Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday Morning Hot Links

The Astros Houston'd it up and the bullpen crapped the bed on national TV, allowing the Angels to actually win a game, like that's a thing, or something. And not to be pessimistic, but that probably does it for the best record in the American League, seeing as how the Indians - wait for it - yes, won another game. The Astros are 95-60, 2.5 back of Cleveland, with seven to play.

*The Indians are 98-58. If the Indians go 3-3 in their final six games, Houston would have to go 7-0 to retake the best overall record. And don't look now but Boston has won six in a row, so the Astros are four games up on the Red Sox. Hinch:
We've got seven games left to win as many games as we can. We set out this season to win the division. Checkmark that box in September. I said we're going to continue to compete and play and win as many games as we can. That's going to continue. Whatever the total is at the end is great, and then the real season begins in the postseason.

*The Astros led last night's game 4-1 before McCullers - more on him in a minute - allowed a Brandon Phillips home run to make it 4-2. Then Francis Martes and James Hoyt decided it's a good idea to each walk in a run to tie the game in the 5th. A Luis Valbuena double off Chris Devenski scored two runs to put the game just out of reach.

*McCullers: 3.1IP, 4H/2ER, 4K:1BB. 39 of his 63 pitches were for strikes. Hinch:
It was good to see him compete. It was good to see him have adversity a little bit, to work and compete and tax himself a little bit. 

*McCullers:
I felt really good...my body feels the best I could expected to feel.

*More McCullers:
I think when I'm healthy, I have top-of-the-line stuff.

*Francis Martes: 1IP, 2H/2ER, 1K:2BB. In September Martes has allowed 9H/11ER, 6K:6BB in 5.2IP - a 17.47 ERA. Since the All-Star Break Martes has allowed 27H/21ER, 39K:19BB in 27IP - a 7.00 ERA. It would be okay if we didn't see him again until February.

*Luke Gregerson gave up Upton's solo homer. Gregerson's last six games: 5.1IP, 6H/7ER, 4K:1BB, 3HR.

*Jose Altuve was 2x3 with a walk, giving him 198 hits on the season - two shy of his 4th straight 200-hit season.

*Hinch got tossed (for the 2nd time in three games) in the 7th inning arguing an Evan Gattis check-swing to end the inning. Hinch:
There was really no reason to throw me out. I didn't curse at him. I didn't go over the top. It just ended up being he wins when he's the boss on the field.

*The Astros don't miss Tal's Hill.

*No one on the Astros or Angels took a knee.

*Puerto Rico is in serious trouble, and barely anyone is talking about it.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Morning Hot Links

The Astros beat Bud Norris and the Angels yesterday handily, 6-2, giving the Astros their 95th win of the season. The Indians handled the Mariners, of course, so the Astros remain 1.5 games back of Cleveland with eight games to play (Cleveland has seven games remaining and the tie-breaker).

*The Astros are 19-11, tied for 2nd-best in the AL, in their last 30 games. Cleveland is 28-2. Houston's next win will tie them with the 1986 Astros for 3rd in franchise history. They need to go 7-1 to tie the 1998 team, but 3-5 will put them in 2nd.

*Houston's current 19-game lead is the largest division lead in franchise history.

*Houston is 15-6 in September, four better than August, and tying July's number of wins (15-9).

*The 2017 Astros have used 27 different pitchers this season, 2nd-most in franchise history and one behind the 2014 team for most pitchers used in a single season. This would make a good Sporcle.

*Astros vs AL West teams, 2017:
Seattle: 14-5
Anaheim: 12-6
Oakland: 12-7
Arlington: 9-7

*Charlie Morton - who apparently has a cold - needed 81 pitches to get through 7IP, 4H/1ER, 5K:1BB. Both Angels runs came on solo shots by Justin Upton against Morton and Will Harris. Morton's outing gives Hinch a nice problem to have: what role will he play in October? Hinch, on Morton's use going forward:
He's had a very good season. The discussion underway is, 'What's the best use of him?' He could very much make a start in the playoffs. He could be an effective weapon out of the bullpen if we go that route. He's an effective pitcher against both righties and lefties, his velocity has held for six straight months, and he's found a way to keep his mechanics in order and keep quality strikes coming. 

