Houston's bats unload on Seattle

Yordan Alvarez returns as Astros romp Mariners in lopsided win

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

After taking two of three against the Giants earlier in the week, the Astros had a day off on Thursday before resuming play at home Friday night. The series opener of the three-game set against the Mariners had Framber Valdez on the mound, and Yordan Alvarez activated and back in the lineup. Here's a quick rundown of the game:

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 1.

Record: 9-10, third in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (1-2, 1.90 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Nestor Cortes (0-1, 15.26 ERA).

Seattle scores first, then Alvarez homers as Houston's offense explodes 

After successful command in his appearances so far in 2020, Framber Valdez had struggles in the top of the first inning Friday night, issuing two walks, hitting a batter, and allowing a sac fly to put Seattle up 1-0 right away. He would get through the inning; then, his offense went to work for a massive inning of their own.

After Yusei Kikuchi, the expected starter for Seattle, was a late scratch, Nestor Cortes would begin the game on the mound for the Mariners. The Astros jumped all over him, starting with an RBI-single by Alex Bregman to tie the game. With two runners on base, that brought up Yordan Alvarez for his first plate appearance of 2020. What he did with it should be of little surprise for those that watched the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year last season:

That gave Houston a 4-1 lead, but that was just the beginning. They'd go on to make it a nine-run inning, getting a solo home run by Yuli Gurriel to make it back-to-back homers after Alvarez, a two-RBI double by Martin Maldonado, an RBI-double by Josh Reddick, and then a final run on an error, making it 9-1. After his homer, Gurriel followed that with a triple in his next at-bat, leading off the bottom of the second with an immediate runner in scoring position. Carlos Correa drove him in with an RBI-groundout, getting the Astros to double digits at 10-1.

Valdez finishes six, bullpen wraps it up

After the erratic first where he allowed the run, Valdez was able to settle in for the following innings, battling back to keep Seattle off the board over the next five, pitching through six en route to the easy win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 HR.

Yordan Alvarez would record another RBI, going to the plate with bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth before being hit by a pitch to bring in another run and make it 11-1. With Valdez's night done, Brandon Bailey took over in the top of the seventh and was able to erase a walk and a single for a scoreless inning, then returned for another in the eighth. Cy Sneed would go to the mound in the ninth and finished off the ten-run victory.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The Mariners have Nick Margevicius (0-0, 3.24 ERA) slated to make a start, while Cristian Javier (1-1, 4.02 ERA) will continue his rookie campaign for the Astros.

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Coming off one of the worst performances of the year, Lovie Smith met with the media and addressed some questions about if the Texans would make any changes to the team or coaching staff this week. Here are some quick observations.

1. Washington was just better. Before taking the first question, Lovie said after watching the film it was clear Washington was the better team on Sunday. The team didn't play well upfront (on offense) and didn't have much of a chance to win the game. He believed the team did some good things on defense and played the run better, but were unable to take the ball away.

2. Lovie made it seem like changes are definitely coming at QB. When asked if any changes would be made this week to the QB or the coaching staff, he basically said he would talk to the players before the media if changes were in the works. Smith said the players were off today and not in the building. He followed that up by saying, “We're not pleased with where we are. Do we need to do some things differently? Yes, and we will.”

3. Hitting that “rookie wall.” Coach Smith was asked if hitting the “rookie wall” could be causing some of the team's struggles. He brought up Kenyon Green's challenges at guard, admitting that taking a “pounding every time” can be tough. But if they have hit the rookie wall, he hasn't “noticed it.”

4. Sometimes you need a spark. When asked if football teams sometimes require a spark, he said yes. “Especially when you've lost as many games as we have.” Davis Mills and Kenyon Green have to be the first names that come to mind, and making a change on the o-line probably doesn't qualify as a spark.

5. At a certain point, you are who you are. Lovie didn't dance around it, he said “What's been put on video is probably who we are now, I acknowledge that.” This is the type of statement the fans really needed to hear. Owning up to what everyone can clearly see and addressing this head on matters. Most fans fully understand the team is in a rebuild, just be as honest as you can with everybody. Not doing this in the postgame press conference on Sunday, had to be a big part of why the media was coming at him with more conviction.

6. Expect Kenyon Green to keep playing despite Sunday's performance. This is why I believe a change will be made at QB this week, and not offensive guard. Lovie talked about if a player is struggling and he's still your best option, they'll have to get their “nose bloodied” and get better. No argument here. Green is a first round pick at guard, he's only going to get better if he plays. Give him some help if he needs it, but has to be out there. And let's face it, he is the best option at left guard.

7. Coaches decide who will play if there's going to be a change. When asked, Smith said the coaches decide who's playing. GM Nick Caserio and CEO Cal McNair will be in the loop, but coaches make the call on who starts.

8. “Kyle Allen can make all the throws.” Lovie was asked his thoughts on the Texans backup QB and said, “He (Allen) has a history of good play in the NFL.” When asked about Mills, he said he's seen some growth from the second-year QB, but it's hard to talk about how much someone has grown after yesterday. Yikes, that says it all right there.

Final thoughts

You really get a sense of the tone by watching the full presser above, so I do recommend it. I came away also feeling this possible switch to Kyle Allen may only last a week or so. But at this point in the season, everything has to be evaluated. Including OC Pep Hamilton. If Kyle Allen plays a game or two and the offense still stinks, some of the blame must fall on Pep. But if Allen plays well and long enough to where it doesn't look like the offense is the problem, you have your answer on Davis Mills. At least this season, anyway.

Of course, many fans want the Texans to finish the season with the worst record, so they get the first pick in the draft. If Kyle Allen does get to play and ends up winning a few games, it could be bittersweet. The Texans do have some cushion in the standings for the first pick. Hopefully, the team can get all their answers at QB and OC while still locking up the first pick in the draft. Alabama QB Bryce Young would be a nice Christmas present for Texans fans after a tough year.

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