Astros rout the Rangers to split the series

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 4 hits from the 12-4 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With the extra-inning win on Saturday, the Astros were after a series split if they could manage back-to-back wins with a victory on Sunday. Here is how the series finale went:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 59-35, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (11-4, 2.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ariel Jurado (5-5, 4.63 ERA).

1) Houston scores five runs in the first two innings

The Astros put pressure on Ariel Jurado early, loading the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning after a leadoff single and back-to-back walks. They would score three runs over the next three at-bats, getting RBI-singles from Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel to keep the bases loaded then a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick.

Though the Rangers would respond with two runs of their own in their half of the first inning, Houston wasted no time putting the lead back at three runs in the bottom of the second. It started with Myles Straw working a one-out walk, then moved to third on a single by Jose Altuve. Alex Bregman drove in straw with a sacrifice fly, also moving Altuve over to second who would score on an RBi-single by Michael Brantley, making it a 5-2 game.

2) Verlander goes six innings

Justin's Verlander day didn't look like it was going to end as well as it did, as he would start the day with a rough first inning. The Rangers were able to get after Verlander with three consecutive one-out singles, scoring a run. They would later get a two-out RBI-single, trimming the once 3-0 lead to 3-2.

Verlander was nearly perfect after that inning, though, getting through the next five innings without allowing a hit and just one walk. It wasn't the most dominant of starts by his standards, and he could have gone longer if needed, but him not allowing any home runs and keeping Texas to just their two early runs was a much-needed quality start for Houston.

The six-inning outing was good enough to earn him his eleventh win of the season, moving him to 11-4 on the year. Verlander's final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 HR.

3) Altuve blows it open in the seventh

After their early runs, the Astros went scoreless over the middle innings of the game. That all changed in the top of the seventh, starting with a leadoff single by Josh Reddick who would score from first on an RBI-double from Robinson Chirinos, extending the lead to 6-2. They would go on to load the bases on an error and walk.

That brought Jose Altuve to the plate, who after his 4-for-6 game on Saturday would move to 3-for-4 on the day on Sunday with a huge grand slam to bust the game open at 10-2.

They wouldn't stop there, getting a walk from Alex Bregman to get another runner on base, which made it a two-run shot when Yuli Gurriel launched his a home run of his own, extending the lead to 12-2. That home run gave Gurriel eleven in his last fifteen games, continuing his hot streak of late.

4) Joe Smith returns as bullpen wraps things up

With the ten-run lead, the Astros went to their bullpen in the top of the seventh starting with Chris Devenski. He would struggle with the zone, walking in a run with four walks while getting just two outs. That prompted another call to the bullpen, bringing out Joe Smith who would make his first appearance for the Astros since October of last season.

Smith would allow an RBI-single to make it a 12-4 score but was able to get the last out of the inning to move things to the eighth. After Houston went down 1-2-3 in the top of the inning, Hector Rondon took over for Smith to pitch the bottom half and retired the Rangers in order.

After a scoreless top of the inning, Collin McHugh was brought in to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He did so, wrapping up the lopsided win and making it a series split between the Astros and Rangers.

Up Next: The Astros will travel to Anaheim tonight to start a four-game series with the Angles tomorrow night. The opener will get underway at 9:07 PM Monday and while Griffin Canning (3-5, 4.43 ERA) is the expected starter for Los Angeles, the Astros have a tough predicament with starting pitching with Brad Peacock suffering a setback to his return from injury. The current expectation is that Framber Valdez (3-5, 5.28 ERA) could make another start for Houston after throwing just 28 pitches on Thursday night in his abysmal 0.2 innings against the Rangers.

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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