Astros drop third straight game

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 7-6 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With a surprising and disappointing series loss to the White Sox to start the week, Houston traveled to Oakland for a four-game weekend series against the A's to try and get back on track. Here is a recap from the series opener from Thursday night:

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 6.

Record: 78-44, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Jake Diekman (1-6, 4.86 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chris Devenski (2-2, 4.42 ERA).

1) Pitcher's duel through the first three innings

The series opener got underway at a breakneck pace, with both former-Astro Mike Fiers and newly acquired Aaron Sanchez stacking three efficient innings. The two combined to get through the first three frames very quickly, taking just a total of 58 pitches to do so. The only hit over that span was a two-out single by Oakland allowed by Sanchez. However, the hits started coming in waves in the middle innings.

2) Alex Bregman starts the scoring

The top of the fourth looked to be another quick 1-2-3 inning where Mike Fiers would stay in control against the Astros. Instead, a two-out single by Michael Brantley brought Alex Bregman to the plate, and he connected on a line drive home run to start the scoring for the night and put Houston ahead 2-0.

That didn't just open up the hitting for Houston, as Oakland would respond immediately with a big inning of their own against Sanchez in the bottom of the fourth. He struggled in the inning, putting the first two runners on base to set up a go-ahead three-run home run to start the inning along with a solo home run later in the inning to extend Oakland's lead to 4-2.

Houston would work their way back to a tie with solo home runs by Carlos Correa in the fifth and Michael Brantley in the sixth, but Oakland quickly broke that tie in the bottom of the sixth. The A's launched their third and fourth home runs of the game against Sanchez with no outs in the inning, giving them a 6-4 lead.

Sanchez would get one more out before allowing two more baserunners prompting a call to the bullpen to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 4 HR.

3) Houston comes up just short

Hector Rondon took over for Aaron Sanchez in the bottom of the sixth and was able to erase two inherited runners to send the game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa trimmed Oakland's lead to one run by leading the inning off with his second home run of the night. Rondon returned for the bottom of the inning and kept the A's off the board, keeping the game at one run.

Michael Brantley would join Carlos Correa as Houston players with multi-home run games after a solo home run with one out in the top of the eighth tied the game 6-6. The balls kept flying out of the park, with Matt Chapman also having a multi-homer game for Oakland after a go-ahead solo shot off Chris Devenski in the bottom of the eighth.

Devenski would finish the bottom of the eighth, but Houston would come away empty in the top of the ninth, dropping the opener of the four-game series. The loss made it three straight for the Astros.

Up Next: Game two of this series will be Friday night with another west-coast starting time of 9:07 PM Central. Justin Verlander (15-4, 2.82 ERA) will get the ball for Houston and attempt to bounce back from a rough outing in his last start. Oakland is expected to start Tanner Roark (7-8, 4.06 ERA).

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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James Harden returned to Houston on Wednesday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

"James Harden will always be a Houston Rocket" – Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, Tuesday March 2, 2021.

Really?

Then that must have been some other bearded fellow notching a triple double and leading the Brooklyn Nets to a 132-114 drubbing of the Rockets at Toyota Center, Wednesday March 3, 2021.

What a difference a day doesn't make, as the Rockets fell to their 13th consecutive defeat.

The Rockets played a tribute video for Harden, marking his first visit to Houston since the Rockets traded him, practically at gunpoint, to Brooklyn. On the same day Fertitta bizarrely fantasized that Harden will always be a Rocket, the team owner also announced that the Rockets will retire Harden's No.13.

What is wrong with you, Tilman? You sound like a jilted shnook who goes on the Jerry Springer Show to beg his runaround ex-wife to come back. Harden dumped you, remember? He wanted out of Houston so badly that he turned down your contract offer that would have made him the highest-paid athlete in American sports history.

Don't you recall his farewell comments as a Rocket? The Rockets were "just not good enough. I mean it's just crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

That's burning down the house on your way out. Not exactly Lou Gehrig's farewell speech, "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth," and praising his Yankee manager, teammates and owners.

Sure Harden was a video game scoring machine during his eight years in Houston. But he also chased away teammates. The Rockets never won a conference title with Harden. He stunk up the joint during some playoff games and disappeared in others. Overall, Harden was a spectacular player on a consistently good but never great team. That's his legacy in Houston.

I expected a tribute video for Harden and he probably deserved it. Why not? The Rockets did similar videos for role player Trevor Ariza and Russell Westbrook, who played all of 57 games during his one pandemic-shortened season in Houston and immediately demanded a trade.

A tribute video for Westbrook? What's next, a statue of Moochie Norris outside Toyota Center? Renaming Polk Street … Vassilis Spanoulis Way?

Retiring Harden's number 13 doesn't compare to similarly honored Rockets legends who played their hearts out, brought a title home or loved this team to their last playing breath, like Hakeem Olajuwon (34), Clyde Drexler (22), Calvin Murphy (23), Rudy T (45), Moses Malone (24) and Yao Ming (11).

James Harden crapped all over the Rockets on his way out the door. He was the ultimate prima donna during his time here, moody and mopey, demanding special travel arrangements, alienating teammates and taking playoff losses so hard he almost didn't make it to the strip clubs before closing time.

You know the saying, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In Harden's case, he got going to Brooklyn. So much for the captain going down with the ship. Wednesday night, Rockets fans greeted Harden with some cheers, but more lusty boos on his return to Houston.

"I gave him a special introduction, like a home team introduction, but there were way more boos than I expected," said Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas.

Harden finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists, a routine triple double for him of late. He controlled the Nets offense and dominated the game.

Of course it was a regular season game. It's what he does.

For those of you scoring at home: the NBA team with the most retired numbers is the Boston Celtics, with 22 jerseys "hanging in the rafters." That's the most of any team in any U.S. pro sport. The New York Yankees are next with 21 retired numbers. The Montreal Canadiens lead the NHL with 15 retired numbers. Not coincidentally, the Celts (17 – tied with Lakers), Yanks (27) and Habs (24) all lead their leagues with the most championships.

The NFL team with the most retired numbers is a strange one. It's the Chicago Bears with 14 jerseys that will never be worn again. The Bears have won nine titles, second to the Green Bay Packers with 13 championships.

Harden's jersey will not be the first "13" hoisted over an NBA court – far from it. Three teams, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Golden State have retired Wilt Chamberlain's No. 13. The Harlem Globetrotters also retired The Stilt's jersey, but I guess they don't count.

The Cavaliers retired Bobby Phills' No. 13 after his fatal car crash. Portland retired Dave Twardzik's jersey. Here's some synergy, the Suns retired Harden's current coach Steve Nash's No. 13. And the Spurs retired the No. 13 jersey of James Silas (no relation to Rockets coach Stephen Silas.

And as Charlie Pallilo – and only Charlie Pallilo – will tell you, the first retired number in North American pro sports history belonged to Ace Bailey of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs retired his number in 1934 after Bailey suffered a career-ending injury the year before.

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