Astros have disappointing week against tough opponents, lose AL West lead

Gerrit Cole picked up another win. Houston Astros/Facebook

The Astros had their toughest matchups yet this week, going up against the other two best teams in the American League; the Yankees and Red Sox. I said last week that if they could come out of this week with a winning record, it would be a sign that they are still the team to beat in the AL. Did they do it? 

Monday, May 28th: 34-20 Astros (Justin Verlander) vs. 33-16 Yankees (Domingo German)

Houston started the week with a Memorial Day matchup against the Yankees in the Bronx. The difference-maker in the game came early, a three-run homer by J.D. Davis who was called up last week after Derek Fisher landed on the DL. Evan Gattis extended the lead to 4-0 in the top of the fourth with an RBI single. Verlander had another terrific game going, though did take a hit to his ERA by allowing a solo home run to Greg Bird to leadoff the bottom of the seventh. Verlander would get two outs into the seventh before his day was over, bringing in Will Harris who finished the inning. Jose Altuve had a homer of his own in the top of the eighth, making it 5-1, a score that Chris Devenski and Ken Giles were able to hold with an inning each of work from the bullpen, securing the win.
Final Score: Astros 5, Yankees 1

Tuesday, May 29th: 35-20 Astros (Charlie Morton) vs. 33-17 Yankees (CC Sabathia)

The Yankees were able to put up much more offense on Tuesday, starting in the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run by Brett Gardner off of Charlie Morton to take a quick 1-0 lead. Evan Gattis answered right back for the Astros, hitting a solo homer of his own in the top of the second to tie the game up at one apiece. The back-and-forth continued over the next few innings, with the Yankees going up 2-1 in the bottom of the second before Houston got a two-RBI double from Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the fourth to regain the lead at 3-2. They extended that to 5-2 in the top of the fifth with RBIs from Yuli Gurriel and Gattis, his second of the day. Aaron Judge made his presence known with a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth, trimming the lead to 5-3, but the Yankees would be unable to get any closer... until the ninth inning. Chris Devenski came on for the ninth with a 5-3 lead but saw that lead disappear after Gardner's second home run of the game, this time for two runs to tie the game. The game went to extras, where Brad Peacock was the next bullpen pitcher to fall victim to the Yankees offense, allowing the walk-off run on an RBI single by Gleyber Torres.
Final Score (10 innings): Astros 5, Yankees 6

Wednesday, May 30th: 35-21 Astros (Dallas Keuchel) vs. 34-17 Yankees (Luis Severino)

Wednesday night's game was expected to be a strong pitching duel, with Dallas Keuchel who has been generally strong at Yankees stadium going against Luis Severino. Keuchel instead had a rough night, starting in the bottom of the first when New York took a 1-0 lead on a sac fly by Giancarlo Stanton. Keuchel did well to only allow one run in the rough inning and rebounded well over the next few innings. Max Stassi was the first Astro to finally get a hold of a pitch from Severino, hitting a two-run homer to give Houston a 2-1 lead. Keuchel got into trouble again in the bottom of the fifth, and this time gave up two runs, allowing the Yankees to go back in front 3-2. He would allow one more run before his night was done in the bottom of the sixth before Collin McHugh relieved him and allowed New York's fifth run of the night. Stassi got his third RBI of the night on a double in the top of the ninth to try and start a comeback against closer Aroldis Chapman, but Chapman would stop Houston there and lock up the series win for New York.
Final Score: Astros 3, Yankees 5

Thursday, May 31st: 39-17 Red Sox (Drew Pomeranz) vs. 35-22 Astros (Lance McCullers Jr.)

Houston bounced back from the rough series in New York with a strong showing at home on Thursday night to open the series with Boston. Carlos Correa set the tone early with a two-run home run for a quick 2-0 lead, though Boston did answer back with two runs of their own in the top of the third off of Lance McCullers. McCullers, other than the rough third inning, had a strong night against the strong Red Sox, allowing just those two runs on four hits and finishing six innings. He left with a 4-2 lead after Tony Kemp hustled out an RBI infield single in the bottom of the fourth, followed by an RBI bunt by Jake Marisnick. The 4-2 score held with Will Harris getting five strong outs between the seventh and eighth inning, Hector Rondon finishing the eighth, then Ken Giles notching another save.
Final Score: Red Sox 2, Astros 4

Friday, June 1st: 39-18 Red Sox (Chris Sale) vs. 36-22 Astros (Gerrit Cole)

