FOOTBALL IS COMING

When the NBA and NHL seasons end, the NFL fun begins

Bill O'Brien and the Texans now take center stage. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

We’ve had all of Monday and Tuesday this week to dissect the conclusions to the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals so naturally, it’s time to focus mostly on football with a little bit of mid-season Astros. But really, football. Mini-camp workouts have started so the hype train is loaded up and ready to barrel on down the tracks.

If you’re paying attention you’ve already started to see heavy speculation about players returning from injury. You’ve seen rosters being loaded and unloaded with veteran and undrafted players. You’re starting to feel that twinge of excitement because you know that your busy summer will pass quickly and training camp is on the horizon. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Let’s start with what’s currently happening: mandatory three-day mini-camp. Day one was yesterday and Cody Stoots provided SportsMap with his 11 Observations to whet your appetite.

It’s good to see the Texans taking the field and Deshaun Watson appears ready to play, but throwing the ball in an unpadded practice is just a small step in the process. This week is just another step in his continued rehab from his knee injury. I like reading that his receiving options seem to have improved as well. Now I want to see how the defense looks, but I’m glad to see Houston has the best offense in the NFL.

But let’s not forget that it’s a team effort and everything happening right now is learning how to play together while the coaches evaluate their performance. There will still be a lot of shuffling at the bottom of the roster and the Texans should be active this time of year. It could be one of those cast offs that really helps them late in the season.

But for now, let’s look at these last two days as our chance to see the team in action and begin formulating our wildest predictions.

I’ll go ahead and kick things off:

  1. Deshaun Watson is ahead of schedule and won’t miss a beat to start the season.

  2. The addition of receiving options Keke Coutee, Jordan Akins, and Jordan Thomas will be the difference in multiple wins this season.

  3. The defense has a good enough rotation to keep the star players healthy and capable of a top-five finish.

  4. The schedule and the competition will work in their favor on the way to 10 or more wins and a home playoff game.

Time for you to come up with your own or talk trash about mine. There’s plenty of time. Training camp doesn’t start until the end of July and the dates have yet to be released. So, for now, we can only argue and laugh as we speculate on what will happen in the fall.

 

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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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