George Springer backs up Gerrit Cole to get the win

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 4-1 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With a disappointing three-game skid to end the four-game series with Oakland at home, the Astros went on the road to try and get things back on track. Here is a recap of the first of three games against the Royals in Kansas City:

Final Score: Astros 4, Royals 1.

Record: 96-53, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Gerrit Cole (17-5, 2.62 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Heath Fillmyer (0-2, 8.68 ERA).

1) Cole wins the pitcher's duel through the first eight innings

The Astros had one run in the early goings of the game, and it came off the bat of Jose Altuve. He launched a one-out solo home run in the top of the first, giving Houston a quick 1-0 lead in the game in Kansas City.
That proved to be a pivotal run, with both Danny Duffy and Gerrit Cole battling each other in a pitcher's duel in the game. Cole would do better, outlasting Duffy to complete seven scoreless innings. However, a broken-bat leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth would be costly for Cole and the Astros.

Bubba Starling reached on the single to start the inning, then would steal second and induce an errant throw to advance to third, setting up a sacrifice fly to tie the game 1-1 and end Cole's shutout bid. Cole's final line: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 0 HR.

2) Springer's Dinger makes the difference

In the top of the ninth, Kyle Tucker hit a one-out single to put the go-ahead run on base, then Michael Brantley followed with a pinch-hit walk. They would both come around to score on a two-out go-ahead three-run homer by George Springer, catapulting the Astros ahead 4-1.

Roberto Osuna took over for Cole to finish things off in the ninth, and did so to get the Astros back in the win column and improve their record to 96-53 on the sesaon.

Up Next: This series between Houston and Kansas City will continue with game two of three on Saturday at 6:15 PM. The expected pitching matchup is Mike Montgomery (2-6, 4.29 ERA) on the mound for the Royals and Zack Greinke (15-5, 2.99 ERA) on the bump for the Astros.

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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