"It was worth all the shi**y tough days" said Watt after the game

Watt's return helps spark Texans in comeback, OT win

Watt's return helps spark Texans in comeback, OT win
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Texans Defensive End J.J. Watt

He's back! J.J. Watt made his return to the field in their playoff game against the Bills. This is how he fared gainst Buffalo.

Getting adjusted during the return

Watt was used as a situational defensive lineman throughout the game. The team would sub him in on clear passing downs, though he was in during some Bills rushing plays as well. As you can see from the play above, Watt had a welcome back moment or two from the Bills offensive line.

The first half was fairly quiet for Watt. He drew an occasional double team but he didn't show up with an actual stat on the stat sheet.

Momentum changer

The Texans had just fumbled. The offense looked dead. The Bills had a chance to make it a near insurmountable lead. Watt flashed on third down for his first recorded statistic of the day to force the Bills to take a field goal.

It was a vintage Watt sack. He was too fast for the lineman and rumbled past him to crush Allen. The Bills signal caller would be antsy in the pocket for a couple of series after this.

Bill O'Brien said after the game Watt's sack got the crowd back into the game. He also said Houston fans are great because they are "going to let you know when you're not playing well, and they're going to let you know when you are playing well."

Little bro is pumped

J.J. Watt's brother T.J. Watt was in attendance. The younger Watt is a defensive player of the year candidate.

Got in a groove

Watt would get into a groove later in the game forcing Allen to toss the ball away. He drew closer to his regular level of attention from the Bills offense as the second half went on.

Watt did it for his teammates

Watt made it clear after the game he came back to play with his teammates and he missed that feeling.

"We threw the plan out the window there in the fourth quarter and overtime," Watt said. He thanked the training and rehab staff for having him ready. He said he dove for a tackle and knew that moment he would know if his torn pectoral was going to remain healthy in the game.

Watt joked after the game he and the doctor hugged and neither knows how he held up for the game.

"The plan"

Watt said the plan was for him to be situational for pass rushing but they plan was done when the fourth quarter got there. He said he didn't rehab to be on the sidelines in crunch time. Watt did say sometimes it was tough to stay on the sidelines through the first three quarters but he stuck to the plan.

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Have the Astros turned a corner? Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

After finishing up with the Guardians the Astros have a rather important series for early May with the Seattle Mariners heading to town for the weekend. While it’s still too early to be an absolute must-win series for the Astros, losing the series to drop seven or eight games off the division lead would make successfully defending their American League West title that much more unlikely.

Since their own stumble out of the gate to a 6-10 record the Mariners have been racking up series wins, including one this week over the Atlanta Braves. The M’s offense is largely Mmm Mmm Bad, but their pitching is sensational. In 18 games after the 6-10 start, the Mariners gave up five runs in a game once. In the other 17 games they only gave up four runs once. Over the 18 games their starting pitchers gave up 18 earned runs total with a 1.44 earned run average. That’s absurd. Coming into the season Seattle’s starting rotation was clearly better on paper than those of the Astros and Texas Rangers, and it has crystal clearly played out as such into the second month of the schedule.

While it’s natural to focus on and fret over one’s own team's woes when they are plentiful as they have been for the Astros, a reminder that not all grass is greener elsewhere. Alex Bregman has been awful so far. So has young Mariners’ superstar Julio Rodriguez. A meager four extra base hits over his first 30 games were all Julio produced down at the ballyard. That the Mariners are well ahead of the Astros with J-Rod significantly underperforming is good news for Seattle.

Caratini comes through!

So it turns out the Astros are allowed to have a Puerto Rican-born catcher who can hit a little bit. Victor Caratini’s pedigree is not that of a quality offensive player, but he has swung the bat well thus far in his limited playing time and provided the most exciting moment of the Astros’ season with his two-out two-run 10th inning game winning home run Tuesday night. I grant that one could certainly say “Hey! Ronel Blanco finishing off his no-hitter has been the most exciting moment.” I opt for the suddenness of Caratini’s blow turning near defeat into instant victory for a team that has been lousy overall to this point. Frittering away a game the Astros had led 8-3 would have been another blow. Instead, to the Victor belong the spoils.

Pudge Rodriguez is the greatest native Puerto Rican catcher, but he was no longer a good hitter when with the Astros for the majority of the 2009 season. Then there’s Martin Maldonado.

Maldonado’s hitting stats with the Astros look Mike Piazza-ian compared to what Jose Abreu was doing this season. Finally, mercifully for all, Abreu is off the roster as he accepts a stint at rookie-level ball in Florida to see if he can perform baseball-CPR on his swing and career. Until or unless he proves otherwise, Abreu is washed up and at some point the Astros will have to accept it and swallow whatever is left on his contract that runs through next season. For now Abreu makes over $120,000 per game to not be on the roster. At his level of performance, that’s a better deal than paying him that money to be on the roster.

Abreu’s seven hits in 71 at bats for an .099 batting average with a .269 OPS is a humiliating stat line. In 2018 George Springer went to sleep the night of June 13 batting .293 after going hitless in his last four at bats in a 13-5 Astros’ win over Oakland. At the time no one could have ever envisioned that Springer had started a deep, deep funk which would have him endure a nightmarish six for 78 stretch at the plate (.077 batting average). Springer then hit .293 the rest of the season.

Abreu’s exile opened the door for Joey Loperfido to begin his Major League career. Very cool for Loperfido to smack a two-run single in his first game. He also struck out twice. Loperfido will amass whiffs by the bushel, he had 37 strikeouts in 101 at bats at AAA Sugar Land. Still, if he can hit .225 with some walks mixed in (he drew 16 with the Space Cowboys) and deliver some of his obvious power (13 homers in 25 games for the ex-Skeeters) that’s an upgrade over Abreu/Jon Singleton, as well as over Jake Meyers and the awful showing Chas McCormick has posted so far. Frankly, it seems unwise that the Astros only had Loperfido play seven games at first base in the minors this year. If McCormick doesn’t pick it up soon and with Meyers displaying limited offensive upside, the next guy worth a call-up is outfielder Pedro Leon. In January 2021 the Astros gave Leon four million dollars to sign out of Cuba and called him a “rapid mover to the Major Leagues.” Well…

Over his first three minor league seasons Leon flashed tools but definitely underwhelmed. He has been substantially better so far this year. He turns 26 May 28. Just maybe the Astros offense could be the cause of fewer Ls with Loperfido at first and Leon in center field.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTube with the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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