Every-Thing Sports

Astros lose, but no need to panic

Astros lose, but no need to panic
photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Astros dropped Game 3 of the ALDS to the Rays by a score of 10-3. Former Astros pitcher Charlie Morton gave up a home run to Jose Altuve in the top of the first inning. He had to throw 52 pitches to get out of the first two innings. After that he settled down. Morton's settling coincided with Zack Greinke's unraveling.

He was about to cruise through the first two innings, then a three-run homer in the bottom of the second started the slide. He left the game with one out in the bottom of the fourth. Greinke gave up six earned runs on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Although he had only thrown 61 pitches, it was time for him to come out of the game. No use in allowing him to keep going despite a low pitch count because it just wasn't his day as the Rays had his number.

This was just a blip on the radar. Some may see this as a sign that the Greinke trade was a bad move. Others will suggest it shows the Astros can only rely on Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Some will point out the bullpen gave up four runs themselves and can't be counted on either. Here's why I'm not worried:

Starting staff still a three-headed monster

Despite Greinke's poor showing, he still maintained a low pitch count. Five of the six runs he gave up were via homerun. Three of his 61 pitches happened to have been hit really hard and/or missed their location. There's not another team in the playoffs with a 1-2-3 punch like the Astros have. Some may have a good staff, but none compares.

Home cooking

The Astros won the right to have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs because of their 107-55 regular season record. They were 60-21 at home, and 47-34 on the road. Winning 58% of your road games means you'll drop a few here and there. As long as they're alive in the playoffs, they'll play more home games than road games. Couple that with setting up their starters to pitch those home games and crucial road games will give them a decided advantage.

The lineup

The lineup won't continue to slip up and not produce run support for the the pitching staff. Altuve doubled in the top of the third and was stranded there. The score at that time was 3-1 Rays. If Altuve gets knocked in and maybe a couple others get hits, it could've changed the outcome of the game. There's been a few times in which the lineup didn't support the pitching staff this season, but they were few and far in between. One should expect the same thing in the postseason.

I had a conversation with a couple good friends last weekend about the Astros postseason potential. One asked who'd we rather see them play in the ALDS and if we had a preference. I said "IDGAF who they play because they only need 11 more wins to win another ring!" With two of those 11 wins secured, let's look forward to number three, four, five, and so on. They're nine wins away from the ultimate prize. Let's not lose focus on the ask at hand simply because they dropped a game to an oppnent on the road in a place where they've had trouble. Game 4 is still on the road, but Verlander is pitching. I like their chances of advancing to the ALCS that game.

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Suns defeat Rockets, 110-105. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images.

Phoenix All-Star Devin Booker and Houston rookie Cam Whitmore got into a minor scuffle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night and both players were called for a technical foul.

With a couple big blocks on the ensuing possession, Suns center Jusuf Nurkic was there to back his star teammate.

Booker scored 35 points, Kevin Durant added 24 and the Suns held off the Rockets 110-105, with the teams set to meet again in Phoenix on Saturday night.

Nurkic had 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks before fouling out. His biggest moment came in the fourth, when he stuffed Whitmore twice on the possession following the scuffle, drawing huge roars from the Phoenix crowd.

“Very important — that's the team sticking together,” Booker said. “That goes a long way. That's what you need when things get tough, it gets to the thick of things and the energy is high. You want to know you have people on your team that are built like that.”

Booker scored 20 points in the first quarter to help give the Suns an 18-point lead they would never relinquish. He has scored at least 20 points in an NBA-high six quarters this season.

Three-time All-Star Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game because of a hamstring injury.

The Suns took an 86-75 lead into the final quarter. Houston cut the advantage to six midway through the fourth, but Booker responded immediately with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine.

That led to the brief skirmish between Booker and Whitmore. Tempers stayed hot over the next few minutes — Houston's Alperen Sengun fouled out and then got two quick technicals, earning an ejection.

Booker hit both of the technical free throws, Nurkic followed with his two free throws from Sengun's foul, and that pushed the Suns' lead to 99-84. The Rockets would cut the lead to four with 16.9 seconds left, but Royce O'Neale hit two free throws to end the threat.

Jalen Green led Houston with 34 points. Fred VanVleet added 21. The Rockets connected on just 11 of 45 3-pointers and shot 33.3% from the field overall, which was their worst percentage of the season.

“It wasn't one of our better nights as far as guys getting open looks and making the extra pass,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We had a few guys who had it going, but a few guys who were struggling.”

Phoenix has won seven of its past 10 — and nine in a row at home — as it tries to stay in the top six of the Western Conference playoff race and avoid the play-in tournament. The sliding Rockets have lost eight of 10.

“We're getting confident in this building,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said.

Booker's big first quarter pushed the Suns to a 33-17 lead. The four-time All-Star made 8 of 10 shots from the field, including a 33-foot 3-pointer in the final seconds.

Phoenix settled for a 64-53 halftime lead. Booker had 26 points before the break while Green led Houston with 21.

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