Astros drop the middle game to Toronto

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 6-4 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Astros started Saturday on top of MLB's overall standings after a win in the series opener against the Blue Jays on Friday night. They looked to keep pace with the Yankees and Dodgers with another victory in the middle game to secure the series. Here is a quick rundown of Saturday's game from Toronto:

Final Score: Blue Jays 6, Astros 4.

Record: 88-49, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Clay Buchholz (1-3, 5.45 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Framber Valdez (4-7, 5.55 ERA).

1) Valdez digs a big hole

Houston's offense had an efficient start to the game, getting back-to-back hits to start the game with runners on first and third. Alex Bregman scored the first run of the afternoon on a sacrifice fly, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

After winning the battle against the Blue Jays in the first two innings, Framber Valdez would struggle in the third inning, allowing two one-out walks followed by an RBI-single and a two-run home run to put Toronto ahead 3-1. In the fourth, a two-out single would turn into a two-run home run, extending the lead to 5-1.

Valdez would continue on the mound trying to keep Toronto from adding to their lead, and did so through two outs in the sixth inning when a single would end his day as he was over 100 pitches. Joe Smith was brought in from the bullpen to try and finish the sixth but instead would allow Valdez's sixth run of the day. Valdez's final line: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 2 HR.

2) Astros score some, but not enough

Houston was able to get a couple of runs back in the top of the sixth, getting two two-out walks to set up a two-RBI doubly by Yuli Gurriel, which made it 5-3 at the time.

After Toronto tacked on one more run to push the lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Houston was able to load the bases in the top of the seventh with one out. After a groundout kept the bases loaded with two outs, Alex Bregman was able to work a walk to score a run to make it 6-4. Toronto's bullpen would win the battle though, striking out Yordan Alvarez to end the threat.

Joe Smith, who completed the sixth for Valdez, remained on the mound for the bottom of the seventh and worked around a two-out walk to keep the game 6-4 going to the eighth. Houston had another chance in the top of the ninth with the tying runs on base but again came away empty. Cy Sneed was next out of Houston's bullpen and threw a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, but Houston would come up empty yet again in the top of the ninth, dropping the middle game and falling behind the Yankees in the standings.

Up Next: The series finale between Houston and Toronto will start on Sunday at 12:07 PM. The pitching matchup will be Cy Young leader Justin Verlander (16-5, 2.69 ERA) on the mound for the Astros opposite of Wilmer Font (2-1, 3.86 ERA) for the Blue Jays.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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