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's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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