Astros get a shutout win against the Angels

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 4-0 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With a tough loss on Thursday to start this final four-game series of the season, Houston looked to extend their franchise-record winning season and stay on top of the race for home-field advantage through the World Series. Here is a quick look at Friday's game in Los Angeles against the Angels:

Final Score: Astros 4, Angels 0.

Record: 105-55, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Jose Urquidy (2-1, 3.95 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Patrick Sandoval (0-4, 5.03 ERA).

1) Urquidy builds trust with six shutout innings

While Wade Miley was unable to put together an impressive enough start the night before to fully secure trust in him as the fourth starter in Houston's rotation, Jose Urquidy took advantage of an opportunity on Friday night. He gave his team six shutout innings, showcasing his upside as a possible starter.

While it may not have won him the fourth spot in the playoff rotation since Wade Miley may still receive the benefit of the doubt, it was nonetheless a welcome sight to see him perform well. Urquidy's final line: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR.

2) Bregman and Brantley provide the offense

On the other side, the Astros were not able to put up much offense either in the early goings of the game, save a solo home run by Alex Bregman to lead off the top of the second which gave Houston the 1-0 lead they held through Urquidy's six innings and beyond.

Ryan Pressly took to the mound in the bottom of the seventh and had a quick 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. In the top of the eighth, the Astros were able to tack on to their lead after putting two runners on to set up a three-run homer for Michael Brantley to make it 4-0 Houston.

In the bottom of that inning, Will Harris tossed three strikeouts on nine pitches, all pitches resulting in strikes swinging or looking, an immaculate inning. Josh James closed things out in the ninth, securing home-field advantage for the Astros through at least the American League playoffs.

Up Next: Justin Verlander (20-6, 2.53 ERA) will make his final, likely abbreviated, start on Saturday as the Astros play the Angels again at 8:07 PM. Jose Suarez (2-4, 7.34 ERA) is the expected starter 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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