Houston is now 2-0

Astros stay hot at the plate in win over A's

Astros Jose Alutve
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Jose Altuve was a huge part of Houston's win against Oakland

After handily taking care of the A's in a lopsided 8-1 win on Opening Day, the Astros sent their same lineup out to try and stay undefeated on the young season on Friday night. In game number two, they sent Cristian Javier to the mound looking to continue the success he had in his rookie campaign in the shortened 2020 season.

Javier would not last as long as Houston would have hoped, but the Astros' offense, led by a strong performance from the top of the batting order, would get the job done to improve them to 2-0 on the early season.

Final Score: Astros 9, A's 5

Astros' Record: 2-0, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Jesus Luzardo (0-1)

Astros find success their second time through the order

Much like the night before, the Astros were quiet at the plate the first time through the order, then gained traction the next time through. Recently-named leadoff man Jose Altuve led off the third by working a four-pitch walk, moved to third on a double by Michael Brantley, and then scored on a three-run home run by Alex Bregman, giving him one in each game so far this year and putting Houston in front 3-0.

They kept terrorizing Jesus Luzardo again in the fourth, starting with a leadoff solo homer by Yuli Gurriel followed later by Brantley's second double in as many innings, this one bringing in a run to make it a 5-0 lead and keeping him red hot at the plate. Oakland was able to find similar success their second time through the lineup as well against Cristian Javier, who started the night with three perfect innings then ran into trouble in the fourth.

Oakland knocks Javier out early

In the bottom of the fourth, Javier allowed a leadoff single followed by an RBI-triple, then later allowed a one-out sac fly to cut the lead to 5-2. A single in the next at-bat to put two on base prompted Dusty Baker to make the early pitching change, bringing in Bryan Abreu. Javier's final line: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 73 P.

Abreu was able to get the final out of the inning, a lengthy one, before returning for the fifth. He made quick work of Oakland, retiring three batters in order, sending the game along to the sixth. After a scoreless top-half, Abreu tried to keep his rhythm going in the bottom of the inning but had to work around a single and a walk to get through it to keep it 5-2.

Astros tack on runs in the ninth to secure the win

Thanks to an aggressive tag-up on a fly ball to the shortstop by Altuve, Houston extended their lead to four runs in the top of the seventh before moving on to their next reliever, Brooks Raley. Raley did not have the greatest stuff in his regular-season debut, giving up a leadoff walk that turned into a one-out, two-run home run to trim the lead to 6-4.

Joe Smith would complete the seventh, then Houston moved on to Blake Taylor, who would see a leadoff double come around to score and make it a one-run game after a couple of groundouts. Houston regained control of the momentum in the top of the ninth, starting with a leadoff single by Altuve, a double by Brantley, then an intentional walk to Bregman to load the bases with no outs.

Kyle Tucker was up next and brought in two runs with a single, which blasted past the shortstop into center field. Houston loaded the bases again with two out, then received some help from Myles Straw's speed to bring in another run. Ryan Pressly would come in for the bottom of the ninth, having already warmed up in preparation for a save opportunity, and closed out the win.

Up Next: Game three of this four-game series will get started at 3:07 PM Central on Saturday. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 3.93 ERA in 2020), who just signed a five-year, $85 million extension with the Astros, will begin his 2021 season looking to provide a complete, healthy season for the first time since he underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of 2018. Oakland will counter with Cole Irvin, who came to the A's from the Phillies in an off-season deal.

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Rockets defeat Clippers, 116-105 Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images.

Rookie Cam Whitmore scored 21 points and the Houston Rockets beat the playoff-bound Los Angeles Clippers 116-105 on Sunday to finish at .500 season and avoid a fourth straight losing season.

Rookie Amen Thompson had a triple-double of 18 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists for the already eliminated Rockets, who finished 41-41 in coach Ime Udoka's first season. Houston was 22-60 last year and 20-62 in 2022.

The Pacific Division champion and fourth-seeded Clippers are headed to the playoffs, where they'll meet Luka Donic and the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round next weekend.

Terance Mann scored 24 points and Amir Coffey added 18 for the Clippers in their last regular-season game at Crypto.com Arena. It's where they've juggled dates with the Lakers and NHL’s Kings since 1999. The team is moving to its new Intuit Dome in Inglewood next season.

The Clippers couldn't avoid their first three-game losing streak since James Harden's first game with the team, when they lost six in a row from Nov. 1-14.

Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard missed his eighth straight game because of right knee inflammation. The team went 4-4 over that stretch.

Coach Tyronn Lue gave his usual opaque answers about Leonard’s status for the upcoming playoffs before the game. “We’ll see. He feels OK,” said Lue, who, when asked if Leonard has been working out, said, “He’s been doing a little something.”

Also sitting out for the Clippers were Paul George, Harden, Ivica Zubac, Russell Westbrook, Norman Powell and Bones Hyland, who scored a combined 64 points in his previous three games.

Xavier Moon had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists in his first career start for the Clippers. Moon, a 6-footer, beat 7-foot-4 Boban Marjanovic in a jump ball in the fourth. They matched up again and Marjanovic stuck out his long arm to poke the ball away from Moon.

“He's a big boy,” said Clippers assistant Dan Craig who coached the game, “but X got that jump ball against him.”

Marjanovic scored 13 points in 12 minutes of the fourth. The former Clipper delighted the fans when he smilingly missed two free throws to ensure they would receive free chicken sandwiches.

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