REST FOR THE WICKED

Barry Laminack: The Rockets need to start resting players NOW

James Harden and Chris Paul need to get more time on the sidelines. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With all the talk of landing the No. 1 seed going on in this town and in Oakland, it's probably not the most popular opinion to have but I think the Rockets need to start resting players.

At the very least they need to start cutting  back on James Harden and Chris Paul's minutes (and for that matter Clint Capela’s, too).

I understand that the one seed is important, but with all of the teams sitting at three through eight only being separated by 4fourgames, there really isn’t that much of a difference between the rest of the West (and while I still say Portland is a scary out, after that no other team in the west below Portland should scare the Rockets).

Let's be honest, at this point the Rockets and Warriors are on a crash course to face each other in the conference finals anway, and while home court advantage is important, both of these teams are capable of stealing one on the road and capturing the home court advantage that is being so coveted right now.

Watching Chris Paul grab the back of his leg and limp around two nights at the end of the Portland game is when it hit me.

Add to that James Harden getting banged around on a nightly basis and Capela’s sprained thumb and it’s clear to me that at some point the Rockets have to look over at the Warriors, see how banged up their squad is and takes steps to avoid the injury issues they are suffering through right now.

Especially with the playoffs right around the corner.  

Now is the perfect time to scale back on the minutes of Harden, Paul and Capela. 20 to 25 minutes a each would be great (and no, there's little chance that doing so would cost Harden is MVP).

If you’re still not convinced this is the right thing to do, need I remind you the big complaint from everyone as the Rockets got bounced from the playoffs last year was how “tired’ Harden looked?

Hell, I’d even be good (ok, great) with Harden and CP3 sitting out a few games between now and the playoffs. I’m not so sure the Warriors can catch the Rockets at this point anyway - what with all the problems they are having - plus the 2 teams having similar remaining strength of schedules favors the Rockets 4 game lead as well. So with teams like Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago and Sacramento left on the schedule, any of these games would be the perfect time to sit Paul and/or Harden in hopes of letting them get as close to 100 percent as possible.

 

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Carlos Correa had a big home run Saturday night. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

With four wins in a row, including the first two of this series, Houston had a chance to keep their momentum going to lock up a series win on Saturday in this four-game set. Although Texas would make it interesting late, the Astros would hold them off to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 5

Astros' Record: 23-17, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia (1-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dane Dunning (2-3)

Action in the first

After getting trounced the night prior, the Rangers managed to grab early momentum with a run to start the scoring Saturday night against Luis Garcia. It came after a one-out triple set up a sac fly, giving Texas a 1-0 lead. Houston quickly took control back in their favor, though, putting up four in the bottom of the inning on a two-RBI single by Alex Bregman and a two-run homer by Carlos Correa, making it 4-1 Astros.

The scoreboard went quiet after that inning, with both teams slowing down at the plate. Garcia put together a decent night, allowing just the one run over five innings of work, erasing some runners throughout the night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 94 P.

Rangers tighten it up late

Bryan Abreu was the first reliever to enter for Houston, taking over for Garcia in the top of the sixth. He worked around a leadoff single, keeping it a three-run game, then returned for a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Correa led off with a double in the bottom of the inning, setting up a two-run Kyle Tucker homer, extending his recent hot streak and the lead to 6-1.

Ryne Stanek took over on the mound for Houston in the top of the eighth but worked himself into trouble with a single and walk to set up a three-run homer by Joey Gallo to make it a two-run game at 6-4. He would manage just one out before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Brandon Bielak. Bielak would allow a run while getting the final two outs, making it 6-5.

Astros secure the series

After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, Ryan Pressly would try to notch another save and close the door on the Rangers. He would get the job done, sitting the Rangers down in order, keeping Houston's winning streak intact.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game set will start at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Lance McCullers JR. (3-1, 3.10 ERA), fresh off of a recent gem, will look to continue his success for the Astros, while Kyle Gibson (3-0, 2.28) will try to stay perfect on the season for the Rangers.

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