Morton:
I have no idea. I'd like the ball whenever. Put me in whenever.

*Mike Trout vs Houston, 2017: 9x44, .205/.340/.318. That .658 OPS is the lowest against teams in which he has more than 11 ABs. /jinxed

*The offensive damage came from the top-half of the order: 1-4 in the lineup (Bregman, Marwin, Correa, Gattis) went a combined 8x14 with three extra-base hits and 6RBI. Correa and Gattis - who hit a 3-run home run - had 3RBI each. 5-9 in the lineup was 0x17.

*The Astros won a game in which Altuve, Springer, and Reddick did not play.

*Four of the Astros' runs came with two outs. Gattis:
Any time you can extend the inning, you're never out until you are. (Pause to consider this over a pipe of tobacco). It was a great game, and it was a fun game to catch. We're just rolling. 

Astros runs, 0 outs: 231
Astros runs, 1 out: 262
Astros runs, 2 outs: 339

*Carlos Correa has a message for the people of Puerto Rico.

*The Astros will play the season series finale against Anaheim tonight on Sunday Night Baseball.

*Leeds United 3-2 Ipswich

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Morning Hot Links

Justin Verlander has been absolutely incredible and should absolutely start every game of the ALDS. Astros win 3-0 behind Gurriel's 3-run homer and Verlander's ridiculous starting pitching. They are 94-59. Seattle actually did a thing and beat Cleveland on a Nelson Cruz walk-off home run. Friday was pretty good. There are nine games left.

*The 94th win moves the 2017 team into sole possession of 4th place on the franchise single-season wins list.

*The Astros are 1.5 GB of Cleveland, who have played 154 games. If Cleveland goes 5-3 (101-61), the Astros would have to go 8-1 to clinch the best overall record in the AL. Whatever the Indians do over their next eight games, the Astros need to win two games more. The Astros are also five games up on Boston.

*Hinch, on Verlander:
He put up another excellent start. It's remarkable to watch him compete, especially when he has this kind of confidence. I'm getting to know him as the outings go, but he really did put together an exceptional outing. 

*Verlander allowed a leadoff hit to Kole Calhoun, retired 11 in a row, walked Pujols, retired seven in a row, walked Justin Upton, retired the side. Final line: 7IP, 1H/0ER, 6K:2BB.

*Verlander used his changeup more in this start against the Angels. Hinch:
His changeup tonight was really good, and he had abandoned that for the past couple months. That was a priority from him when he got over here. It's been an emphasis for him on again, off again. He's got such a powerful fastball and good breaking ball that you can easily ditch the changeup. 

*Verlander's first four starts with Houston: 28IP, 11H/2ER, 32K:5BB.
Randy Johnson's first four starts with Houston: 30IP, 22H/5ER, 36K:8BB.

*The Astros were held to three hits for the 6th time this season, and are somehow 3-3 in six games with three hits or fewer. Number of wins in the rest of the AL with three or fewer hits:
New York: 1-5
Chicago: 1-9
Cleveland: 1-10
Detroit: 0-4
Boston: 0-5
Kansas City: 0-5
Baltimore: 0-6
Toronto: 0-6
Kansas City: 0-7
Seattle: 0-7
Anaheim: 0-8
Tampa Bay: 0-9
Dallas: 0-10
Oakland: 0-13

So the Astros are 3-3 in games where they've been held to three or fewer hits. The rest of the AL is 3-104. Three of Anaheim's 3-or-fewer-hit games have come against Houston.

*Gurriel's three-run home run was his first since the first terrible loss at Oakland on September 8 - he has nine hits in his last five games.

*Jose Altuve was 1x3 with a stolen base. He now has 196 hits on the season. State Farm agent Whit Merrifield has stolen three bases in the last three games and leads Altuve 33-32.

*So here's the rotation as we know it now (all confirmed through various media outlets):
Saturday: Morton
Sunday: McCullers
Monday (at Texas): McHugh
Tuesday: Keuchel
Wednesday: Verlander

*Last night in "Oh no, please no" Josh Reddick left the game with back discomfort. Hinch:
I don't think it's anything to be concerned about. But he came off the field and had a little bit of back pain, so we pulled him right away. Where we're at, this time in the season, that's an easy call. 

