Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
After bludgeoning the Mariners to complete the four-game sweep on Sunday afternoon, the Astros turned their attention to another AL-West opponent, the A's, on Monday.
Not only would winning the series keep them atop the overall league standings, but each win would also reduce their "magic number" by two with Oakland sitting second in the AL West, the only team keeping them from already having the division locked up. Here is a quick recap of the first of the four-game series:
Final Score: Astros 15, A's 0.
Record: 95-50, first in the AL West.
Winning pitcher: Zack Greinke (15-5, 2.99 ERA).
Losing pitcher: Mike Fiers (14-4, 3.97 ERA).
1) Houston just keeps scoring
If 21 runs on Sunday wasn't enough, Houston picked right up with the scoring on Monday night. Alex Bregman was the one who popped the cork, getting a three-run homer against former-teammate Mike Fiers. Yordan Alvarez made it back-to-back homers on the very next pitch, getting a solo shot, then Chirinos extended the lead to 6-0 with a two-run home run of his own before the first inning was over.
Jose Altuve joined in on the fun in the bottom of the second, getting a two-run shot followed by a solo homer by Michael Brantley for the second set of back-to-back jacks in as many innings. Later in the inning, Yordan Alvarez hit his second home run of the night, and the sixth of the night for Houston, with a mammoth shot to the upper deck in right field. Robinson Chirinos scored another before the inning was over, an RBI-single to make it an 11-0 Astros lead. They went the next few innings scoreless before scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth, making it 12-0.
WHERE did this ball land!? pic.twitter.com/H8bejMym4i
— MLB (@MLB) September 10, 2019
2) Greinke tosses six scoreless
Meanwhile, Zack Greinke was quietly putting together a solid start on the mound. He didn't allow a hit until the top of the third, and only one other over his six innings of work.
He issued no walks and struck out five, throwing arguably his best start since joining the Astros. Greinke's final line: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 0 HR.
3) Relievers finish it off while the offense keeps scoring
With Greinke done after six scoreless, the Astros turned the ball over to Bryan Abreu in the seventh. In that inning, he was able to work around a two-out double to keep Oakland scoreless. In the bottom of the inning, Houston put two on base on a single and an error, setting up the seventh home run of the night, a three-run shot by Robinson Chirinos to push the lead to 15-0.
Abreu returned in the top of the eighth and despite allowing a leadoff walk was able to record another shutout inning. Cionel Perez had the ninth, and he completed the shutout with a scoreless inning to finish off the win in the series opener.
Up Next: Game two of this four-game series will be Tuesday night with another 7:10 PM start. Oakland is expected to start Tanner Roark (9-8, 3.86 ERA) while Houston will send Wade Miley (13-4, 3.35 ERA) to the mound to try and erase his terrible last start from his memory.
The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.
Zion Williamson had 27 points and nine assists, and the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the struggling Houston Rockets 127-105 on Thursday night for their eighth victory in nine games.
“We know what the stakes are,” said Williamson, who — if he remains healthy — is on track to compete in his first NBA playoff games this spring.
The latest victory improved the Pelicans to 34-22, good for fifth in the Western Conference.
Williamson, who has missed most of his first four seasons with injuries, has played in 45 games this season, leads New Orleans in points per game with 22.5, and looks rested after not being selected for last weekend's NBA All-Star festivities.
“At this point, I've got to win," Williamson said when asked about the opportunity to compete in some of the highest-stakes games of his career in coming weeks. "That's the only way to show people.”
Playing without high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram, who sat out with a non-COVID illness, the Pelicans got highly productive nights from their other four usual starters.
CJ McCollum scored 28 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and Herb Jones had 17 points and a career-high seven steals for New Orleans, which led 63-50 at halftime and by as many as 29 points during the second half.
“Herb brings it every night — he really does — on both ends of the floor,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said of Jones, whose highlights included a driving dunk as he was fouled, three 3s and an alley-oop lob to Williamson. “When he has nights like tonight, where he's guarding everybody and getting steals, getting deflections, getting blocks, rebounding the ball, shooting the ball well, you can see how important he is to this group.”
Alperen Sengun had 20 points and nine rebounds for Houston, which has lost six of seven and played the last eight minutes with its starters on the bench.
"You have to take a little pride in guarding your matchup and knowing their tendencies and where they want to get to," Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “Especially Williamson – that’s what he does, forces his way to the basket; I think the blow-bys and straight-line drives were a little too easy for him.
"Even when we doubled him at times, he still beat the double teams,” Udoka added. “Our starters weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.”
Rookie Amen Thompson, the fourth overall pick in last summer's NBA draft, scored a season-high 22 points. Jalen Green added 10 points for the Rockets.
Green inserted Trey Murphy III into the starting lineup for Ingram. He scored 13 points, but the career 39% 3-point shooter struggled with his accuracy, missing 8 of 10 from deep.
The final meeting of the regular season between the Southwest Division rivals was a chippy one. Officials called 39 total fouls — 21 on the Pelicans — and had to step in to break up a brief fourth quarter scrum that resulted in technical fouls for Valanciunas and Reggie Bullock Jr.
“That's part of the game and I think there was a little frustration (from Houston), based on the score,” Green said. “But for us, it's being the more mentally tough team in between the lines. No matter what happens, we're not backing down from anybody.”
The Pelicans tied their season series with the Rockets at 2-2, thanks in part to the 28th double-double this season by Valanciunas, who did most of his scoring inside, but also hit both 3s he attempted.
Williamson, who routinely handles the ball and initiates the offense like a guard, had his fifth game this season with at least nine assists.
“We’re seeing Zion get better and better as the season progresses,” Green said. “This is what happens when you put the ball in his hands, especially early.”
Rockets: Host Phoenix on Friday.
Pelicans: Host Miami on Friday.