FRED FAOUR

Texans pull off another ugly escape in Denver, but are sitting pretty at 6-3

Jordan Thomas caught the opening touchdown. Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Like a lot of Texans wins, Sunday’s 19-17 victory over Denver was not pretty. Deshaun Watson did not put up cartoon numbers. The offensive line struggled against the Broncos’ rugged defense. The Texans defense struggled at times and forced just one turnover.

In the end, it did not matter. The Texans got two TD passes from Watson to Jordan Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins and a couple key defensive stops when it counted to escape Denver with a win.

Oh, and a missed field goal at the buzzer from Brandon McManus certainly helped salvage the victory.

No matter how non-sexy the win might have been, it looks beautiful in the standings, where the Texans are now 6-3 after their 0-3 start. They are in control in the AFC South with the six straight wins.

And make no mistake, the Broncos were no easy out. Despite their 3-6 record, they have played well, especially at home, where they did lose to two of the best teams in football - the LA Rams and Kansas City.

On Sunday, Denver played the Texans basically even throughout the game, and took its first lead in the third quarter at 17-16. But the Texans answered with a field goal to retake the lead in the fourth. Case Keenum had better yardage numbers than Watson, with 26 of 42 for 290 yards and a touchdown.

The Texans defense responded once they got the lead, with back to back stops that included sacks by Jadeveon Clowney on one drive and J.J. Watt on the other.

The Texans got the ball with over seven minutes left after that, and ran the clock down to 3:29 before giving Keenum and the Broncos another chance. The Broncos nearly took advantage, converting twice on fourth down to set up McManus’ 51-yard field goal attempt to win the game.

He missed wide right, and the Texans get a chance to get home, heal up and get ready for a stretch drive that will include all three remaining divisional games at home.

Watson was a solid 17 of 24 for 217 yards, two touchdowns and a finished third straight game without a turnover, a huge key on Sunday. Hopkins was big again, with 10 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.

The Texans were outgained 348-290. They scored a whopping 3 points in the second half. They allowed four sacks and averaged just 3 yards per rush. But they escaped. Would it have been nice to see them make a play at the end to stop the drive? Yes. It always looks better if you make the play to win it rather than have someone on the other team fail. 

Still, so what? Who cares if it was ugly?

Things look pretty attractive from atop the division. And now they have some time to get heathy. 

That would be even more beautiful. 
 

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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