Houston takes the series 3-1

Astros take series against Mariners after big offensive showing

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

A day after their first loss of the 2020 season and the loss of Justin Verlander to injury, temporarily at least, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park for the fourth and final game of the series against the Mariners. Josh James was on the mound making his first start of the year looking to provide some confidence in a pitching staff now down its cornerstone. Here is how he and Houston did on Monday:

Final Score: Astros 8, Mariners 5.

Record: 3-1, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-0, 2.70 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Kendall Graveman (0-1, 13.50 ERA).

James only goes three, but Altuve and Bregman get him off the hook

Josh James struggled to throw strikes on Monday, resulting in a short start when the Astros needed to find a way to conserve arms with the newly announced absence of Justin Verlander. James recorded a couple of strikeouts, worked around a walk and a single in the first, and then struck out the side to work around a hit-by-pitch in the second.

The third inning would quickly fall apart, though, as James started it off by walking the bases loaded with no outs. He would get a much-needed double play which brought in a run, but instead of stopping the damage there, allowed a two-run homer to make it a 3-0 Seattle advantage. James would walk one more batter before recording a strikeout, but with his volatile command and high pitch count, he would see that be the end of his day. James' final line: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.

Luckily for him, his offense would have a big third inning of their own. After getting two on base with an error and a walk, Jose Altuve would come through with an RBI-double to get one of the runs back. That brought Alex Bregman to the plate, who took advantage and launched his 100th-career home run, a go-ahead three-run homer to give Houston a 4-3 lead.

Bielak makes his debut as Astros extend the lead

Brandon Bielak went to the mound in the top of the fourth to make his major-league debut and start the night for the bullpen. Bielak was impressive in his first inning, getting two quick outs before recording a strikeout to send the Mariners down 1-2-3 on just nine pitches. He returned for the fifth, and once again retired Seattle in order.

Meanwhile, the Astros were able to add to their lead. Dustin Garneau, making his debut behind the plate for the Astros, made it 5-3 with a two-out RBI-triple in the bottom of the fourth. Jose Altuve added another RBI to his game, hitting a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth. They kept tacking on, with Michael Brantley hitting into the right-field corner for an RBI-double, and Josh Reddick doing the same a few batters later, pushing the lead to five runs at 8-3.

Bielak would continue his debut in the top of the sixth and worked around his first baserunners to erase a double and single by getting a big strikeout to keep it a five-run game. In the seventh, he would stay on the mound to keep eating up innings, but after reaching 53 pitches and allowing two runs, one unearned on an error, he would see his night end, though it would still go down as an impressive first appearance. Enoli Paredes would get two strikeouts to finish the inning.

Houston locks up the series win

Cy Sneed was next out of Houston's bullpen, and he worked around a two-out walk to maintain the three-run lead. Roberto Osuna would come in for the save in the top of the ninth and would record his first of the season by keeping Seattle off the board to secure the series win.

Up Next: The Astros will turn the page to the next series of 2020, a quick two-game set against the Dodgers in Houston. The series opener will be Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central from Minute Maid Park and will feature the pitching matchup of Framber Valdez for the Astros going opposite of Walker Buehler for the Dodgers.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome