THE ROCKETS REPORT

Rockets go 1-2 to fall back to .500 mark at 9-9

James Harden and the Rockets went 1-2 last week. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

After pulling off an improbable sweep the week before, the Rockets struggled to distance themselves from the .500 mark they had recently positioned themselves around. Houston was able to take the first of a one and one against the Pistons early in the week, but the Pistons would even the season series on Friday in overtime. The Cleveland Cavaliers would deny Houston the opportunity to shrug off the loss and would go on to hand the Rockets their second straight defeat in as many days. Houston is now 9-9, fourth in the Southwest Division, and 11th in the Western Conference.

Game 16: Houston vs Detroit Pistons (W, 126-124)

In a game between two evenly matched teams with similar records, the product on the court certainly delivered. After a closely contested first half, Houston seized control through much of the second half. Pistons Forward Blake Griffin was disinterested in the Rockets 14-point lead late in the fourth and with the help of his five 3-pointers with less than five minutes left in regulation, Detroit found themselves within four points. Harden would take control and ice the game however, finishing the night with a season-high 43 points, 9 assists, and 4 steals. Clint Capela finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks.

Game 17: Houston at Detroit Pistons (L, 116-111/OT)

Black Friday found the Rockets taking on the Pistons for a second consecutive game, albeit as visitors this time. This time around, the Pistons were in complete control until a third quarter Houston run seized the lead back. Both teams would trade blows and the score was tied at the end of four. Detroit would pull away in overtime, however, snapping Houston’s five game winning streak. Harden led the effort with 33 points and 8 assists, while Capela turned in an even more monstrous performance from the night before with 29 points, 21 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

Game 18: Houston at Cleveland Cavaliers (L, 117-108)

Chris Paul sat out Saturday night as the Rockets played the Cavaliers in the second part of a back to back where Cleveland controlled the game almost the entire night. Cavs rookie guard Collin Sexton traded highlight reel finishes with Harden as he led Cleveland with 29 points. Harden - forced to shoulder more of the offensive load with Paul out - poured in 40 points and 13 assists while playing the entire second half.

Looking Ahead:

The Rockets have a busy week starting Monday in D.C. against the Wizards. Houston will return home for a Wednesday match against Dallas before heading down I-10 for a Friday game against the Spurs and a Saturday tilt at home with the Bulls. All of these teams this week are very beatable with a healthy Rockets team. I predict a 3-1 week to put some space between the Rockets and their current .500 mark.

 

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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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