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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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After the Mariners came alive late in Monday's series opener to hand the Houston the loss and keep their playoff picture hanging in the balance, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park on Tuesday to try and decrease their magic number. Here's how the middle game went:

Final Score: Astros 6, Mariners 1.

Record: 28-27, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Casey Sadler (1-2, 5.40 ERA).

Both teams trade first-inning runs

The Astros struck first in Tuesday's game, not waiting around until the ninth inning to get on the board. Instead, they jumped out to an immediate 1-0 lead after a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker in the top of the first. The Mariners responded quickly, though, getting a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning before a two-out RBI-double of their own to tie it 1-1.

Astros score five in the sixth

The 1-1 score held all the way until the top of the sixth when the Astros would flip the script from the night prior, taking advantage of some mistakes by Seattle to put up a big inning. First, Michael Brantley started the inning with a solo go-ahead homer to make it 2-1. Then, Kyle Tucker would get his third hit of the night with one out before eventually scoring after a walk and two wild pitches, making it 3-2. With two walks to keep the inning alive and put some insurance runs on base, Martin Maldonado took advantage with a big three-run home run to extend the lead to 6-1.

Valdez finishes seven strong, Astros even series

After allowing the one run in the bottom of the first, Framber Valdez recovered and put together a solid outing on the mound. He allowed just five hits total, two of which came in the first, then back-to-back singles in the fourth and a single in the fifth, while otherwise keeping the Mariners at bay. He would end up completing seven innings of one-run baseball while striking out eight. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 108 P.

After Valdez, Enoli Paredes would take over in the bottom of the eighth, working around a leadoff single to get a scoreless inning to keep it 6-1. In the non-save situation, Josh James would come in for the bottom of the ninth and finish off the win for Houston.

Up Next: The finale and rubber game of this three-game set will start a bit earlier on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:40 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Nick Margevicius (1-3, 5.35 ERA) for the Mariners going against Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.90 ERA) for the Astros.

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