Astros look to 'take it back'

Posted 10/8/19

The Astros established control in their American League Division Series matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays with a pair of decisive wins in Houston before dropping game three by a score of 10-3 in Florida on Monday.

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Astros look to 'take it back'

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The Astros established control in their American League Division Series matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays with a pair of decisive wins in Houston before dropping game three by a score of 10-3 in Florida on Monday.

The 107-win Astros had another shot to advance on Tuesday afternoon in an effort to avoid potential elimination with a winner-take-all game five at Minute Maid Park on Thursday night.

Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole both delivered characteristically stellar performances in the first two games to compliment timely hitting from the likes of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. The offense also forced Tampa to go to their bullpen early in both games.

But it was A.J. Hinch’s turn to pull his struggling starter in the fourth inning on Monday. The Rays got to Zack Greinke early and often in game three with homeruns in three straight innings. The 35-year-old allowed allowed six runs in just 3.2 innings of work in the loss.

Greinke’s lousy outing is certainly disheartening, but Houston still appears to have the deepest pitching staff in the postseason. This will have to be the case if they expect to find their way back to the World Series.

The series was not officially clinched at the time of this writing, but the Astros seem to be on a collision course with destiny in the form of the New York Yankees and the American League Championship Series. The Yankees made the 101-win Minnesota Twins look like a minor league squad in an effortless three-game sweep in their ALDS matchup.

Minnesota’s surprising and impressive 2019 campaign fell short Monday with a 5-1 loss to New York in Minneapolis, securing another speedy playoff exodus for the A.L. Central champs. It also came in familiar fashion.

Dating back to 2003, the Twins are now 2-19 in postseason games with six LDS departures and another exit in a single-game wildcard playoff in 2017. Amazingly, 18 of these losses have come at the hands of the New York Yankees. Despite four appearances, the Twins have not won a playoff games since 2004.

On the National League side, the Los Angeles Dodgers fell 6-1 to the Washington Nationals on Monday and are now on serious upset alert with a game five scheduled for Wednesday night. The Nationals will put their faith in their top starter, Stephen Strasburg, while the Dodgers hand the ball to Walker Buehler. Both pitchers have picked up a win in the series.

Despite consistent success in the N.L., the Dodgers are starting to look like a desperate team after losing back-to-back World Series titles to the Red Sox and Astros. The storied franchise has not won a championship since 1988.

It has the feeling of World Series-or-bust in L.A. If they are still ring-less in November, especially if it were to come after a first round exit, it is certainly possible that the team parts ways with manager Dave Roberts. This would make Roberts a tragic casualty of the team’s inability to finish with one of the best rosters in baseball.

37-year-old Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals kept the team’s season alive Monday with a walk-off sacrifice fly to beat the Atlanta Braves in game four. The teams will face off in a winner-take-all game five in Atlanta on Wednesday. The victor advances to the NLCS to meet either the Dodgers or Nationals.

The Houston Texans flashed their full offensive potential in a 53-32 shellacking of the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium on Sunday after an ugly loss to the Carolina Panthers in week four.

Deshaun Watson threw for 426 yards and five touchdowns in a redeeming performance for the unit over the lowly Falcons. But it was not DeAndre Hopkins on the other end of those scoring strikes.

Wide receiver Will Fuller stole the show and reminded fans of his capabilities with 14 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. His 53.7 fantasy points (point-per-reception scoring) is the highest total since Jamaal Charles flirted with a 60-point day in 2013.

Fuller’s historic day is an extremely promising sign and showcases how deadly the offense can be when all of the wheels are turning properly. As always, it will be a question of consistency for the Texans moving forward. They will be tested against the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Chiefs in their next two games.

Meanwhile, the Colts and Chiefs matched up with each other on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. Indianapolis managed to accomplish a seemingly impossible task by making Pat Mahomes look human in the 19-13 victory.

The Colts were able to pull this off by running the ball behind their stellar offensive line and managing the clock throughout the game. Former Chiefs defensive end Justin Houston, now with the Colts, made the game-securing tackle on a fourth-and-one play late.

At 3-2, the Colts have had their ups and downs in 2019. But the team has rallied around quarterback Jacoby Brissett and responded in the fallout of Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement.

On the other side, do not get used to pedestrian performances by Mahomes. It should be noted that Sunday was the first time he was held to less than 20 points in his young career. Mahomes may remain the hottest commodity in football, but the Chiefs have noticeable weaknesses that may again be exposed by teams like the undefeated New England Patriots down the stretch.

The hype has seemed to settle on the Dallas Cowboys for the time being after another forgettable performance against one of the NFC’s top teams.

The Green Bay Packers terrorized Dallas early and were able to hold off a late surge to win the game 34-24. Despite six scoring drives, Aaron Rodgers took a backseat to his ground game and threw for just 238 yards. Running back Aaron Jones torched the Dallas defense for 107 yards and four touchdowns.

The Cowboys fell behind 14-0 and had to throw for the majority of the game. Ezekiel Elliot made the most of 12 carries but compiled just 62 yards. Despite the progress made by Dak Prescott in 2019, he delivered another ugly performance with three interceptions in the loss.

Dallas will look to right the ship in New York against the Jets on Sunday before a critical early-season divisional matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 20. The Eagles, who are 3-2 and the only likely threat to Dallas in the NFC East, made easy work of the Jets in week five.

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