Unlikely blowout

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Short-handed Rockets team trumps Timberwolves 125-105

This was a game the Rockets were supposed to lose. Missing four out of your top six rotation players on a back-to-back is the definition of a "schedule loss". However, the Rockets persevered through and came away with their seventh straight win and probably their second most impressive win of the season (the Clippers win being the first). From the start, it was clear that James Harden's intentions going into this game was to put the team on his back and pray that he finds contributions from any of the remaining role players.

Harden took 41 shots - the most field goals attempted since Kobe Bryant's retirement performance (50 field goal attempts, 60 points).

Fortunately for Harden, young players Isaiah Hartenstein and Chris Clemons came to play, with team highs of +26 and +32 respectively. Hartenstein wasn't an offensive threat, but he grabbed a monster 16 rebounds, hustled on the offensive glass (5 offensive rebounds), and played hard enough to replace some of the production the Rockets missed with Clint Capela being out with a concussion. Clemons, the sharpshooter from North Carolina, didn't shy away an inch, scoring 19 points on 55.6% shooting from beyond the arc.

The Rockets also got solid contributions from Ben McLemore (20 points on 4 of 11 shooting from three-point range) and Austin Rivers (19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block on 8 of 17 shooting from the field). Top to bottom, this was a fantastic team performance for the Rockets. It's the type of character win that will come to define their season.

Star of the game: It may not have been his most efficient performance, but James Harden was certainly effective and led a team lacking four out it's six best players to victory. Harden logged 49 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds on a pedestrian (for him) 53.4% true shooting, but was 8 for 22 from three-point range and a +16 in the 39 minutes he played. It was more Harden's command of the game and his leadership that showed through than his scoring.

Honorable mention: Chris Clemons has proven to be useful in every game he's played for the Rockets this season and this was no different. The 5'9" point guard tallied 19 points and 2 steals on 7 of 11 shooting from the field and 5 of 9 shooting from three-point range. Clemons was also a team-high +32 in 28 minutes. When healthy, Houston's guard rotation is too deep for him to find playing time. However, it's games like this that Clemons can prove to be useful to the Rockets until they find a permanent role for him in the future.

Key moment: There was a point in the first quarter where the Rockets looked like they were going to fold. Down by 11 and lacking firepower, nobody would have blamed them for doing so. Then, the Rockets went on a 11-2 run, in which James Harden scored 8, to cut the lead to 2.

Up next: The Rockets go back home to Houston to play the Portland Trail Blazers at 7:00 p.m. on Monday.

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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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