Astros cruise past the Royals for series sweep

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 12-3 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With the series victory already in hand, Houston looked for a sweep to continue decreasing their magic number as well as keep pace with the Yankees in the fight for postseason home-field advantage. Here is a quick rundown of the series finale with the Royals from Kansas City:

Final Score: Astros 12, Royals 3.

Record: 98-53, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wade Miley (14-5, 3.71 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jakob Junis (9-14, 5.24 ERA).

1) Miley gets back on track

Considering his last two starts which ended in disaster, the Astros needed a confidence boost in Wade Miley on Sunday, as he probably needed himself to get back on track. Although he allowed a run in the top of the first to put the Royals up 1-0, sparking memories of his inability to get through the first inning in recent starts, he would get through the inning.

While his offense built up a big lead behind him, Miley looked much more like his usual self in the rest of the start, getting through the next three innings scoreless. The Royals would get a few hits and another run off of Miley in the bottom of the fifth, but Miley would still finish six strong innings. His final line: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR.

2) Houston's offense gives him plenty of room to work with


One reason that Miley may have been able to relax and manage his game better: lots of runs behind him. Houston immediately erased the 1-0 deficit in the top of the second, getting a three-run inning on a solo home run by Yuli Gurriel and RBIs from Abraham Toro and Michael Brantley, going up 3-1.

Toro would account for two more runs in the next inning, getting a two-RBI double to extend the lead to 5-1. Josh Reddick added two more runs with a two-run homer in the top of the fifth, pushing the advantage to six runs at 7-1.

3) Houston's bullpen finishes off the sweep

Kansas City cut the lead to 7-2 in the bottom of the fifth off of Wade Miley, but Houston would get some traffic on the bases in the top of the seventh to set up an RBI-groundout by Aledmys Diaz to make it 8-2. Josh James was first out of Houston's bullpen to take over for Wade Miley in the bottom of the seventh, and he worked around a leadoff single to maintain the six-run lead.

Kyle Tucker took advantage of a leadoff walk in front of him in the top of the eighth, blasting his second career home run to give Houston double-digits at 10-2, then later in the inning Myles Straw hit a pinch-hit RBI-triple then Josh Reddick recorded his fifth hit of the day on another RBI to make it 12-1.

Chris Devenski came in for the bottom of the eighth and was able to erase a two-out single to move the game to the ninth. Framber Valdez was brought in for the ninth to finish things off and despite allowing a run would complete the series sweep.

Up Next: Houston will travel back home and receive a day off on Monday. They'll resume play on Tuesday as the Rangers come to town for the final two games of the season series. In the first of the two games, the expected pitching matchup is Justin Verlander (18-6, 2.58 ERA) for the Astros and Lance Lynn (14-10, 3.72 ERA) for the Rangers.

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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