*The Astros will start Lance McCullers tomorrow in the finale against the Angels. Hinch:
Everybody is telling me he was strong, and that he bounced back from his bullpens. The next test is the game. We don't really have another option with the timeline that we have. We'll put him in there and see how it goes...It's important, very important, especially for him. 

*NY Post: Kate Upton helped push Verlander to Houston. Check Verlander's appearance on PTI talking about the last 40 minutes of the trade deadline.

*ESPN's David Fleming: The behind-the-scenes story of the Astros fight to bring hope - and a World Series - to Houston. (This is fantastic).

*SI's Ben Reiter writes that trading for Verlander violated the entire Astros' philosophy...and it may win them the pennant.

*Carlos Beltran is donating $1m to Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico. He hasn't heard from his family in four days. It's really bad in PR.

*Unsurprisingly Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley were named Astros minor leaguers of the year.

*Mens Fitness is here to highlight Correa's Instagram workouts and also to put your squishiness to shame.

*Brad Ausmus will not return as Tigers manager in 2018.

*LOL JEETS.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday Morning Hot Links

It's high time the Astros were able to beat the cream of the AL Central. Astros win their first series against the White Sox in their last three attempts, last one coming May 17-19, 2016.  The Angels - specifically Yusmeiro Petit - are absolutely useless, losing 6-5 to the Indians last night, so the Astros are still 1.5 GB of Cleveland. The Astros have won 14 of their last 19 games and seven of their last eight, and are 93-58. There are 11 games left.

*The win moves the Astros into a tie for 4th with the 2001 and 1980 Astros. A 7-4 finish will guarantee them 100 wins for the 2nd time in franchise history.

*The Indians have won 27 of their last 30 games and the Astros are still only one back in the loss column.

*Brad Peacock threw 6IP, 1H/0ER, 6K:2BB, giving up a 2-run home run to Yoan Moncada (who is hitting .471/.591/.882 in five games against Houston this season). Hinch, on Peacock's outing:
He was good again. I don't think he was particularly sharp, which is funny to say for a guy that gave up one hit. But he did battle through his outing and didn't give up many hard hits. 

Brad Peacock's MLB wins, 2011-2016: 11
Brad Peacock's MLB wins, 2017: 12

As McCullers' arm seemingly takes forever to recover from fatigue, Peacock is looking like a stronger and stronger candidate to get a postseason start. Peacock:
I'm just not thinking about it at all. Whatever they decide to do, like I've said before, I'll be happy. Whether it's bullpen or starting, just to get the chance to play in the playoffs is going to be cool.

*Joe Musgrove got the final four outs of the game for his 2nd save of the season. Musgrove:
Every time coming out of the bullpen I'm trying to strike everybody out, to be honest. 

*Francisco Liriano threw his second straight perfect inning. Liriano in September: 4IP, 2H/1ER, 5K:1BB, retiring 12 of the 15 batters he has faced.

*Yuli Gurriel was 3x4 with 2RBI. Over the last seven days Gurriel is 10x19 with 3RBI. His 57th extra-base hit of the season broke Hunter Pence's rookie record.

*Altuve Watch: The Toovs was 1x3 with a walk last night, giving him 195 hits on the season. Altuve has a 15 point lead on the AL batting crown (.348 to the White Sox' Avisail Garcia's .333).

*Josh Reddick was 2x4 with a double and a triple.

*Luke Gregerson took a batted ball of the heel of his hand, but X-rays were negative.

*Jake Kaplan notes that Will Harris' fastball is coming back.

*Mike Lupica writes that the Astros are bringing a welcome distraction to Houston.

*Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran, Juan Centeno, Alex Cora, and Alex Cintron are among the Astros with family in Puerto Rico waiting on word from their families and friends. Correa:
My grandparents are my concern right now. My grandma couldn't fly here when the hurricane hit because my grandpa has Alzheimer's and he's very sick, and he can barely move and he can't fly. She had to stay with him and take care of him. Hopefully when this all goes by and everything...goes back to a little bit more normal, I can fly them over here so they can have a house and power and be able to eat.

*Justin Verlander will be the one starting pitcher the Red Sox don't face in the regular season series finale. I'm pulling for the Astros to catch the Indians for a few reasons, chief among them is I don't want to hear from Sully Sawx-Fan for potentially nine straight games.



*The Ringer's Michael Baumann asks who is the best team in baseball?

*Joel Sherman: Is there such a thing as too many home runs? Including Sunday's division-clinching game against the Mariners in which they hit four, the Astros have seven home runs in their last ten games. So, no.

*Doubtful that Pat Neshek gets a Christmas card from Zack Greinke this year.

*A girl at the Twins/Yankees game was hit in the face by a foul ball and hospitalized, prompting calls for protective netting down the lines. I, a grown man, am terrified of getting hit in the coconut by a foul ball and would support this 100%. As one who likes to sit behind home plate at minor-league games (and for one MLB game), you don't even notice the net after about, I don't know, six seconds.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

*Collin McHugh's fingernail presumably stayed firmly on his finger and he pitched the Astros to a 3-1 win over the White Sox, backed up by some strong bullpenning. The Indians beat the useless Angels. The Astros have won five straight and are 92-58, still 1.5 back of Cleveland. There are 12 games remaining.

*The win moves the Astros into a tie with the 2004 Astros for 6th place on the all-time franchise wins list. They'll still need to go 11-1 to beat the 1998 Astros, but 6-6 will give them 2nd place.

*The Astros are 12-5 in September, eclipsing their monthly win total for the August That Never Was.

*McHugh, on the fingernail:
Obviously when you're warming up it was the biggest thing for me, making sure I wasn't feeling it, I wasn't compensating for my finger in any way. It was all good today. I didn't have any issues and I didn't think about it when I was out there. Mentally getting over that was probably the biggest part.

He threw a wonderfully symmetrical 5IP, 5H/1ER, 5K:1BB, with 56 of his 87 pitches going for strikes.

*The bullpen of Harris-Gregerson-Devenski-Giles threw 4IP, 1H/0ER, 9K:1BB - and the walk was intentional. It was Harris' first perfect outing since August 29.

*Giles recorded his 32nd save of the season. Astros saves, post-Wagner:
-2008: Jose Valverde - 44
-2005: Brad Lidge - 42
-2017: Ken Giles - 32
-2004: Brad Lidge - 32

*George Springer dove head-first into home plate to give the Astros a 3-1 lead (after the initial out call was overturned). Hinch:
I told him I was proud of his hustle, and don't ever do that again until October. 

*Jose Altuve tied his career high with his 24th home run of the season and at 194 hits, he needs six more get his 4th-straight 200+ hit season. Prior to Tuesday's game Altuve was given the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. Hinch:
He's the perfect example for what's right about the game. I love everything he does on and off the field, how he interacts with his teammates, his desire to go great, the way he shows up every single day ready to play. There's so much to admire about Jose, and our fans are lucky they've been able to watch the entire journey.

*Yuli Gurriel had two hits and is hitting .316/.366/.526 in September.

*Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci: The Astros are surging toward October, and Justin Verlander is leading the way. Verducci:
To watch the Astros play baseball recently is to see a team that might even be better than the one that started 42-16.

Lots of great lines and anecdotes in the article, like this one on Francisco Liriano:
Houston has learned not to have Liriano aim for corners - his command isn't nearly as good as his stuff - and now positions its catcher over the center of the plate and just tells Liriano to get it over and let it move.

*FanGraphs: George Springer -  Baseball's improbable contact hitter. Jeff Sullivan:
This isn't just a young Astros player doing better at baseball. This is *George Springer,* making contact on a consistent bases, and if that doesn't immediately grab your attention, perhaps it's because you've forgotten what Springer used to be.

*Colin Moran is back.

*Please keep the people of Puerto Rico in mind as yet another hurricane hits them (and others in the Caribbean). Correa:
It's going to crush the island. My thoughts and prayers to everyone over there. I have most of my family over there, so I'm really worried about that. My parents and siblings are the only ones over here, so I have a lot of people over there. 

*The Angels, who are paying Albert Pujols $26m, saved themselves $750,000 by re-ordering the rotation.