Oakland takes the series against Houston

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 3-2 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Down 2-1 in this four-game series to the A's, and with the Yankees sweeping their doubleheader to move back ahead in the overall AL standings, Houston needed a win to get back on track on Thursday night. Here is a recap of the series finale with Oakland:

Final Score: A's 3, Astros 2.

Record: 95-53, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Homer Bailey (13-8, 4.76 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Justin Verlander (18-6, 2.58 ERA).

1) Oakland puts up three runs on Verlander

Many would have thought that having Justin Verlander on the mound Thursday night would mean a return to the norm in terms of holding opponents to few, if any, runs. Instead, it turns out that even Verlander isn't immune to the surging A's, as he would give up a run in the top of the first to put Oakland ahead 1-0.

In the third, a one-out single turned into a one-out two-run home run to put Oakland up 3-0 and put Verlander in a tough position. However, he turned things around to hold the A's scoreless through the rest of his six innings while having another double-digit strikeout start. His final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 HR.

2) Houston gets a couple back, but not enough

Houston threatened in the third, getting runners on second and third with no outs after a leadoff single and double. George Springer scored a run on an RBI-groundout to make it a 3-1 game, but Houston would not be able to trim the lead any further.

That would be their only run scored with Verlander on the mound, with Joe Smith taking over the 3-1 game in the top of the seventh and throwing a 1-2-3 scoreless inning. Josh James was next out of Houston's bullpen for the top of the eighth and worked around a two-out single to post a scoreless inning, striking out three to rebound from his recent terrible outing.

In the bottom of the inning, Jose Altuve pulled Houston within one run after a one-out solo home run to the train tracks to make it a 3-2 game. Houston would go on to load the bases with two outs, but Kyle Tucker would strike out to keep the A's in front.

Roberto Osuna would be tasked with the top of the ninth to get some work after several days off and put Oakland down in order, giving Houston one last chance to win the game. Robinson Chirinos worked a walk to lead off the bottom of the ninth before being pinch-run for by Myles Straw, who moved to second on a single by Yuli Gurriel. Unfortunately, though the Astros would get the tying run to third, they would be unable to beat Oakland, giving the A's the series win.

Up Next: Houston's remaining schedule lightens up after this series with Oakland. They'll start a three-game series with the Royals in Kansas City on Friday at 7:15 PM. The expected pitching matchup is Gerrit Cole (16-5, 2.73 ERA) on the mound for Houston going up against Danny Duffy (6-6, 4.71 ERA) for the Royals.

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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