A game-by-game look at the week that was for the Astros: Bats come to life in 6-game winning streak

Carlos Correa had a big week for the Astros. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Panic mode was in full force heading into this week and reached its peak after the first game on this week's slate. However, all it took was a few games to turn panic into confidence. Here is how the Astros played this week to help breathe life back into the doubting fanbase:

Monday, April 16th: 10-6 Astros (Dallas Keuchel) vs. 8-5 Mariners (James Paxton)

George Springer led off the week strong for the Astros with a solo home run to lead off Monday night's game to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Keuchel held that lead well through the first three innings, looking like his vintage self by inducing a ton of ground balls for quick, easy outs. Nelson Cruz broke up his rhythm in the bottom of the fourth, tying the game 1-1 with a solo homer of his own before Keuchel looked to be back on track with a quick fifth. In the bottom of the sixth, Keuchel gave up a leadoff double before having a little bit of bad luck as he gave up a run as Springer fell down tracking a ball in the outfield which fell in for an RBI double to make it a 2-1 game. Despite giving up those two runs, Keuchel still had his best start of the year so far, keeping his pitch count low and getting through all eight innings of work before the Mariners wrapped up the win in the top of the ninth.
Final Score: Astros 1, Mariners 2

Tuesday, April 17th: 10-7 Astros (Lance McCullers Jr.)

vs. 9-5 Mariners (Ariel Miranda)

Tuesday night, A.J. Hinch shook up the batting order for the Astros in hopes of jump-starting the offense. It was the Mariners who got the scoring started, though, with a solo home run from Robinson Cano off of McCullers to give them a 1-0 lead. The Astros were able to even things up quickly in the top of the second with Yuli Gurriel scoring from third on a fielder's choice ground ball from Reddick and actually had the bases loaded with just one out, but were unable to take the lead after back-to-back strikeouts. They would leave the bases loaded again in the top of the fifth as the game stayed at 1-1 for a while. Besides the home run allowed in the first, and a walk in the bottom of the fifth, McCullers was just about perfect, allowing only that one hit over seven innings while striking out eleven batters, making a great rebound game after his disappointing last start. He would leave the game with a 3-1 lead thanks to a two-run homer from Brian McCann in the top of the sixth before tacking on another on an RBI sac fly from Springer in the top of the eighth to make it 4-1. They would go on to hold that lead thanks to solid innings from Will Haris in the eighth and Chris Devenski in the ninth.
Final Score: Astros 4, Mariners 1

Wednesday, April 18th: 11-7 Astros (Gerrit Cole) vs. 9-6 Mariners (Mike Leake)

It looked like it was going to be yet another low-scoring pitcher's duel early in Wednesday's game. The Astros jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on an RBI double from Brian McCann in the top of the second but were then held quiet by Mike Leake for the next few innings, during which the Mariners tied the game on an RBI single by Robinson Cano off of Gerrit Cole in the bottom of the third. Houston finally got ahold of Leake and broke the tie in the top of the seventh, getting a leadoff walk then ground rule double to put runners on second and third for Marwin Gonzalez, who came through to score both runners on a two-RBI single. That was just the beginning as they would score another run on a dropped fly ball, then go on to add even more on a two-RBI double from George Springer and RBI single from Carlos Correa to make it a six-run inning and break the game open at 7-1. Despite the one run that would go unearned, Cole still had a decent night, though not as dominant as his first three: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts. Joe Smith was first out of the bullpen and took over for a scoreless eighth and was followed by Collin McHugh who closed things out in the ninth for the lopsided win.
Final Score: Astros 7, Mariners 1

Thursday, April 19th: 12-7 Astros (Charlie Morton)

vs. 9-7 Mariners (Marco Gonzalez)

The series finale on Thursday afternoon got off to a slow start with both teams staying scoreless through the first four innings, including a rare triple play when Evan Gattis embarrassingly forgot how many outs there were on a no-out double play ball. However, the Astros had their second straight game with a big offensive inning thanks to an RBI from Josh Reddick then a bases-clearing double for Jose Altuve to take a 4-0 lead. That gave run support to Charlie Morton, who was the next starter to have a great game, going seven innings of scoreless baseball while allowing just three hits and striking out eight. Max Stassi hit a solo homer in the top of the seventh to make it 5-0, then Evan Gattis had a little redemption with an RBI in the eighth to make it 6-0. Tony Sipp was first up out of the bullpen and allowed the Mariners to get a couple of runs back, making it a 6-2 game at the time, but the offense put a few more runs on the board to make sure it was out of reach, getting a solo home run from Josh Reddick and RBIs from Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in the top of the ninth before Brad Peacock closed things out for the 3-1 series win.
Final Score: Astros 9, Mariners 2

Friday, April 20th: 13-7 Astros (Justin Verlander)

vs. 4-11 White Sox (James Shields)

