DEPENDING ON THE D

The Texans will need to rely on their defense to win games, and Sunday they were not good enough

Lamar Houston's touchdown kept Houston in the game. Tim Warren/Getty Images

The Deshaun Watson-less Texans looked a lot like the 2016 Texans on Sunday. Only worse.

Ineffective on offense. Relying solely on a defense that gives up big plays, but also makes them. And that’s how Sunday’s game against the Colts played out.

And it was not good enough. The Colts came up with two big plays on offense to the one by the Texans defense, and that was the difference in the game in a 20-14 Colts victory at NRG Stadium.

If they Texans (3-5) are going to win, it is going to be because they play solid defense. And not give up big plays. They weren’t bad on Sunday, but they were not good enough, giving up two big touchdown passes.

And that was against the Colts, perhaps the weakest team left on their schedule not named San Francisco.

The defense gave up a long early touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton and fell in a 10-0 hole. But just before the half, Eddie Pleasant came up with a strip sack, and Lamar Houston ran it in for the score. That was as close as they would get.

Eddie Pleasant. Lamar Houston. Not the names you expected when the season started. But without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, this is what the Texans are.

D.J. Reader. Marcus Gilchrist. Carlos Watkins. These were the players the Texans were forced to rely on. And will be moving ahead.

And it wasn’t good enough. Against the Colts. Hilton made another big play on an 80-yard score in the third quarter, and that was all she wrote. On that play, Andre Hal did not touch Hilton down, and he got up and took it to the house.

We all know the offense will struggle without Watson. And Tom Savage lived down to expectations, much as he did last season, when he and Brock Osweiler were manning the ship. That is what the offense will be. It produced seven points against a bad defense.

Seven.

They drove deep into Colts territory on the final minute, but typically bad clock management ended with a sack/fumble to close out the game.

So it is the other side of the ball that will be asked to win games, no small feat considering who is missing on defense. They were able to stay in the game Sunday thanks to a defensive score. But will they be able to do that against better offenses?

The Rams, who can both run the ball and get big games out of QB Jared Goff, loom next. Then a Cardinals team and who knows what the quarterback situation will look like for them? Ravens, Titans...even the 49ers now that they have Jimmy Garropolo -- will have better QB situations than the Texans. And the defense will have to stop them.

Hal. Brandon Dunn. Brennan Scarlett. These will be the names that will will support Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Bernardrick McKinney and of course Jadeveon Clowney.

They were not bad on Sunday. But they weren’t good enough.

Moving forward, they will have to be so much better. And with names like that on the field, it might not be possible.

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Yuli Gurriel had a monster night at the plate Friday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Although they lost the series 2-1, the Astros ended their road trip with a nice win over the Yankees to head home on a positive note. On Friday, they welcomed in the Toronto Blue Jays and former teammate George Springer, currently on the IL, to start a three-game series and long homestand. They had an excellent night at the plate, along with a strong start from Jose Urquidy, cruising past the Blue Jays to take the opener.

Final Score: Astros 10, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 17-15, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (3-2)

Losing Pitcher: Ross Stripling (0-2)

Jays strike first, then Houston responds and never looks back

It first appeared that Urquidy may be in for a long night, giving up two solo home runs early in Friday's game, one to Bo Bichette in the top of the first with one out to put Toronto up 1-0, then another to Danny Jansen in the top of the third. However, Urquidy would lock-in, and his offense would back him up strongly.

Houston ended up sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, getting two runs on a homer by Carlos Correa, then later loading the bases to set up an RBI walk by Alex Bregman. In the bottom of the fifth, with a one-run lead at 3-2, Yuli Gurriel expanded the lead to three runs on a two-run shot.

Gurriel went on to have a fantastic night, going 4-for-4 at the plate with 4 RBI. His third of those came in the bottom of the seventh, extending the lead again with an RBI single to make it 6-2. Kyle Tucker made it a five-run game that same inning with an RBI double, then more insurance came in the bottom of the eighth. They reached double-digits that inning, with Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel, his fourth of the night, all getting an RBI to make it 10-2.

Urquidy finishes seven, then Emanuel finishes it off

Those gave Urquidy plenty of support, though he would bounce back after the two early homers and have a nice night on the mound. He allowed just two other hits, working around both, en route to a seven-inning two-run performance to earn him the win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 84 P.

He likely could have gone longer, but Dusty Baker turned the ball over to Kent Emanuel to wrap things up with the significant lead. He did so, despite allowing a two-run home run to former-Astro Teoscor Hernandez in the top of the ninth to make the score 10-4. The win kept the Astros above .500 and two games back of the A's, who sit atop the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be a 6:10 PM start Saturday night. The pitching matchup will be Steven Matz (4-2, 4.78 ERA) for Toronto and the electric Cristian Javier (3-0, 1.75 ERA) for Houston.

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