Astros drop series opener against the Cardinals

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

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After closing out their recent homestand by winning a rubber game against the A's on Wednesday afternoon, the Astros took to the road to start a six-game stretch as visitors. First up was a weekend series against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Here is how the opener went:

Final Score: Cardinals 5, Astros 3.

Record: 66-39, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Andrew Miller (4-4, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ryan Pressly (2-2, 2.03 ERA).

1) Correa is back

Friday night's game ended the Astros' 50-game stretch without their starting shortstop, Carlos Correa. He was back on the field and in the lineup for the series opener, and he saw some action right away defensively, fielding a few groundballs and showing off his arm strength for a few throws to first.

He would not generate the first highlight on offense, though, as that honor would go to Michael Brantley. After a one-out walk by Alex Bregman, Brantley took advantage by launching a two-run homer to put Houston on the board and in front 2-0.

2) Another quality start for Urquidy

Jose Urquidy, who had a surprisingly good seven-inning one-run start against the Rangers his last time on the mound, provided an excellent follow-up against the surging Cardinals. He allowed just one run, which came in the fourth inning after he allowed three singles in what would be his worst inning of the night.

Otherwise, he was efficient and avoided too many high-leverage situations. He went on to complete six innings while allowing just the one run, making it back-to-back quality starts. Urquidy's final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 0 HR.

3) Houston's bullpen unable to hold up

Unfortunately, though Urquidy would leave in position for the win, Will Harris would allow a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Harris would complete that inning, then would be pinch-hit for by Yordan Alvarez who drilled a one-out double to put Houston in scoring position.

They went on to load the bases with two outs, bringing up Michael Brantley who notched his third RBI of the night, a walk to bring in the go-ahead run. Correa was up next with the bases still loaded but would strikeout to leave all three runners stranded.

Ryan Pressly was next out of Houston's bullpen, but he would have a forgetful inning. He allowed two baserunners then a three-run homer to lead off the inning and give the Cardinals their first lead of the night at 5-3. He would exit without recording an out with Chris Devenski coming in to replace him.

Devenski worked around a walk and a single to get through the eighth, sending the two-run game to the ninth. In the ninth, Houston would not be able to make a comeback, starting the series with a loss.

Up Next: Game two of this series between the Astros and Cardinals will be tomorrow at 6:15 PM and will be nationally televised on FS1. The pitching matchup will be MLB strikeout leader Gerrit Cole (11-5, 3.03 ERA) for Houston going against Daniel Ponce de Leon (1-0, 2.82 ERA) for St. Louis.

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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