The Astros continued their offensive surge in Chicago on Friday night, getting the first runs on the board in the fourth with RBIs from Alex Bregman, Brian McCann, and two from George Springer on a two-run double that turned into three runs when Springer himself would come around to score on a throwing error, giving him a Little League home run. Springer added two more runs on a ground-rule double in the sixth followed by Carlos Correa launching a two-run home run to extend the lead to 9-0. Correa made it a two-homer game with a solo homer in the top of the ninth giving the Astros a 10-0 lead.  They were able to hold the White Sox scoreless as a result of another great outing from Justin Verlander, who allowed just two hits in his six innings of work while striking out five. With the 9-0 lead after six, he was not asked to go past his 96 pitch count, making way for three hitless, scoreless innings from Joe Smith, Collin McHugh, then Ken Giles who closed out the game.
Final Score: Astros 10, White Sox 0

Saturday, April 21st: 14-7 Astros (Dallas Keuchel)

vs. 4-12 White Sox (Lucas Giolito)

The Astros got off to a hot start Saturday night, taking advantage of a struggling Lucas Giolito who was only able to get through two innings. It started with Houston taking a 4-0 lead in the first on RBIs from Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, and two by Marwin Gonzalez on a ground-rule double. They doubled that score after Giolito walked the bases loaded to start the second before allowing Josh Reddick to get his second grand slam of the year, making it 8-0. Jose Altuve knocked in one more with an RBI single in the third, followed by another home run from Josh Reddick in the fourth, a solo shot this time, giving them a commanding 10-0 lead. Dallas Keuchel worked well with the lead, giving up just one run on a solo home run in the fifth, but still finished with his second-straight strong start with his final line at 6 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, and 6 strikeouts. Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock, and Tony Sipp each pitched a scoreless inning in relief to wrap up the easy win.
Final Score: Astros 10, White Sox 1

Sunday, April 22nd: 15-7 Astros (Lance McCullers Jr.)

vs. 4-13 White Sox (Reynaldo Lopez)

The White Sox took their first lead of the series on Sunday afternoon in the bottom of the second after getting back-to-back doubles off of Lance McCullers, Jr. to go up 1-0. Lance did well to only allow that one run in his start because he did not appear to have his most dominant stuff. He allowed 8 hits over his six innings of work and got some timely outs thanks in large part to the great defense behind him, including another superb throw home by Josh Reddick to save a run at the plate. The Astros tied things up in the top of the fifth on an RBI sac fly from Carlos Correa, then broke the game open with a five-run seventh inning with RBIs from Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Evan Gattis, and two from Marwin Gonzalez on a ground-rule double. Gattis added another run with his first homer of the season in the top of the ninth, extending the lead to 7-1 a score that would hold thanks to three innings of scoreless relief from Will Harris, Ken Giles, and Chris Devenski, completing the 3-0 series sweep.
Final Score: Astros 7, White Sox 1

Summary: Just like that, the offense caught up to the dominance the starters were having, showing they are the team to beat if they can stay healthy and focused. After losing a close game Monday night with the bats still quiet, the offense revived themselves to the strength we were used to seeing, winning six straight and outscoring the Mariners and White Sox by an astounding 47-6 score in those games. It's that kind of lopsided run differential this team could benefit from this entire season if the rotation keeps delivering. All starters were great this week: Despite the loss on Monday, it was still an eight-inning complete game for Keuchel who finally got some run support for his first win on Saturday. McCullers bounced back from the horrible game last week to throw two solid games, and the rest of the rotation in Verlander, Cole, and Morton continue to go deep into games and keep their ERAs down. Another bright spot was the bullpen this week, who only gave up two runs which came off of Tony Sipp in an already lopsided game in Seattle. The team was firing on all cylinders this week, which could prove scary for the rest of the league. 

MVP of the Week - Carlos Correa

It was hard not to give Josh Reddick the honors this week after his grand slam, other homers, and great plays on defense, but it was Carlos Correa who in my opinion was the most influential in keeping the offense going and sparking them along. Correa was a monster at the plate in Seattle and Chicago, going 13 for 24, driving in 7 runs, walking 7 times, and raising his average up to .351. He had a hit in every single game, and in five of the seven had multiple hits, not to mention his two-homer game Friday night, which resulted in an unreal 1.439 OPS (on-base plus slugging) this week.

This Week:

  • Mon-Wed: Angels (14-8) @ Astros (16-7)
  • Fri-Sat: As (11-11) @ Astros (16-7)

After playing all of last week on the road, the Astros come home for the next ten games, including the six this week against two AL West rivals. They'll start with a three-game series against the second place Angels who sit 1.5 games back, including an exciting matchup Tuesday night of Charlie Morton vs. Shohei Ohtani. Then, the As will come into town this weekend as they look to get above .500 and stay in the mix. 

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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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