Back on track

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets cruise by Bulls 117-94

It seemed sacreligious to say just three games ago, but now may be a safe time to proclaim that Houston has figured things out enough to be back on track. After the shooting disparity stretch from hell to start the season, the Rockets have now shot better than their opponents from three-point range for three straight outings. Also, for the first six games of the season, it looked like the Rockets were just going to have to win games with a bottom three defense and a top five offense.

Outside of the hot shooting from beyond the arc (43% from three-point range), what really stood out for Houston is their continued improvement on the glass. The Rockets outrebounded the Bulls 55 to 46 and James Harden and Clint Capela had a lot to do with that (10 and 20 rebounds respectively).

Danuel House was also had active hands in the passing lanes (6 steals) which helped the Rockets score the 28 fast break points they eventually put up. House's consistent solid play has been long-praised in these recaps, but it's worth mentioning that he had 11 points and 5 rebounds on 3 of 5 shooting from distance.

It may take a while for Eric Gordon to regain his comfort handling and passing the basketball as he had some particularly rough moments tonight (4 turnovers in 26 minutes), but an encouraging sign for Houston is Gordon shot 3 of 7 from three-point range after returning from his hamstring soreness and making 3 threes in his last outing against the Grizzlies. Gordon's shooting struggles are still going to be a game-by-game thing to monitor moving forward until he gets back on track.

Star of the game: James Harden logged a crazy 42 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, and 1 steal tonight on 66.0% true shooting. It doesn't sound crazy, because these stat lines are almost becoming pedestrian for Harden, but it bears remembering - this is not normal. Harden was ridiculous 9 of 19 from three-point range and took joy in any Bulls defender that tried stopping him, including Zach LaVine. Harden may be the only player in the NBA with the kind of green light to attempt 19 three-pointers.

Honorable mention: Clint Capela had likely his second good game of the season, logging possibly the quietest 16 points, 20 rebounds, and 4 blocks in NBA history, but they were much appreciated. Capela has rounded back into form these past three games for the Rockets and they have desperately missed his rebounding and rim protection.

Key moment: Houston really lasered in on both ends in the third quarter by scoring 36 points and only allowing the Bulls to score 18. It'll take a while for the Rockets to get there considering the hole they've put themselves in early on, but Rockets GM Daryl Morey's ambition of a top 10 defense doesn't seem so crazy after games like this.

Up next: The Rockets travel to New Orleans on Monday at 7:00 p.m. to take on the young, but feisty New Orleans Pelicans.

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After the Mariners came alive late in Monday's series opener to hand the Houston the loss and keep their playoff picture hanging in the balance, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park on Tuesday to try and decrease their magic number. Here's how the middle game went:

Final Score: Astros 6, Mariners 1.

Record: 28-27, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Casey Sadler (1-2, 5.40 ERA).

Both teams trade first-inning runs

The Astros struck first in Tuesday's game, not waiting around until the ninth inning to get on the board. Instead, they jumped out to an immediate 1-0 lead after a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker in the top of the first. The Mariners responded quickly, though, getting a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning before a two-out RBI-double of their own to tie it 1-1.

Astros score five in the sixth

The 1-1 score held all the way until the top of the sixth when the Astros would flip the script from the night prior, taking advantage of some mistakes by Seattle to put up a big inning. First, Michael Brantley started the inning with a solo go-ahead homer to make it 2-1. Then, Kyle Tucker would get his third hit of the night with one out before eventually scoring after a walk and two wild pitches, making it 3-2. With two walks to keep the inning alive and put some insurance runs on base, Martin Maldonado took advantage with a big three-run home run to extend the lead to 6-1.

Valdez finishes seven strong, Astros even series

After allowing the one run in the bottom of the first, Framber Valdez recovered and put together a solid outing on the mound. He allowed just five hits total, two of which came in the first, then back-to-back singles in the fourth and a single in the fifth, while otherwise keeping the Mariners at bay. He would end up completing seven innings of one-run baseball while striking out eight. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 108 P.

After Valdez, Enoli Paredes would take over in the bottom of the eighth, working around a leadoff single to get a scoreless inning to keep it 6-1. In the non-save situation, Josh James would come in for the bottom of the ninth and finish off the win for Houston.

Up Next: The finale and rubber game of this three-game set will start a bit earlier on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:40 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Nick Margevicius (1-3, 5.35 ERA) for the Mariners going against Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.90 ERA) for the Astros.

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