THE BRIGHT SIDE

Why the Texans are still exciting

Tyrann Mathieu is in a contract year. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I know you saw that dumpster fire that was a Texans game last week and decided to swear off watching them for the rest of the season. I also know you’re lying. You’ll watch, you can’t help yourself. Despite better uses for your time, you will park yourself in front of a TV for the weekly punishment you receive as a Texans fan. But it doesn’t have to be all bad. There are some aspects of this team that can be exciting if you focus only on them and ignore everything else, namely the score.

Obviously, expectations for the season were high because the offense that averaged 35 points a game with Deshaun Watson under center in 2017 was going to pick up right where it left off. That didn’t happen but if you take a very narrow focus you see they’re not that far off. Deshaun Watson is on pace for more than 25 touchdowns, 4,500 yards passing, and 600 yards rushing.

He is getting it done by connecting with his two great receivers, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. As a 1-2 receiver combination they are on their way to some pretty good statistics for the season. Hopkins' numbers after three games project that he could have over 1,400 yards receiving and 100 receptions. Fuller is on track for double digit touchdowns and more than 1,100 yards as well. That is offensive output a fan can be proud of. As long you ignore the sacks, bad throws, bad play calling and lack of scoring.

If you think there’s no way those numbers hold up over a full season, guess again. The defense for Houston appears to be as bad as it was last year. That means there will be a lot of games in which the Texans offense will have to forge a comeback. That means a lot of passing. I know it means Lamar Miller will continue his current path to a sub 1,000 yard season, but he’s not as exciting as an aerial attack. It’s easy to ignore him.

I know I said the defense is bad but there are still exciting players to watch. J.J. Watt is the hometown hero making his triumphant return to the gridiron and he looks like he is finding his form with three sacks after three games. That means he is on pace for 16 sacks this year. That’s not bad for a guy coming off injury and he could be the comeback player of the year. After all, he has to win all the awards, right?

Let’s not forget GM Brian Gaine’s big free agent signing Tyrann Mathieu. He came to Houston on a one year, prove-it deal. Essentially, this is a contract year for him and we all know how fun it is to watch players in a contract year go all out. The rest of this season will be his audition for the new team he signs with next year. He’ll make some big hits, cause some turnovers, and generally be fun to watch. If you ignore how terrible the rest of Houston’s secondary is then you have no worries. You can assume that because Mathieu plays great, all is well.

Ignorance is bliss, right? If you’re going to watch the Texans this year—and you know you will—then putting on blinders is the only way to go. Big time stats by big time stars can help you forget the misery of the rest of the team and the scoreboard.

 

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The Astros will look to bounce back after a tough week. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After a 6-3 record to start the season, the Houston Astros had a tumultuous week to say the least. They were swept by the Tigers, lost 2 of 3 games to the Seattle Mariners and placed five players on the COVID injured list.

The Tigers' new manager AJ Hinch returned to Minute Maid Park for the first time since the Astros let him go after the cheating scandal in early 2020.

The Tigers swept the Astros and outscored them 20-8 over their three matchups.

Before the 3rd game of the series, the Astros found out they would be without five players on their active roster. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado and Robel Garcia were all placed on the COVID-19 injury reserved list.

"It's hard on the team but you have to carry on. The show must go on," manager Dusty Baker said. "And it went on today with some younger players we have here."

Garrett Stubbs, Taylor Jones and Abraham Toro were called up as well as Alex De Goti and Ronnie Dawson who made their major league debuts last week.

The Tigers were able to score runs early on Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers and Jake Odorizzi (who made his Astros debut) and none of these starters lasted more than five innings in the outings.

Yuli Gurriel was the one Astros bright spot against the Tigers as he had 7 hits and drove in 2 runs. He is still continuing to hit the ball consistently as he finished the series with a .429 batting average.

After a 1-5 home stand the Astros looked to bounce back on the road against the division leading Seattle Mariners (you read that correctly).

Friday night proved to be the Astros' best offensive performance since their home opener on April 8th against the A's.

They scored five runs on Yusei Kikuchi through 7 innings behind good hitting from Aledmys Diaz, Chas McCormick and De Goti who drove in two runs on his first major league hit.

The Astros had a 5-2 lead at this point, but Seattle was able to score 4 unanswered to win the game.

Bryan Abreu, Blake Taylor and Ryne Stanek were credited with those four runs.

Ryan Pressly tried to clean up the bottom of the 9th inning after Stanek put the first two batters on base. His effort was unsuccessfully as Ty France hit a game-ending single that scored J.P. Crawford from second to secure a Mariners victory.

Saturday was the best game of the week for the Astros as they finally broke their six-game losing streak.

After failing to pitch more than five innings on Monday against the Tigers, Zack Greinke threw eight shutout innings with 91 pitches.

He struck out six batters and gave up only 4 hits.

"That's what aces do," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Guys like (Greinke) ... they stop the bleeding and we're about bled out."

Greinke finished the game with 2,705 career strikeouts. He is now third amongst active players in strikeouts behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Ryan Pressly got some redemption too as he threw a perfect 9th inning giving him his first save of the year.

The Astros won this game 1-0 as Taylor Jones drove in the game's only run with an RBI single.

Sunday's game ended the Astros week with a whimper, as the Mariners bested Houston 7-2.

Jake Odorizzi got off to a good start, but he gave up three hits and was pulled after Mitch Haniger's fifth-inning triple made it a 3-2 lead over the Astros.

Odorizzi is now (0-2) with a 10.57 ERA after two starts with the Astros.

Houston's offensive woes continued Sunday, as Aledmys Díaz had their only hit, an RBI double in the second inning that fell in when outfielder José Marmolejos lost the ball in the sun.

"It's tough to take when you only got one hit and the one hit we got was lost in the sun," Baker said.

UP NEXT: The Astros (7-8) will finish their road trip with a two game series against the Rockies who have the worst record in the league (4-12) before starting an eight-game homestead.

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