Friday night was set up to be yet another strong pitching match in the week with Chris Sale for Boston facing off against Gerrit Cole for Houston. Instead, the teams went back and forth in the early innings, combining for seven runs off the two strong starters. Houston struck first with George Springer scoring on a wild pitch followed by an RBI infield single by Yuli Gurriel, getting a quick 2-0 lead. The Red Sox got a run back in the top of the second, but Springer and Gurriel accounted for two more runs in the bottom of the third with the former hitting a solo home run and the latter getting his second RBI single of the game. Cole looked to be rattled in the top of the fourth, giving up back-to-back solo home runs to lead off the inning and bring Boston within one run, but bounced back and finished seven innings without allowing any more runs. Houston added three insurance runs after a two-run home run from Carlos Correa and a solo homer from Evan Gattis in the bottom of the eighth, but they would prove unneeded with Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock each pitching an inning to close out the win.
Final Score: Red Sox 3, Astros 7

Saturday, June 2nd: 39-19 Red Sox (David Price) vs. 37-22 Astros (Justin Verlander)

Boston took their first lead of the series in the top of the first Saturday night, getting an RBI from J.D. Martinez off of his former Tiger teammate Justin Verlander to make it 1-0. Marwin Gonzalez tied the game 1-1 with an RBI triple in the bottom of the second before making an amazing leaping catch at the scoreboard wall in left field in the top of the third. Unfortunately, his impact with the wall on the play resulted in him leaving the game. Alex Bregman gave Houston the lead with a two-run shot to the Crawford Boxes in the bottom of the third, making it 3-1 Astros. Verlander looked to be settled in after the earned run in the first, but Martinez struck again in the top of the sixth with another RBI single to make it a 3-2 game. With Verlander done after six innings, Will Harris came in and after getting the first two outs gave up two home runs, allowing the Red Sox to go up 5-3. Jose Altuve got himself in position to help the Astros in the bottom of the eighth, working a one-out walk before stealing second and third, then scoring on an RBI single from Yuli Gurriel, making it 5-4. After pitching a shutout eighth, Tony Sipp came back out for the ninth and got two more outs before being pulled in favor of Joe Smith who got the final out of the top of the ninth. Boston's closer Craig Kimbrel was out in the bottom of the ninth and retired the Astros in order to get the save for the Red Sox.
Final Score: Red Sox 5, Astros 4

Sunday, June 3rd: 40-19 Red Sox (Rick Porcello) vs. 37-23 Astros (Charlie Morton)

In the primetime matchup on Sunday night, the Red Sox got the best of Charlie Morton early with a two-run homer in the top of the first to go up 2-0. George Springer answered back with a leadoff dinger off of Rick Porcello to bring Houston back within 1 in the bottom of the inning. Both pitchers settled in after that, holding the 2-1 score until the top of the fifth when Andrew Benintendi launched a no-doubter to the upper deck in right field to extend Boston’s lead to 3-1. Morton struggled in the sixth, allowing three more runs before getting removed from the game, leaving with a 6-1 deficit. The Astros finally got some offense against Porcello in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases before an Alex Bregman single scored two runs to make it 6-3, ending Porcello’s night. Boston's bullpen held, keeping the Astros to their three runs. Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense added insurance runs off of Collin McHugh in the eighth and Ken Giles who was brought in to get some work in the ninth. 
Final Score: Red Sox 9, Astros 3


With the loss on Sunday night, not only did the Astros secure a losing record on the week at 3-4, they also let the Mariners take over in first place of the AL West. Granted, this week had two very tough matchups for Houston, but they showed in their wins that they can go out on any night and get it done, while in a couple of losses, they seemed unable to find their peak performance to get over the hump or keep the other team from doing so. The good news is Houston has a very favorable schedule coming up to take them to the All-Star break so they could break out, catch some heavy momentum, and go into the break on a high note and get re-energized for the playoff push. The starting rotation looked more human this week with all of the starters having some rough patches even in the wins, and the offense didn't really look too dominant either. Much of this is a product of who they were facing, but it still results in a skeptical look at what this team's future holds if they can't smooth things out before the end of the year. 

MVP of the Week - Evan Gattis

How in the world does a guy that is currently sitting with a .224 average make MVP of the week? Well, partly because no one really had a standout week, and Evan Gattis has been on a tear recently. Gattis had 5 RBIs this week, and if you look at his last ten games, has 11. He hasn't been fantastic or even totally reliable at the plate, but he came through in some big ways over the last week or so, and therefore earns a little appreciation from me.

This week

  • Tue-Wed: (37-22) Mariners @ (37-24) Astros
  • Thu-Sun (37-24) Astros @ (25-37) Rangers

The Astros have another Monday off day then will welcome the Mariners for two games in Houston which will likely decide who goes into the weekend with the AL West lead. Then, the Astros will travel up I-45 to face the struggling Rangers for four games in Arlington. The Astros should make easy work of these teams and breeze through a 4-2 or better week against these AL West foes. 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome