Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images
After taking two of three against the Giants earlier in the week, the Astros had a day off on Thursday before resuming play at home Friday night. The series opener of the three-game set against the Mariners had Framber Valdez on the mound, and Yordan Alvarez activated and back in the lineup. Here's a quick rundown of the game:
Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 1.
Record: 9-10, third in the AL West.
Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (1-2, 1.90 ERA).
Losing pitcher: Nestor Cortes (0-1, 15.26 ERA).
Seattle scores first, then Alvarez homers as Houston's offense explodes
After successful command in his appearances so far in 2020, Framber Valdez had struggles in the top of the first inning Friday night, issuing two walks, hitting a batter, and allowing a sac fly to put Seattle up 1-0 right away. He would get through the inning; then, his offense went to work for a massive inning of their own.
After Yusei Kikuchi, the expected starter for Seattle, was a late scratch, Nestor Cortes would begin the game on the mound for the Mariners. The Astros jumped all over him, starting with an RBI-single by Alex Bregman to tie the game. With two runners on base, that brought up Yordan Alvarez for his first plate appearance of 2020. What he did with it should be of little surprise for those that watched the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year last season:
"I'm back." - Yordan pic.twitter.com/XKgswd8lXO
— MLB (@MLB) August 15, 2020
That gave Houston a 4-1 lead, but that was just the beginning. They'd go on to make it a nine-run inning, getting a solo home run by Yuli Gurriel to make it back-to-back homers after Alvarez, a two-RBI double by Martin Maldonado, an RBI-double by Josh Reddick, and then a final run on an error, making it 9-1. After his homer, Gurriel followed that with a triple in his next at-bat, leading off the bottom of the second with an immediate runner in scoring position. Carlos Correa drove him in with an RBI-groundout, getting the Astros to double digits at 10-1.
Valdez finishes six, bullpen wraps it up
After the erratic first where he allowed the run, Valdez was able to settle in for the following innings, battling back to keep Seattle off the board over the next five, pitching through six en route to the easy win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 HR.
Yordan Alvarez would record another RBI, going to the plate with bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth before being hit by a pitch to bring in another run and make it 11-1. With Valdez's night done, Brandon Bailey took over in the top of the seventh and was able to erase a walk and a single for a scoreless inning, then returned for another in the eighth. Cy Sneed would go to the mound in the ninth and finished off the ten-run victory.
Up Next: The middle game of this series will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The Mariners have Nick Margevicius (0-0, 3.24 ERA) slated to make a start, while Cristian Javier (1-1, 4.02 ERA) will continue his rookie campaign for the Astros.
Phoenix All-Star Devin Booker and Houston rookie Cam Whitmore got into a minor scuffle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night and both players were called for a technical foul.
With a couple big blocks on the ensuing possession, Suns center Jusuf Nurkic was there to back his star teammate.
Booker scored 35 points, Kevin Durant added 24 and the Suns held off the Rockets 110-105, with the teams set to meet again in Phoenix on Saturday night.
Nurkic had 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks before fouling out. His biggest moment came in the fourth, when he stuffed Whitmore twice on the possession following the scuffle, drawing huge roars from the Phoenix crowd.
“Very important — that's the team sticking together,” Booker said. “That goes a long way. That's what you need when things get tough, it gets to the thick of things and the energy is high. You want to know you have people on your team that are built like that.”
Booker scored 20 points in the first quarter to help give the Suns an 18-point lead they would never relinquish. He has scored at least 20 points in an NBA-high six quarters this season.
Three-time All-Star Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game because of a hamstring injury.
The Suns took an 86-75 lead into the final quarter. Houston cut the advantage to six midway through the fourth, but Booker responded immediately with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine.
That led to the brief skirmish between Booker and Whitmore. Tempers stayed hot over the next few minutes — Houston's Alperen Sengun fouled out and then got two quick technicals, earning an ejection.
Booker hit both of the technical free throws, Nurkic followed with his two free throws from Sengun's foul, and that pushed the Suns' lead to 99-84. The Rockets would cut the lead to four with 16.9 seconds left, but Royce O'Neale hit two free throws to end the threat.
Jalen Green led Houston with 34 points. Fred VanVleet added 21. The Rockets connected on just 11 of 45 3-pointers and shot 33.3% from the field overall, which was their worst percentage of the season.
“It wasn't one of our better nights as far as guys getting open looks and making the extra pass,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We had a few guys who had it going, but a few guys who were struggling.”
Phoenix has won seven of its past 10 — and nine in a row at home — as it tries to stay in the top six of the Western Conference playoff race and avoid the play-in tournament. The sliding Rockets have lost eight of 10.
“We're getting confident in this building,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said.
Booker's big first quarter pushed the Suns to a 33-17 lead. The four-time All-Star made 8 of 10 shots from the field, including a 33-foot 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Phoenix settled for a 64-53 halftime lead. Booker had 26 points before the break while Green led Houston with 21.