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Texans playing high stakes poker for Nate Solder

Texans GM Brian Gaine is in a high stakes poker game for Nate Solder. Houstontexans.com

“Son, I’ve made a life out of reading people’s faces, and knowing what the cards were by the way they held their eyes…”  

- Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

We are about to see how well new Texans GM Brian Gaine plays his cards.

Left tackle is a premium position in the NFL, and this offseason there are several teams desperate to get one, the Texans included.  The problem is there is only one on the free agent market that is any good, and his name is Nate Solder.

The Patriots LT isn’t coming off his best season, but he is a solid player who can be better than he was this past season where injuries early on slowed him, and has started four Super Bowls.  He would be a big upgrade for a Houston team that started five different LTs a year ago, and the only good one they started, they traded to Seattle.

Dealing Duane Brown has left the Texans in a perilous predicament: they must bid against every other team that is just as desperate as they are, namely the Giants, Browns, and Patriots.

The Patriots are infamous for not paying market value, but all the other OTs they had last season were RTs, and they have some guy named Tom Brady who doesn’t like being hit. The Giants offensive line was a sieve, and they are desperate to get help to protect Eli Manning in his advancing age (they also just whiffed on OG Andrew Norwell, which has the front office scrambling).  The Browns have Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, but Thomas hasn’t decided if he will play this year or retire, and won’t tell the team until Wednesday at the earliest. If he chooses to retire, they suddenly have a huge need at LT.

Of course, the Texans have their own young QB in Deshaun Watson they need to protect, and they would like to get their line up to par to get the run game going as well.

Four teams desperate for a LT.  Only one LT that is any good on the market.  Who will blink at the ante?

The Patriots have $22M in cap space avail, the Giants only $20M.  The Texans have $61M and the Browns $77M. Solder’s price tag in this market could exceed $13M per season.

The best thing that can happen to the Texans is that Joe Thomas tells Cleveland he’s coming back, as that will leave them the most money to attack their needs.

In this instance, the Texans cannot blink.  The ante may get large enough to set the market at LT.  Another season of trash line play only further separates them from the Jaguars and the top of the division, neuters their run game, and puts their prize young star QB at risk.

The Texans can’t afford to whiff on Solder.  However many chips it takes, they need to push them to the middle of the table.

We are about to find out if Brian Gaine has the fortitude to call on a biggest hand the Texans will likely play this offseason.

Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight” heard Monday-Friday 1-3p on SportsMap 94.1 FM, and “Sports & Shenanigans” Sun 12-5p CT on SB Nation Radio.  Follow him on Twitter: @pcreighton1





 

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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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