Astros start second half with a loss

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 5-0 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After a three-day break from the regular season, the Astros were back in action on Thursday night in Arlington against the Rangers looking to start the second half of the season with a win. Here is a recap of the first game of the four-game series:

Final Score: Rangers 5, Astros 0.

Record: 57-34, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance Lynn (12-4, 3.69 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-5, 5.28 ERA).

1) Valdez unable to last a single inning

After the Astros were unable to get on the board in the top of the first, Framber Valdez took the mound to try and provide Houston with a decent start while they await the return of Brad Peacock and continue work towards a possible trade for another reliable starter.

Valdez, who had been optioned back to AAA before the All-Star break, would not shine in his return to the major-league club. Instead, he struggled and would get through just two outs while allowing the Rangers to score four runs on four hits and three walks, putting the Astros in a 4-0 hole.

Chris Devenski would come in and put the long-awaited end to the first inning and would work around a one-out single in the bottom of the second to complete that inning as well.

2) Bregman exits in the third

In the bottom of the third inning, Cy Sneed would make his second appearance of the year to relieve Chris Devenski. He worked in and out of some trouble, allowing a run to make it a 5-0 game, and would load the bases as the Rangers threatened for more, but would leave all three runners stranded with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.

During that inning, however, the Astros would experience a scary scene. Alex Bregman lined up to field a chopping ground ball up the middle, but before it reached him, the ball would take a big bounce right into his chin. He was visibly shaken up, resulting in his exit from the game.

3) Lance Lynn dominates 

While Framber Valdez struggled in the first inning, it was Lance Lynn on the mound for Texas who was able to dominate Houston's bats. Lynn tossed one of the best starts of his season, shutting out the Astros over seven innings while matching his season-high in strikeouts with eleven.

Sneed was able to wrap his night up with a solid line in relief, getting the Astros through the seventh while maintaining the 5-0 score. Sneed also struck out seven over his five innings, allowing just the one run back in the third in an otherwise great appearance where he ate up some valuable innings for Houston.

Josh James was next out of the bullpen and threw a seven-pitch bottom of the eighth inning. They wouldn't need anyone for the bottom of the ninth, as the Rangers were able to complete the shutout win in the top of the inning, starting Houston's second half of the season with a loss.

Up Next: Game two of this series will be tomorrow at 7:05 PM. The expected pitching matchup is Gerrit Cole (9-5, 3.09 ERA) for the Astros who will try to extend his recent hot streak as he goes up against Jesse Chavez (3-4, 3.30 ERA) for the Rangers.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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After a "qualifying round" of playoffs, the actual Stanley Cup playoffs are here. In a weird hockey world that saw two 12 seeds win in round one and the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference finish last in the round robin and get a four seed, things appear wide open. The lower seeds may actually have a bit of an advantage at the beginning of these series, as they have already gone through an actual elimination round, while the top four seeds played a less intense round robin. As teams still adjust to a long layoff, more upsets could be in order. It should be fun. Here is a look at the matchups:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Philadelphia Flyers (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8)

The Flyers were dominant in the round-robin phase and look very much like a team that can make a deep run. Montreal was the lowest seed in the qualifying tournament, but stunned Pittsburgh, and were the better team throughout the series. Philly, however, is playing much better hockey than their Pennsylvania counterparts. The Canadiens will need a big effort from goalie Carey Price, who is capable of stealing games. Young Flyers goalie Carter Hart was outstanding in the two round-robin games he played and is an emerging star. Philly has more talent, but a goalie like Price can win a series.

Prediction: Flyers in 5.

Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (7)

Tampa is as talented a group as you will find in the NHL. They have depth on all lines, terrific defensemen and an elite goalie. Yet they have a checkered playoff past. Last season, they were dominant in the regular season and looked like a Cup lock. They were promptly swept out of the first round by the Jackets. Columbus outplayed a similarly talented team in Toronto in round one and are a tough matchup. Can the Lightning be struck down twice? Absolutely.

Prediction: Jackets in 7.

Washington Capitals (3) vs. New York Islanders (6)

The Caps still have Alex Ovechkin and a recent Stanley Cup, and have to be considered a contender against whoever they play. But the Isles play terrific defense, grind you down and get just enough scoring to win games. Plus they have the coach who won the Cup with the Caps, Barry Trotz, which gives them another edge. The Isles are a long shot Cup contender and could pull off the upset.

Prediction: Islanders in 7.

Boston Bruins (4) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (5)

The Bruins were the best team in the league in the regular season, but played flat in the round robin, winding up with a fourth seed. It seems a little unfair that they dominated all year but three games determined their fate, but that's life. By now they should have figured things out again and should be able to advance. They are a tricky team, because if they play as poorly as they did last week, Carolina could knock them out. But the Bruins should get better the deeper they get in the playoffs. The Hurricanes have a rising star in Andrei Svechnikov, who had a hat trick in the first round against the Rangers. The Bruins, however, are deeper, more talented and have the more tested and reliable goalie in Tukka Rask.

Prediction: Bruins in 5.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Las Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (8)

The Golden Knights were impressive in the round-robin, and looked like they did not miss a beat from the break. They were on a 8-2 run before the Rona interruption and swept the three seeding games since. But the Blackhawks are a scary matchup. They dominated Edmonton in the play-in round, winning 3-1 despite being the last team to qualify. They are young and shaky on defense, but still have proven Cup winners like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. It would be foolish to count them out, but the Oilers were a much better matchup for the Hawks. If Crawford dominates in net, they have a fighting chance. But the Knights are on a different level right now.

Prediction: Las Vegas in 6.

Colorado Avalanche (2) vs. Arizona Coyotes (7)

This might be one of the more intriguing matchups of this round. The Avs look like a Cup contender, and Nathan MacKinnon is an MVP candidate and might be one of the most underappreciated superstars in the league. The Coyotes, however, are going to be a tough out. Goalie Darcy Kempner faced a ton of shots against the Predators and held up well. He will have to do the same here. Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel provide top end forward play, and Arizona matches up OK here. The Avs should win, but don't be shocked if they are pushed hard.

Prediction: Avs in 6.

Dallas Stars (3) vs. Calgary Flames (6)

Dallas is an interesting team. The Stars have Stanley Cup-level talent, but they struggle to score at times, which could be a problem in a seven-game series. They play strong D and have great goaltending, but have issues with quicker teams, which bodes well for Calgary. The Flames are also a bit of an enigma, but they seem built for the playoffs. They have two young American-born stars in Johnny Gaudreu and Matthew Tkachuk, solid depth up front and on the back end and can hold their own with most teams. Cam Talbot is the key, however. If he can consistently man the goal the way he did in the series win over Winnipeg, they have a big shot. He finished off the series with a 31-save shutout.

Prediction: Flames in 7.

St. Louis Blues (4) vs. Vancouver Canucks (5)

The defending champs were not very good in the round-robin, hence the four seed. But it will probably work out; the Canucks are an easier matchup than what they would have faced with Calgary as a 3 seed. Vancouver is an interesting young team. Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are two up and coming stars, but the rest of the lineup is bolstered by gritty vets. Defensemen Quinn Hughes is another young star in the making. Goalie Jacob Markstrom was solid against Minnesota, but he will need to be better in this round. The Canucks could have made a run against Dallas, but hard to see them beating the champs.

Prediction: Blues in 6.

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