Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Morning Hot Links

Late night/early morning so let's get straight to the links.

FanGraphs now has the Astros as the team with the highest percentage of simulations that ended up with the AL pennant, facing the Dodgers in the World Series. The Astros won the World Series in 12.1% of 10,000 simulations, 2nd behind the Dodgers, who won the World Series in 20% of simulations.

*The Sporting News talks about the Astros' power. Marwin needs one homer and Conger needs two more in order to tie the major-league record for most players on a team with 10+ home runs. Kazmir, on the Astros:
As a pitcher, you can't take any breaks, because you know that a walk here or a bloop here, you're one pitch away from giving up a crooked number. It's a luxury to have, being on this team.

*Sports Illustrated wrote about the Astros and J.D. Martinez. Luhnow:
In retrospect, I wouldn't make the same decision.

And on the process of Missing with a player like Martinez?
We're not trying to get (decisions) all right. We're trying to get more of them right than our competition.

*Rosters expand to 40 on Tuesday, and the Astros aren't planning on calling up 15 more guys to help with the playoff push. Evan Drellich writes that the Astros are expecting to call up four players, not including Springer: Max Stassi, Josh Fields, Preston Tucker, and "a left-handed reliever." Keep in mind that Fresno and Corpus will both be in the playoffs.

*Corpus manager Rodney Linares was named Texas League Manager of the Year. Corpus lost last night, but are 80-49 on the season, the best record in the Texas League, and have already clinched a playoff spot.

*There are only three teams in the minors who have won 80 games. Two of those teams are Astros affiliates: Corpus and Quad Cities.

*Carlos Correa straight cleaned up at the Minnesota State Fair last night:



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man oh man. Check out the Masked Marvel's recap of G127, or The Game That Luhnow Built, a 15-1 win over the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. It's the 2nd time this season the Yankees have allowed 15 runs (on May 23 the Yankees lost 15-4 at home to Texas), but the 14-run margin is the largest in a Yankees loss since April 19, 2014 when the Rays beat the Yankees 16-1. It's the largest run margin in a Yankees loss at home since Cleveland beat New York 22-4 on April 18, 2009. The Astros' win last night matches the 2014 season total for wins, at 70.

Anyhow, the Angels beat the Tigers, the Blue Jays scored two runs in the 9th to beat the Rangers, and the Mariners beat the A's. The Astros now have a 4.5 game lead on the Rangers who have a half-game lead on the Angels. FanGraphs gives the Astros an 84.2% chance of winning the division and a 94.7% chance of making the postseason, and both are season-highs. There are 35 games left in the season.

With an ever-present level of calm, reasoned perspective, NY media reacted appropriately and with zero exaggeration to the rout. Like NJ.com:
Take news footage of a 10-car pileup. Add it to an Internet montage of slips and falls. Throw on a laugh track. That doesn't equal the mess the Yankees called baseball Tuesday night.

Or Newsday:
If the Yankees are going to collapse between now and Oct. 4 and miss the playoffs, Tuesday night's 15-1 loss to the Astros is what it's going to look like. U-G-L-Y.

*Mark Teixeira, on Keuchel:
If he isn't the best pitcher in the American League he is in the top two or three.

*The New York Times' Billy Witz has the line of the night, on Keuchel who, in two games against the Yankees this season, has thrown 16IP, 9H/0ER, 21K:1BB:
The way the Yankees have hit Keuchel this season - finding crumbs in his thick beard might be easier than finding a way to score off him - the game was over about the time it began.

*The game had a little controversy, as Carlos Gomez was frustrated by an AB in which he flied out to center field, yelling at himself and flipping his bat with the Astros up 9-0. The Yankees' bench, and manager Joe Girardi, didn't like it:
I just told him to play the game right. They're kicking our rear ends, just show a little professionalism to the pitcher.

Gomez:
If they feel like I disrespect them when I throw my bat for frustration, they take it the wrong way, because I don't mean to do that. I'm a passion guy.

Mike Fiers:
He mishit the ball and he was pissed at himself, and said the guys were chirping at him from the other dugout. What's he supposed to do?

The Yankees' John Ryan Murphy said:
That's the way he plays, he's an energetic guy, everybody knows that, and we respect him as a baseball player. Just, there's a right and a wrong way to play the game...Just staring into the dugout, I don't think - none of that's called for.

Girardi:
(Gomez is) a kid that, he plays hard, but there have been a number of clubs that have taken exception to some of the things that he does on the field, and it just got a little heated.

I guess the main example of that is when Gomez hit a homer off Paul Maholm, jawed the entire way around the bases, and Baseball Sheriff Brian McCann, of the McCann Baseball Police Department, blocked Gomez's progress at home plate on the trot. Don't remember? It's pretty legendary:



McCann is now the Yankees' catcher, of course, and Gomez threw him out at home plate two nights ago.

Other Links

*If things progress as normal, Springer could return to the lineup next week.

*Expect Assistant GM David "Bear" Stearns to get some looks at GM openings in the future.

*Carlos Correa picked up his first major endorsement, a "seven-figure" exclusive deal with Topps.

*Carlos Gomez doesn't want to face the Mets in a possible World Series matchup:
It'd be unbelievable facing the Mets. We have a chance in the World Series. We'd like to face somebody else. The Mets have too good pitching.

In that link, he also talked about the almost-trade to New York:
When I heard I got traded to the Mets, I got really pumped and excited, because I know I have a lot of friends there...I got excited, but this is the job and this is the business. Now I'm in Houston, and I love Houston.

