OUT THE DOOR

Texans to part ways with Brian Cushing

Brian Cushing is on his way out. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Brian Cushing, the 2009 first round pick, has been told that he will be released before the start of the league year on March 14. A lot of people are saying about it’s about time. He hasn’t been the same since the knee injuries and his veteran presence is not worth it anymore. Every team and player in the league knows it is a game of replacement and the Texans finally have the talent to send Cushing on his way with a half-hearted thanks for playing.

Cushing is coming off a disappointing season in which he was suspended 10 games for a PED violation. That was probably the final nail in a coffin that was already being boarded up after a down year in 2016. His contract was worth $8.84 million this year and the savings will be $7.64 million against the cap. That’s a very useful amount for a team that has a lot of holes to be patched.

I really like this move. The Texans will now have over $60 million in cap space headed into free agency and without the early round draft picks they will be going after as many of the big names as they can. I have to think they’ve learned a valuable lesson from last offseason when they sat on their hands while the best offensive linemen and secondary players signed elsewhere.

If this is how the new front office is going to play it, then things might be looking up in Houston. They have the quarterback and receiver combo and some big time players on the defensive front seven. All they have to do is infuse some of the top talent in free agency and they could find their way right back in the  mix for a playoff spot in 2018.

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Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

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