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Late-season collapse leaves Texans without a bye

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Late-season collapse leaves Texans without a bye

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans should have been spending this week enjoying a bye.

Instead, a late-season collapse where they lost three of their last four games has left them with a short week to fix many mistakes before hosting Cincinnati in a wild card game Saturday.

Houston had two chances to secure a bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Consecutive losses to the Vikings and Colts to end the regular season kept the Texans from getting either.

Coach Gary Kubiak believes his team will turn things around this week.

``We didn't handle the end of the season the way we wanted to handle it, but that doesn't mean that we can't handle these playoffs the way we want to handle it,'' he said. ``We understand how we have to play.''

Kubiak said he's most concerned with inconsistencies in several different areas. He's unhappy that the Texans haven't been able to run the ball successfully throughout games recently. Houston had 102 yards rushing in Sunday's 28-16 loss to the Colts, but only 25 yards came before halftime.

``We have to have a consistent day where we get out there and run the ball 30 times like we're accustomed to doing and what we do best, and that hasn't happened,'' he said.

The problems in the running game have contributed to Houston's recent trouble on third down. The Texans have converted just 15 of 49 third-down attempts in their last four games.

But the problems aren't only in the running game. Matt Schaub has struggled in this stretch, throwing three interceptions and just one touchdown pass in the last four games. However, Kubiak, himself a former quarterback, was quick to point out that many factors are to blame when the quarterback is having problems.

``There are a lot of plays to get a quarterback going and make it look a lot better from the standpoint at the end of the game statistically that could help him,'' Kubiak said. ``But at the same time he's got to do things better. And I'm up there searching all I can to put him in a better situation to be successful.''

Kubiak has also been left scratching his head as to why the Texans have been committing so many penalties in the last six games after doing well in that area through the first 10 games of the season. Houston had nine for 64 yards on Sunday.

``It's driving me crazy to be honest with you,'' Kubiak said. ``It's a lot of things going on right now, and that's at the top of the list. We had nine yesterday, and I think probably four of them were giving people first downs. ... It's a problem. We're addressing it, we're working on it. But it's got to get solved.''

When Kubiak was asked whether the penalties meant that his team was undisciplined or unfocused he first simply replied, ``that hurts,'' before continuing.

``When you're having too many penalties that's a discipline issue and that's on me, the coach,'' he said. ``I take full responsibility for that and I've got to get it fixed.''

The Texans also had trouble on defense Sunday. Like the offense, the defense has also struggled on third down. Andrew Luck threw a 70-yard touchdown pass on third-and-23 in the fourth quarter Sunday to put the game out of reach.

``We've given up some plays in situations that we shouldn't,'' Kubiak said. ``Getting off the field has been a problem defensively.''

Kubiak is looking for more pressure up front this week to help make things easier for his young secondary.

Despite the recent disappointment, the Texans (12-4) finished with their best regular-season record in franchise history. Now Kubiak says they're refocused and ready to move forward.

``We've got to go out there and make the plays to get all that mojo going back in the right direction,'' he said. ``The only people that can get it done are the coaches and the players. We're back at it and looking forward to getting started (Tuesday).''

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All it took for Chris Davis to break out of his slump was a letter from a Red Sox fan

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All it took for Chris Davis to break out of his slump was a letter from a Red Sox fan

Well, dang. We did not expect to need tissues for this video.

When Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was in the midst of the worst slump in Major League Baseball history, it often felt from afar like nothing could pull him out of his doldrums. It was difficult to watch Davis make the worst kind of history, knowing there was nothing fans can do to help.

Apparently, that was a mistake. All it took was a letter.

Henry Frasca, a diehard Red Sox fan, hated watching Davis struggle. So, when the O’s were in town to play his favorite team, he decided to write Davis a letter of encouragement.

The note made its way to Davis, who kept it with him. Inspired by the kind words, Davis had a breakout day at the plate, driving in four runs one his first three hits of 2019. The longtime Oriole has kept the letter with him ever since.

