Astros lose an ugly series opener to the Angels

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 9-6 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After consecutive wins to work a series split in the four games with the Rangers over the weekend, the Astros had a tough pitching predicament in front of them for both Monday and Tuesday night's game with no real starter for either game. Here is a recap of the first of four games in Anaheim:

Final Score: Angels 9, Astros 6.

Record: 59-36, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Anderson (3-0, 4.05 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-6, 5.58 ERA).

1) Strong open for Houston

As mentioned, the Astros had no true starter lined up for Monday night's game, causing them to elect to use an opener in Josh James. James filled the role well, getting a 1-2-3 first inning including a strikeout. Wrapped around his solid bottom of the first was Houston's attempt to give Framber Valdez, the extended pitcher of the night, a lead with which to work.

The Astros took advantage of Angels starter Griffin Canning's struggle with the strike zone in the first inning, getting four straight two-out walks to take a 1-0 lead. They extended that to 3-0 in the top of the second, scoring on a wild pitch and an RBI-single by Alex Bregman.

2) Same story for Valdez, different day

Even with the benefit of an opener, Framber Valdez simply could not break through from his recent pitching struggles. He would start his night with a scoreless second inning, but things would get progressively worse from there.

The Angels scored seven unanswered runs over the next three innings, getting a solo home run in the bottom of the third, scoring two more on a couple of hits in the fourth, then working three walks and scoring four runs on one hit and couple of sacrifices in the bottom of the fifth.

That made it a 7-3 game, erasing what was once a 3-0 Houston lead. Houston would not test their luck with Valdez any further, shutting him down after that inning. His final line: 4 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR.

3) Unable to make the comeback

In the top of the sixth, the Astros were able to finally respond to all of Los Angeles' runs, getting a leadoff walk from Myles Straw to set up a two-run dinger from George Springer, trimming the lead to 7-5. With Valdez struggling mightily, Houston made the call to their bullpen earlier than they would have liked, bringing in Joe Smith for the bottom of the sixth.

Smith was able to work around a one-out double, getting a scoreless inning to keep the game at 7-5 going into the seventh. With Houston unable to convert another scoring opportunity in the top of the seventh, Collin McHugh took over on the mound in the bottom half of the inning, but he would be unable to get a clean inning, allowing two more runs to put the lead back at four runs.

George Springer continued doing his part, getting his second home run in as many at-bats to lead off the eighth inning, making it 9-6. Houston tasked McHugh with one more inning to try and conserve as much of their bullpen as possible, and he was able to deliver with a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth.

Houston would go scoreless in the top of the ninth, ending the all-around ugly game and starting the series with a loss.

Up Next: The next game in this series will be another west-coast start at 9:07 PM on Tuesday. The Angels are expected to start Andrew Heaney (1-3, 5.18 ERA) while the Astros have not decided who they will send out first in what will likely be a bullpen day.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Thursday night, the Rockets were able to take a bigger step in the seeding because of a 113-97 win against the Los Angeles Lakers. They were able to do so without their starting point guard, Russell Westbrook. James Harden had big night by providing 39 points, 12 assists, and shot 50% from three. Harden was even a plus 16 from the field of play.

Ever since the Harden entered the bubble, he has played exceptionally well on defense and offense. Harden has seen a numerous number of double teams since playing the Dallas Mavericks. But Harden said they prepare for it well in practice. This allows shooters like Ben McLemore, Jeff Green, PJ Tucker, and Austin Rivers to get open. Harden has been able to direct his teammates to the middle of the paint or kick it out to the corner.

"Really good. That's nothing new to us. We [have] seen that already. That's something actually we practice. We watch film on teams that trap. Guys are in their right spots, get some open shots, and [a] couple of layups," as Harden told the media Thursday night.

Harden in the last four games is averaging 33.8 points per game, shooting 35.8% from three, nine assists, and 5.3 steals a game.

Harden has played stellar defense in these four games as well. Before the playoffs start, Harden wants the Rockets' defense to be better. Even though the Rockets are 5th in steals, there still can be improvement. The Rockets defense has looked good in the bubble as well. They are ranked 7th in general team defense.

On a good note, coach Mike D'Antoni has admired Harden's defense while in the bubble.

"His commitment on defense is the number one thing. Really talking and trying to get guys to buy-in. You got to do it by example. He came up with steals and he is locked in. Whatever it takes to win," as D'Antoni said.

Harden did like the way they played defense Thursday night by holding the Lakers under 100 points. Especially, when Anthony Davis is on limited minutes and LeBron James did not play.

"What I'm really proud of is on the defensive end. They did not score 100 points. Even with LeBron [James] not playing and AD playing limited minutes, our goal is to defend on a high-level tonight and I think we did that tonight," as Harden said. "That's going to win us a championship, on the defensive end."

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome