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Texans taking perfect road record to New England

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Texans taking perfect road record to New England

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans are the only NFL team that hasn't lost on the road this season.

The Texans, 6-0 away from Houston, will face a big test Monday night when they travel to New England, a place where a visitor hasn't won in December since 2002.

The Patriots have won 19 straight home games in December, with their last loss at Gillette Stadium in the month coming in a 30-17 setback to the New York Jets on Dec. 22, 2002

The Texans are one of the many teams the Patriots have handled during that streak, with Houston losing 40-7 on Dec. 17, 2006 in its only visit there.

Coach Gary Kubiak said the Texans are playing with confidence and don't panic on the road. He preaches a simple mantra before each road game.

``It's about how you play,'' he said he tells them. ``It's not where you play.''

The Texans (11-1) have already secured a playoff spot, and need a win over the Patriots combined with a loss by the Colts to clinch their second straight AFC South title.

Kubiak likes how Houston has handled the noise on the road and thinks the team pulls together a bit more when faced with such adversity.

``It's really kind of your 53 against 80,000 when you show up,'' he said referring to the road crowds. ``I think they take that as a challenge and they take it personal and they know if they protect the football our team is going to have a good chance to win.''

The Texans have had a great turnover margin away from home this season. They've lost the ball just six times and forced 15 turnovers on the road. Their best performance in that area came last week against the Titans when they didn't turn the ball over and forced Tennessee to cough it up six times.

Monday night's game will be the last of three straight road games for Houston. Although the Texans have won all of their road games, they haven't been without some drama. Four of the six wins have been by a touchdown or less, including their controversial 34-31 overtime victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving.

Officials missed the call on an 81-yard touchdown run by Justin Forsett in that one. But Detroit coach Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag so the play couldn't be reviewed, the touchdown stood and Houston held on for the win.

Houston receiver Andre Johnson said people talk about how close they've come to losing on the road, but that he doesn't listen to any of that.

``We've been able to go out on the road this season and win games no matter the circumstances,'' he said. ``When they ask you your record, they ask how many games you've won and how many games you've lost, not what was the score or anything like that. So whatever we need to do to go in and get the W that's what we'll do.''

A win over the Patriots, who have already clinched the AFC East, would help the Texans maintain the top record in the AFC and move them closer to a coveted first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

But facing Tom Brady and Wes Welker with a banged up secondary will be one of Houston's toughest challenges to date. Top cornerback Johnathan Joseph has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. He returned to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday. Kubiak said how he looks in practice in the next two days will determine whether he plays Monday night.

Along with Joseph's injury, the Texans are also dealing with the loss of nickel cornerback Brice McCain, who had surgery on his left foot on Monday. Alan Ball, who filled in for Joseph two week ago, missed last week's game and is still struggling with a sore foot and didn't practice Thursday.

They signed veteran cornerback Stanford Routt, who was released from the Chiefs last month, to shore up the group. Kubiak said he ``has no choice'' but to suit him up on Monday night, but knows it will be difficult for him to absorb the entire playbook in less than a week.

``He's got a lot of skill,'' Kubiak said. ``In our situation right now he's a veteran player that could help us quickly, and pick up what we're doing quickly. He's covered a lot of good players in this league.''

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Machado homers as Orioles beat Rangers 6-5

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Machado homers as Orioles beat Rangers 6-5

For well over six seasons, Manny Machado's value to the Baltimore Orioles has been solely his ability to hit and play the field.

All that has changed, now that the Orioles are looking to receive a huge return for their All-Star shortstop in a blockbuster trade.

Machado homered before being removed on a wet day, Adam Jones hit a three-run double and Baltimore rallied past the Texas Rangers 6-5 Sunday.

Machado was taken out of the game in the fifth inning by manager Buck Showalter after a 26-minute rain delay. The move was designed to get their star player off a sloppy field, because the last-place Orioles are entertaining offers for Machado before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

"Obviously there's a different situation going on with Manny. You all know that," Showalter said. "That had a lot to do with it."

Plain and simple, the Orioles can't afford to have Machado get hurt. Now, more than ever.

"A month ago he wouldn't have come out of the game," Showalter acknowledged. "We know that. You know it."

After being replaced by Jace Peterson, Machado sat in the dugout, wearing a sweatshirt and joking with his teammates.

"I don't know why (Showalter) did it or not," Machado said. "He just told me, `I'm going to take you out. You had a good first half and go represent us well in the All-Star Game.'"

Machado is Baltimore's lone representative for Tuesday's showcase. He has spent his entire career in Baltimore, but his contract expires after this season and the Orioles don't appear interested in locking him up with a long-term deal.

"I'm going to the All-Star Game as an Oriole and as a shortstop. It's just always a blessing," Machado said. "I thank God. I thank my family for always supporting me, my teammates, the fans, the organization. I mean it's just been very incredible."

In a matchup between two teams staggering into the break, Texas got a first-inning grand slam from rookie Ronald Guzman but quickly gave the lead away in losing for the seventh time in nine games.

Machado ignited the comeback with his 24th homer, and Jones' bases-clearing double in the third off Mike Minor (6-6) put Baltimore ahead to stay.

"I'll be fine," said Minor, who yielded five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. "I'll reflect a little bit and then get back to it."

The game ended when Texas pinch-runner Carlos Tocci was thrown out at the plate on a double by Elvis Andrus. Running from first base, Tocci was tagged out by catcher Caleb Joseph following throws by right fielder Mark Trumbo and second baseman Jonathan Schoop.

"Textbook," Showalter said.

Texas manager Jeff Bannister called it a "situation where they had to throw it on line to throw Tocci out. They executed well."

Tanner Scott (1-1), the first of four Baltimore relievers, earned his first big league win.

Zach Britton, another Oriole supposedly on the trading block, worked the ninth for his fourth save, the second in two days.

Texas broke on top when Miguel Castro issued three straight walks and Guzman sent a one-out drive over the right-field wall for his first career grand slam.

It was 4-1 in the third when Joseph hit an RBI double and Jones doubled down the left-field line following a walk to Machado.

Shin-Soo Choo homered in the seventh to get the Rangers to 6-5.

STREAKY

Choo opened the game with a walk, extending to 51 his single-season club record streak of games reaching base via a hit, walk or HBP. ... Texas' Delino DeShields went 0 for 3, stretching his hitless drought to 28 at-bats. ... Jones snapped a 1-for-16 skid with his third-inning double.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: RF Nomar Mazara was given the day off after hurting his hand Saturday night in the outfield.

Orioles: RHP Chris Tillman (back) was set to make his final rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Norfolk. ... INF Steve Wilkerson (oblique) and OF Craig Gentry (rib fracture) likely won't come off the DL before August, Showalter said. ... RHP Andrew Cashner (neck strain) will be activated from the DL on Saturday or Sunday to face Toronto, Showalter said.

UP NEXT

Rangers: The rotation after the All-Star break, beginning Friday against visiting Cleveland: Martin Perez, Bartolo Colon, Cole Hamels, Yovani Gallardo and Minor.

Orioles: After the All-Star break, Dylan Bundy will start at Toronto on Friday night.