Frasca was unaware of the specific impact his message made, but as the Orioles returned to Fenway Park once again, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime.

This is, frankly, one of the coolest things we’ve seen in a long time. Frasca is just nine years old, but his view on the world and, specifically, helping those in need is both mature beyond his years and inspiring to the adults around him.

The most impressive part of the letter, as Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne highlights in his interview, is the idea that how Davis is playing on the field does not define the person he is off it.

It’s an insightful message, one that’s easy for even grown men and women to forget when cheering on their favorite players from afar. For someone so young, who roots for a rival team, to recognize it so early is mighty impressive.

The video is five minutes long, but well worth every second of your time. Well done to the Orioles, Thorne, Davis, and of course, Frasca most of all.

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Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

WASHINGTON -- If you ask Max Scherzer, he is ready. Which is not an upgrade from where he was earlier in the week.

Scherzer felt well again Sunday when he woke up following his second simulation game of the week. His workload increased Saturday, his comfort remained the same and Sunday his body told him he is ready to pitch in a game for the first time since July 25. Davey Martinez agreed -- for the most part. He said Scherzer is “probable” to start Thursday in Pittsburgh.

“I feel good,” Scherzer said. “Kinda do my normal little tests, move my arm and go through the throwing motion, so I feel good. I’m basically sore today the way I should be sore, given that and all the treatment we did yesterday and throwing a sim game. Like everything feels right where it should be. There’s no extra soreness other than what I anticipated. To me, that’s right on par.”

Scherzer remains irritated he was instructed to throw a second simulation game. He understands why. It just was not his personal preference. Part of the reason is in the title of the act. “Simulation” is not reality. For instance, he warned Gerardo Parra a slider was coming in the first simulation game. “Watch your foot,” Scherzer told him out of concern for possible injury. Pitchers are not truly pitching inside during simulations because of that worry. Players could be found to stand in the box without concern of injury. However, they couldn’t competently handle a hall-of-fame pitcher. So, that’s a false test, too. Only being in a game tells the truth.

But this is what Scherzer had to deal with because of the organization managed his return slowly. They focused on the future -- both this season and beyond. Scherzer is much more concerned about the now because, in his view, his rhomboid strain is not a significant injury.

“The long-term health, that’s not even part of the equation,” Scherzer said. “We all know that’s going to be good because we’re dealing with a muscle strain. Every other structure within the back, shoulder, you name it – nothing at play here. It’s literally dealing with the muscle strain and getting through it.”

Knowing this is not a long-term injury has keyed Scherzer’s frustration with the process. He’s felt close, then ready, really close, and again ready throughout the recovery. He’s being teased by the thing he wants to do most: get back on the mound in a real game. 

“Honestly, the toughest part about this whole thing is I feel like the carrot’s right in front of my face,” Scherzer said. “That it’s such day to day that any day it could turn and you always wake up every single day thinking today’s the day that you’re going to wake up and not feel anything and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to throw it and you’re going to feel no pain whatsoever. And you go off running because it’s not a serious injury. That’s been the most frustrating part. 

“If I knew that was going to be however long this is going to take – if I was dealing with, say, a more significant injury where they say, ‘You’re not going to feel good in six weeks’ – all right, you got it. You can easily mentally check out for six weeks knowing I’m not going to be able to throw a ball in six weeks and you can build your rehab around that. That hasn’t been the case. It’s really been day to day: ‘Hey, you might be feeling good here in two days.’ That’s really been the prognosis I’ve gotten from the doctors and everybody about what I’m dealing with. 

“So for me, that’s really been the hardest part mentally. I feel like at any point in time I could be ready to get back out there and at any day everybody’s expecting that this could turn. For me, when you have that carrot right in front of your face and you want to be helping your team, that’s what’s been the most frustrating part for me mentally.”

A bullpen session Monday should be next. After that, a final step to diffuse all of Scherzer’s irritation, his competition-based combat with Martinez and the organization and exasperation with a muscle strain which derailed him for a month can come: pitch one.

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