Houston wins both games against Oakland

Astros sweep doubleheader against A's to gain ground in AL West

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After the shortened series with the Angels due to hurricane Laura, then protesting Friday night's game to bring awareness to social injustice, the Astros played their first games in four days on Saturday afternoon. It was a doubleheader to make up Friday's game, giving Houston the chance to make a big move in the AL West standings if they could sweep the two seven-inning games against the division-leading Oakland A's. Here is a rundown of Saturday's doubleheader:

Game 1

Final Score (7 innings): Astros 4, A's 2.

Record: 18-14, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (3-2, 5.06 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chris Bassitt (2-2, 3.72 ERA).

Astros jump ahead early against Bassitt

After a quick top of the first by Lance McCullers Jr. on the mound, the Astros put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the inning. It started with a walk by Michael Branley, followed by a double by Yuli Gurriel. That put two runners on base, which Kyle Tucker would take advantage of, hitting a three-run home run to give Houston the early 3-0 lead.

Oakland would get on the board in the top of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with no outs after a double and single to start the frame. McCullers Jr. did well to limit the damage to one run, allowing just an RBI-groundout as he would get the next three batters in order, holding on to the lead at 3-1. Josh Reddick got the run back immediately in the bottom of the inning, leading it off with a solo home run to make it a three-run game once again. The next two batters reached base, chasing Chris Bassitt out of the game after just three innings pitched.

McCullers Jr. gets the win as Houston gains a game in the division

Other than allowing the run in the fourth, McCullers Jr. was doing well through five innings and returned for the sixth. He fielded a one-out groundball in that inning, but an errant throw to first would allow the runner to reach and advance to third. That turned into an RBI-single later in the frame, cutting the lead to 4-2. He would finish the inning, ending his day as Houston went to their closer in the seventh. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 HR, 93 P.

Ryan Pressly took over in the top of the seventh to close the game out. He did so, retiring Oakland in order as Houston trimmed a game off Oakland's division lead, with a chance at another less than an hour later.

Game 2

Final Score (7 innings): Astros 6, A's 3.

Record: 19-14, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zack Greinke (2-0, 2.68 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Frankie Montas (2-3, 6.06 ERA).

Oakland scores first, but Houston responds

The A's would counter the Astros and get on the scoreboard first in game two, getting a solo home run by Ramon Laureano in the first at-bat of the game against Zack Grienke. Kyle Tucker would once again be the difference-maker in Houston's half of the first, bringing in three runs on a bases-clearing triple to give the Astros a 3-1 lead.

In the bottom of the second, they extended the lead on a home run by George Springer that flew out so quickly and far that statcast couldn't even estimate it. That made it a 5-1 game, but Oakland would chip away over the next few innings.

A's trim down the lead against Greinke

After the leadoff homer in the first, Zack Greinke was able to settle in and keep Oakland from scoring any further in the first three innings. Matt Chapman would change that with a solo home run to start the fourth, then back-to-back one-out hits by Oakland in the fifth would set up an RBI-groundout to cut Houston's lead to two runs at 5-3.

Greinke would finish the fifth, but with his pitch count at 96, would not go any further. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 2 HR, 96 P.

Houston's bullpen completes the doubleheader sweep

Blake Taylor would take over for Greinke to start the top of the sixth. He would complete the inning, erasing a leadoff walk with a strikeout and double play to put Houston three outs away from the win. In the bottom of the inning, Martin Maldonado led off with a single, then would eventually score as two more singles moved him to third to set up a sac-fly by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3.

Ryan Pressly, who was able to get the save in the first game on just eight pitches, was able to enter for a second save in the top of the seventh. He completed the impressive feat, giving Houston the doubleheader sweep and gaining two games in the AL West standings, putting them 2.5 games behind Oakland for the division lead.

Up Next: Houston will get back to their regular schedule on Sunday, with the finale of this three-game set against Oakland at 1:10 PM. The expected pitching matchup is Framber Valdez (3-2, 2.35 ERA) for the Astros going opposite Jesus Luzardo (2-1, 3.74 ERA) for the A's.

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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.

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