DEAL OR NO DEAL? NO DEAL

Rockets miss out on trade for Jimmy Butler, who goes to Philly

Jimmy Butler will not be a Rocket. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Early Saturday new broke that the Minnesota Timberwolves had completed a trade to send their disgruntled all-star guard Jimmy Butler to a team not named the Houston Rockets. After what was reported to be a strong push by Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey to acquire Butler, the Timberwolves opted instead to send him east to Philadelphia in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second round pick.

The news comes as a blow to Rockets fans, many of whom had assumed until midway through the week that a Butler acquisition was all but certain. The assumed move would have helped jump start an otherwise lifeless offense that has plagued Houston's young season. With the hopes of Butler's assistance dashed, the Rockets’ front office is left to search for a plan B.

To assume that the Rockets are standing pat following the Butler sweepstakes defeat would be foolish. Less than six months removed from an impressive seven-game Western Conference Finals series against one of the greatest teams the NBA has ever seen, the pressure to challenge Golden State once again is at an all-time high. The Rockets’ bewilderingly slow start has only compounded the pressure on Morey to add another reliable scoring threat.

Houston will continue to make phone calls while the current team focuses on finding a 3-point shot that has been MIA all season. In the meantime, the smart money would be to bet on Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, and Gerald Green to break out of their simultaneously crippling shooting slumps. That, combined with maintaining a more concerted effort on defense would more than likely hoist Houston out of their dreadful slump and give the Rockets the fuel necessary to begin a climb up the Western Conference Standings. Until then Houston will be forced to exercise a sports fan's least developed skill: patience.

At this point, one of two things are certain: either the Rockets fix themselves, or Morey will fix it for them.


 

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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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