SHOWDOWN WITH THE CHAMPS

Even though it is early, tonight's Warriors matchup has greater meaning for Rockets

No Steph Curry tonight for the Warriors makes this a big chance at a win for the Rockets. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It's best not to operate in hyperbole when discussing a single game of any sport that isn't football. In football, the season is so condensed that any one loss could very well spell disaster for a team.  In baseball, or in this case basketball, teams have scores of contests so the impact of one game usually goes unnoticed.

The problem is when one bad game becomes two, and two becomes five, and five becomes seven. The problem is when chemistry development is hamstrung at the hands of injuries and suspensions. And the problem could quite possibly be distractions.

It is through this unique set of coinciding circumstances that the Rockets find themselves in a seemingly hyperbolic situation halfway through November. Tonight is Houston's first must-win game.

Houston hosts the 12-3 Golden State Warriors tonight, a super team of super teams and clear favorite to run away with yet another NBA championship. The Rockets, conversely, are 6-7 at the moment as they drag themselves out of a the 1-5 hole they face planted into to start the season.

Houston has since recomposed and put together a 5-2 run. Their defensive rating has flipped from 26th (115.6)  in their first six games to 10th (106.6) in their last seve, and in those same spans their offensive rating has swung from 24th (105.1) to 14th (109.3). All of that is to say that Houston isn't quite the dog that their record would necessarily suggest.

That swing, though, is exactly what makes tonight's matchup so pivotal. Critics will point to two of Houston's wins being against bottom feeder opponents, but supporters could counter with Houston's wins over playoff contenders in the Pacers and Nuggets. Beating the Warriors would end that argument for the moment.

Make no mistake, this isn't some pipe dream either. Houston is perfectly capable of winning this game. In fact, as of this writing, they're currently 1.5 point favorites to win. I wouldn't exactly bet the farm with those odds, but with Stephen Curry out and the Rockets as healthy as they've been all season, it's entirely possible that Houston could win tonight.

So there is is. Houston is in about as much of a must-win game as an NBA team with championship aspirations can be in November. Would a loss derail the season? No. A win, however, could all but erase their awful start. Wins against Golden State are the only metric by which the Rockets have measured their success for the past few seasons, and tonight we'll get our first opportunity to see just how they stack up this year.

 

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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