CODY STOOTS

Texans player of the game: J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt was a force. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

For the first time in over two years J.J. Watt sacked a quarterback and for the first time in even longer, he looked like himself. Watt was again a force for offenses to worry about despite his team failing yet again to win the game. He would find the Giants passer two more times on his way to a huge day despite another bad loss for the team.

“Personal stats don’t matter at all in a loss,” Watt said. He might be right, but he almost singlehandedly made them matter. 

The play was actually a strip of Eli Manning as Watt darted past the Giants offensive line almost before the snap swatting the right arm of Manning causing the ball to squirt out before New York recovered it. Earlier on the same set of downs, Watt split defenders to smash rookie sensation Saquon Barkley for a rare loss for the Giants rushing attack. Watt would add two other hurries and a tackle to those previous flashes of greatness for a stellar first half. 

Watt picked up where he left off in the third Giants drive of the third quarter. The Giants right tackle struggled to contain Watt as he dispatched the blocking scheme and wrapped up Manning for a 10-yard loss. The Giants would punt one play later. 

Vintage Watt showed up on the next drive on third down. After teammate Angelo Blackson set the Giants back with a sack of his own on first down, two plays later Watt swam past the blocking and wrapped up Manning who saw 99 coming and retreated in a hurry. 

Watt looked to tire during some of the action missing a play here or there but he often drew the most attention or any of the Texans rushers. The Texans defense allowed their first touchdown of the second half to the Giants. He finished with eight tackles, three sacks, three tackles for a loss, and four hits on the quarterback. 

Despite the effort from Watt, the Texans are off to their worst start since 2008 when they began 0-4 before finishing the season 8-8. 

“You don’t expect anyone outside the building to believe in you,” he said. “Rightfully so...All of us need to look in the mirror, analyze ourselves, and figure out what we can do better every single day to find a game to win games."

It is a great sign for the Texans to see Watt look like his old self. The few plays he sat out were expected due to the intensity he had to play with to keep the Giants from putting the Texans away, although it seemed like the Giants were able to wear him down and finally get him blocked late. Any help from the other pass rushers and Watt will shine even brighter. The Colts are next up with hope quickly slipping away for the Texans. 

 

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Houston is back in the win column

McCullers Jr. spins a gem as Astros get a much-needed win over Giants

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After getting swept by the A's in Oakland to end a road trip with a five-game losing streak, the Astros returned to Houston to try and get back on track. To do so, they'd need a win against the Giants on Monday night. Here is a quick recap of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 6, Giants 4.

Record: 7-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 6.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81 ERA).

Houston builds up an early lead

The early goings of Monday's game went very similar to the last time Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound. He would have a terrific first three innings while his offense gave him an early lead. The first run came in the bottom of the second, with Yuli Gurriel reaching base on a one-out double, moving to third on a wild pitch, then scoring on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa.

Correa would take part in a four-run inning in the third, as Houston would score two on a two-RBI ground-rule double by Michael Brantley, another on an error, then Correa's second RBI of the night, a groundout to bring in a run and make it 5-0. Unlike the last start in Arizona, where the roof opened and McCullers Jr. fell apart in the fourth, he was able to make quick work of his opponent for a 1-2-3 frame. As he kept recording scoreless innings, Martin Maldonado added another run to the lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 6-0.

McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh

While the Astros were building their lead, McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings, which came on a hit-by-pitch. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter in progress, but the Giants would get their first hit of the night to end the no-hit bid.

Regardless, the start was precisely what McCullers Jr. needed to restore his confidence after the disastrous inning he had in his last appearance. He would go on to complete the seventh inning before Houston would go to the bullpen with the large lead in the eighth. His final line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 0 HR, 1 HPB.

Houston gets back in the win column despite more struggles by Josh James

Josh James entered out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth but allowed the first run of the night for San Francisco via a solo home run with one out to make it 6-1. He would complete the inning and then return for the top of the ninth. He would have another rocky inning, issuing a leadoff walk before a single and double would make it a four-run game at 6-2, still with no outs in the inning and runners on second and third, prompting another call to the bullpen.

Dusty Baker would bring in his current closer, Ryan Pressly, to try and finish the game, now in a save situation. Pressly would retire the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-RBI single to make it 6-4, but would eventually get the final out to get Houston the much-needed win. With the victory, the Astros moved back into second place in the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central. The Giants, working with a fluid rotation, have not yet fully decided on their starter, while the Astros will get another start from Brandon Bielak (2-0, 0.87 ERA) who will look to repeat the success of his five-inning, no-run start in Arizona last week.

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