ROUND TWO

An early look at the Rockets vs. Jazz NBA playoff series

An early look at the Rockets vs. Jazz NBA playoff series
James Harden and the Rockets will get Utah in Round 2. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Rockets know their next opponent in the 2018 playoffs. 

The Utah Jazz beat Oklahoma City 96-91 to wrap up their series Friday night. Utah, the five seed, finished 48-34, but were one of the hottest teams in basketball down the stretch. The strength for Utah is defense, as the Jazz ranked second in the NBA.

The Rockets swept the season series between the teams, but most of the games were early on. The Jazz will be facing a quick turnaround, as Game 1 is Sunday afternoon at Toyota Center. They also might be without point guard Ricky Rubio, who left Friday night's game with a hamstring injury.

The complete series schedule will not be determined until the Boston-Milwaukee series is settled, but Game 2 will be Wednesday at Toyota Center.

What to watch for the Jazz: Center Rudy Gobert will represent a serious matchup problem for the Rockets, but then so did Karl-Anthony Towns and we saw haw that worked out. Rubio played at a high level throughout the Thunder series, and his availability will be key. Rookie star Donovan Mitchell had 38 points in the win over the Thunder Friday night and averaged 20.5 points per game in the regular season and upped that to 28.5 in the opening playoff series. The two teams have a long playoff history, but that was a long time ago and does not include any current players. The Jazz will offer a nice test, and their defense might win them a game or two, but the Rockets have too much firepower and should advance.

Game 1 details

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Site: Toyota Center.

TV: ABC

 

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Yordan Alvarez had four hits on Tuesday night. Composite Getty Image.

Salvador Perez hit a game-ending single in the 10th inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Houston Astros 4-3 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive victory.

Garrett Hampson began the Kansas City 10th on second as the automatic runner, replacing Vinnie Pasquantino. Hampson raced home when Perez led off the inning with a single to center against Wander Suero (0-1).

“We’re gonna play hard,” Perez said. “We’re gonna do our best, especially right now. We've got new comfort.”

James McArthur (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

Perez and Nelson Velázquez each had two hits for the Royals. Bobby Witt Jr. and Maikel Garcia each drove in a run.

Nick Anderson, Chris Stratton, John Schreiber and McArthur combined for five scoreless innings of four-hit ball in relief of Royals starter Cole Ragans.

“These guys are incredible,” Ragans said of the bullpen. “They pitched incredible. They kept us right there. That’s really, really big.”

Witt's biggest contribution may have been a diving stop on a two-out single by Jeremy Peña in the top of the 10th. Had the ball gotten past the young shortstop, the Astros likely would have taken the lead.

“I thought it did have a chance of going through,” Peña said. “I’ll shout out to Bobby Witt. (He) made a nice play.”

Yordan Alvarez had four hits and two RBIs for Houston, which had won two in a row. Peña had two hits and scored a run.

The Astros loaded the bases with three straight singles to start the first inning, but Ragans limited the damage to a run-scoring fielder’s choice for Yainer Diaz.

“I don’t think (Ragans) had his best stuff,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “That’s a good lineup, and they made him work. (But) if we turn that double play in the first or he’s able to get Alvarez out one of those times with two strikes, he’s coming out of there with one or maybe no runs. Credit to him really."

Alvarez singled in Peña with two out in the second, and then doubled home Mauricio Dubón in the fourth.

Ragans surrendered 10 hits in five innings for Kansas City. He struck out five and walked one.

Houston went 5 for 18 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base.

“We had some opportunities to get some guys in (with) less than two outs," Houston manager Joe Espada said. "We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Houston right-hander Cristian Javier was charged with three runs, two earned, and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Maikel Garcia’s sacrifice fly in the fifth stopped Javier’s scoreless streak at 15 innings to start the season. Witt drove in Hunter Renfroe with a two-out triple, and then scored on an error on third baseman Alex Bregman.

TRANSACTIONS

Astros: Placed LHP Framber Valdez on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. They selected the contract of Suero from Triple-A Sugar Land to take his place. The Astros also recalled LHP Parker Mushinski from Sugar Land and optioned RHP Blair Henley to the minors. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Astros transferred RHP Oliver Ortega to the 60-day IL.

Royals: Acquired RHP Colin Selby from Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Connor Oliver. To make room on the 40-man roster for Selby, LHP Josh Taylor was moved to the 60-day IL. The Royals also signed RHP Zach Davies to a minor league deal.

UP NEXT

The Astros and Royals continue their three-game series Wednesday. RHP Spencer Arrighetti will make his major league debut for Houston against Seth Lugo (1-0, 0.71 ERA).

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