Astros get back on track with lopsided win

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 11-2 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With two of their worst pitching performances behind them from Monday and Tuesday nights, the Astros had Gerrit Cole on the mound on Wednesday to try and right the ship. Here is a recap of the third of four games in this series:

Final Score: Astros 11, Angels 2.

Record: 60-37, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Gerrit Cole (10-5, 3.12 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Felix Pena (7-3, 4.92 ERA).

1) Overpowering offense makes it easy for Houston's pitchers

Houston's openers and primary pitchers put up disappointing numbers the offense could not overcome the previous two nights. Houston's bats flipped the script on that, taking control of the game on Tuesday night to make it less stressful for Gerrit Cole and the bullpen.

They started with a three-run first inning, getting a one-out single by Jose Altuve who would score on an RBI-double by Alex Bregman before a two-run homer by Michael Brantley in the next at-bat. They continued scoring in the next two innings, getting a run in each. Jose Altuve notched an RBI-double in the second, then Yuli Gurriel led the third inning off with a double before scoring on a wild pitch later in the inning.

They nearly doubled that 6-0 lead in the top of the fifth, getting four straight two-out hits. It started with a single by Robinson Chirinos to move Michael Brantley, who was hit by a pitch earlier in the inning, over to second. Tyler White was next with another RBI in this series, getting a single to score Brantley. Jake Marisnick was next, and he came through with an RBI-double before George Springer would clear the bases with a three-run dinger to make it an 11-0 game.

2) Cole gives fans a breath of fresh air

As mentioned, Astros fans were desperate for an efficient pitching performance after the woes of the last two nights. Gerrit Cole delivered, rebounding from his previous start, which was a drop-off from his usual numbers and having a more typical night.

Cole allowed only a handful of hits and a walk over the first four innings, keeping the Angels off the board until the fifth. They would tag him with his near-daily home run in that inning, a solo shot to make it an 11-1 game, the only run he would allow on the night.

Even with his pitch count in the 90s after six innings, the Astros trusted him to come back out and eat another inning. He did so, getting a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh on three strikeouts, bringing his total on the night to eleven. Cole's final line: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 1 HR.

Cole's excellent performance meant only two innings of relief needed from Houston' bullpen. Joe Smith provided a scoreless eighth, then Ryan Pressly wrapped things up despite allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth to make it 11-2.

Up Next: The Astros and Angels will conclude this series tomorrow with the finale of the four-game set starting an hour earlier at 8:07 PM. The expected pitching matchup is Wade Miley (7-4, 3.32 ERA) for Houston going up against Matt Harvey (3-4, 6.88 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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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