Checkmate?

How Tilman Fertitta and Daryl Morey's relationship could impact James Harden

Could James Harden end up in Philly? Composite image by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday, the sports world inside Houston went ballistic after Daryl Morey signed a five-year contract with the Philadelphia 76ers to become their new President of Basketball Operations. After Morey signed with the 76ers, Tilman Fertitta and Rockets new GM Rafael Stone decided on the Houston Rockets next head coach, which is Stephen Silas. Could Morey and Fertitta be playing chess?

It was reported that the 76ers' office was in contact with Morey after his departure from the Rockets. When leaving the Rockets, Fertitta told Tim MacMahon of ESPN that Morey wanted to go to the Eastern Conference. Now that Morey is with the 76ers, he could possibly be looking to trade for James Harden. Bringing Harden to the 76ers could open a better pathway to the NBA Finals.

Stephen A. Smith believes Harden is the key piece to pair with Joel Embiid for a Finals appearance. Morey has pulled off countless trades for the Rockets' organization so his negotiation skills are not in question.

"I'm Daryl Morey, the first thing I'm trying to do is get [James] Harden to become a [Philadelphia] 76er," as Smith told co-host Max Kellerman on ESPN's First Take. "Even if it means trading Ben Simmons."

Although 76er fans would get excited about Harden coming to Philly, Stone and Fertitta shut the idea down. As MacMahon reported that it would be a hard no from the Rockets' front office. Honestly, it's a wise decision that the Rockets hold on to Harden, as he has three more years left on his contract. MacMahon explained more of the reasoning on why the Rockets are cashing in on Harden's prime on Adrian Wojnarowski's podcast.

"What I can say is right now the Rockets are 100 percent committed to cash in on [James] Harden's prime," as MacMahon told Woj on his podcast. "They consider him the best player in the league."

Keeping an eye on Fertitta and Morey's relationship is critical because of their past rapport. Fertitta did mention to MacMahon that they will keep in touch when it comes to strategizing towards the Finals. So it won't come as a surprise if a trade happens between the Rockets and 76ers at a later time.

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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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