidates list. He’s going to have to keep adjusting in order to make sure his game plan works for whoever is on the field. He’s also going to have to make sure the rest of his staff does the same.

Romeo Crennel is going to have to put his thinking cap on extra tight this week. He will be without his last starting cornerback, Jonathan Joseph, because of an injury suffered against the Dolphins. It might only be one game, but it’s a game Houston can win if the defense can keep up its level of play. That means he is going to have to get creative again with the safeties and the coverages. If Case Keenum, or any future quarterbacks they face can read those coverages and attack these less than ideal corners with impunity then it’s going to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

There is going to be a lot on the position coaches this week too. They have just a short window to make sure these guys that will get more playing time know everything they need. That means every check, every adjustment and every nuance that needs to be executed. The margin of error will be razor thin and mental mistakes will have a bigger impact on the outcome of this week’s game.

The winning streak can extend to six if O’Brien and Crennel put together something spectacular with the planning and preparation before the game. Once the lights go on there is little they can do if the players have mental mistakes that lead to points for the other team. The Texans have a bye in Week 10 to give them some breathing room but a win this week in Denver will keep them in the driver’s seat for the division.

 

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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