The Houston Cougars survive Jayden Gardner's 29-point double-double in win over ECU.

Cougars extend winning streak to five in victory over the Pirates

Coming off an assist by big man Charles Coleman, sophomore forward Jayden Gardner made an uncontested layup to inaugurate the game. Gardner's basket was the first of 11 made field goals as the North Carolina native scored a game-high 29 points, to go along with 19 rebounds in 40 minutes of action.

Despite his great performance, Gardner could not lead his team to a victory, as the Houston Cougars took a 69-59 win over the East Carolina Pirates Wednesday night inside the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, NC. While improving their winning streak to five, Houston (17-4, 7-1 American Athletic Conference) has now won 11 of their last 12 games.

Outside of giving up nearly 30 points to Gardner, the Cougars had a solid performance on the defensive end as no other player scored in double-figures for the Pirates. Houston held ECU to 32.8% shooting from the field, and an unpleasant 17.4% from behind the arc.

Unlike the Pirates, the Cougars, who are currently ranked No. 21 in the nation, had three players who scored in double-digits. Freshman guard Caleb Mills scored a team-high 18 points (7-18 FG, 3-6 3PT), while sophomore Quentin Grimes enjoyed his first game scoring over 10 points since Christmas Day — as the Woodlands native registered 15 points and six rebounds in the win.

With the Pirates trailing by one, the Cougars took full control of this game in the final four minutes of the first half. Following a made 3-point field goal by Grimes, Houston closed out the first period on a 13-1 run to take a 33-21 lead into the half.

For the second time this season, Chris Harris Jr. provided Houston with a great presence in the middle, with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in the win.

Up next, the Cougars will travel to Cincinnati on Saturday to take on the 13-7, 6-2 Cincinnati Bearcats. Tip-off is slated for 5 P.M. CT.

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McCullers Jr. had nine strikeouts over four

McCullers Jr. looks sharp in tune-up before Rangers overpower Houston's bullpen

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite watching their chance to clinch their playoff spot on the field slip away in the walk-off loss on Friday, the Astros benefited from a loss by the Angels later in the night, securing their playoff berth. That meant they could play conservatively in the final two games of the season against the Rangers in Arlington. Here's a quick rundown of Saturday's matchup:

Final Score: Rangers 6, Astros 1.

Record: 29-30, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Jimmy Herget (1-0, 3.20 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Brandon Bielak (3-3, 6.75 ERA).

McCullers Jr. looks playoff-ready 

With nothing substantial to play for, the Astros did not expect to ask Lance McCullers Jr. to go deep into Saturday's game, instead giving him a few innings for a tune-up before assuming whatever role he would play in the post-season. He looked impressive, a promising sign after his injury stint and struggles on the road at points this season.

He finished four innings, during which he racked up a season-high nine strikeouts while giving up no runs on just two hits, both singles, and two walks. His final line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 0 HR, 61 P.

Both teams trade runs as  they go to their bullpens

Meanwhile, neither team was getting much going at the plate in the early goings, keeping it a scoreless game through the first five. Brandon Bielak took over for McCullers Jr. starting in the fifth but would allow the first run of the night in the bottom of the sixth as the Rangers would get three singles to take a 1-0 lead.

After Kyle Gibson held the Astros at bay for six innings, Houston would get on the board against Texas' bullpen, getting a leadoff double by Aledmyz Diaz in the top of the seventh. Diaz moved to third on a sac bunt, then scored on a sac fly by Jack Mayfield, making it 1-1.

Rangers blow it open in the seventh

The tie didn't last long, as Bielak would put two on base in the bottom of the seventh before giving up a three-run homer to make it a 4-1 Rangers lead. Andre Scrubb was next out of Houston's bullpen and allowed a solo home run on his first pitch. Scrubb would complete the inning, but not before allowing another run on three singles to push Texas' lead to 6-1.

Cy Sneed was next out of Houston's bullpen for the bottom of the eighth and tossed a scoreless frame with two strikeouts. Houston would not make the unlikely comeback in the top of the ninth, with the Rangers taking the game 6-1.

Up Next: The last game of the Astros' 2020 regular season will be Sunday at 2:05 PM Central, as are most other games on the MLB slate on the league's final regular-season day. Houston's starter is TBD as they will continue to preserve their arms for the best-of-three first round that starts on Tuesday, while Texas will send Jordan Lyles (1-6, 7.08 ERA) to the mound.

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