*Fresno clinched the PCL Pacific North division last night with a 79-51 record, 13.5 games better than 2nd place Sacramento. It's Fresno's first division title since 1998. Mark Appel threw 6IP, 4H/3ER, 5K:4BB for the win.

From the Office of the County Clerk - G127: Astros in New York (AL)

Dallas Keuchel (14-6, 2.37) versus Ivan Nova (5-5, 3.72)

Ookaaay.  So the Astros have scored barely any runs over most of August.  To be more exact, they have scored (counting from most recent) 0, 3, 3, 3, 0, 3, 3, 2, 6, 2, 5, 2, 1, 4, 1, 1, 5, 3, and 3 runs total in their last 19 games.  So when the Astros opened the ballgame against a solid Yankees starter (Ivan Nova) with a crooked number that was higher than or equal to the number of runs they have scored in all but one of the last 19 games, I was stunned.  The BABIP Fairy is a fickle lass, but when she is liberally sprinkling her fairy dust in your dugout, it helps immensely.  Astros win, 15-1.

Interestingly, the Astros won nine of the above-listed games, and that included the majority of a rough 2-7 road trip.  So if they hold on to the AL West title until the end of the season, we could well look back on their decent results in this lean period as the reason why.

Taking a look around the division, Toronto eeked out a win over the Rangers with a two run ninth inning.  So the Rangers drop to 4.5 games back of the Astros.  The Angels managed a narrow win over Detroit on the road, so they remain 5 games back.

On the Mound:
Dallas Keuchel is all you need to know.  He entered the game with a 5-0 lead, took a little while to settle in, then he dominated.  A.J. Hinch saw no point in having him pitch past the seventh inning despite a favourable pitch count, so seven innings, three hits and nine strikeouts for no earned runs was his final line.  The three hits were on two singles and a double, and the last of the hits was with two outs in the fourth inning.

I won't dwell too much on Keuchel's outing, even though it is probably the story of the game.  He neutered a solid Yankees lineup in a stadium that is a tough one to pitch in.  Keuchel opened the game by allowing a line-drive over the head of Carlos Correa, but then he bounced back to retire the next two, and strike Mark Teixeira on a fastball inside for the third out.  In the second, Keuchel struck out Chase Headley on a changeup away before allowing a single on a line drive up the middle to John Ryan Murphy (the catcher), and strike out Gregorius on a check-swing slurve away.  Keuchel ended the third by striking out Astros-Killer Chris Young on a fastball inside.

The fourth inning was notable for Kuechel's only hard-hit ball.  With two outs, Carlos Beltrán took a cutter down-and-in, and he hit a fly ball to the LF-CF power alley that bounced off the fence about a foot short of being a home run.  He cruised into second with a double, but he was a only spectator when Headley grounded to second for the last out.

That was the last Yankees baserunner - at least while Keuchel was in the game.  The side went in order in the fifth and sixth, including strikeouts of Murphy and A-Rod.  In the seventh, Keuchel struck out the side - Greg Bird swinging on a cutter down-and-in, Stephen Drew looking at a running fastball and Chase Headley chasing a change up away.

Vincent Velasquez relieved, and he set the side down in order in the eighth, including a couple of strikeouts.  He ran into some trouble in the ninth, allowing a lead off single and hitting Chris Young with a pitch with no outs before allowing a couple of ground outs, including a run-scoring grounder.  Stephen Drew struck out to end the game on high heat away.  Velasquez has some serious life on that fastball when he is throwing well.


At the Plate:
The Astros put up big, crooked numbers in three innings, and hit the ball hard consistently throughout the game.  The only "pitcher" that they struggled against was Brendon Ryan, who finished the game with two scoreless frames.  Ivan Nova, the Yankees' starter, was lit up for five runs after recording the first two outs of the game.

Hinch ran out a new lineup tonight, with Altuve batting leadoff and Lowrie batting second.  Both were retired in order to start the game.  Then Carlos Correa walked on a full count and Colby Rasmus hit a soft liner into CF which Ellsbury got a late jump on.  The ball landed in shallow CF after Ellsbury missed catching it on a dive, and Rasmus cruised into third base.  Evan Gattis walked to put runners on the corner, then Carlos Gómez doubled on a line-drive off the end of the bat past the shortstop Gregorius, scoring Rasmus.  Luis Valbeuna took a full count fastball, and he drove it the other way (!)  over the head of Chris Young in LF, scoring two.  Marwin González then singled on a line drive down the RF line, scoring Valbuena.  Jason Castro walked, then Jose Altuve grounded it off the fists to third base for the last out.  Altuve saw two pitches in the first inning, and made two outs.

The Astros kept hitting it hard in the second inning, but all the hard hits were caught.  Ditto in the third inning, especially when Luis Valbeuna hit a hard liner to CF that Ellsbury successfully tracked down for the out.  The Astros had two runners on in the fourth - a one-out Castro ground ball against the shift and an Altuve walk with one out, but a grounder and a fly out to shallow right ended that frame without incident.

The Astros were back at it in the fifth.  Leading off, Colby Rasmus doubled, hammering a pitch the other way off the base of the LF-CF wall.  Evan Gattis then ended Ivan Nova's night by taking a breaking pitch that backed up.  The pitch caught the middle third of the plate thigh-high, and Gattis deposited it around 10 row deep into the LF stands, about 10 yards fair.  That gave Gattis 20 home runs on the year.

The relief pitcher was Nick Rumbelow, and he got two quick outs before Marwin González hit the second home run of the inning.  Rumbelow came with 94mph high heat up-and-away (the catcher was set up down-and-away), and González turned on it, and hammered it well out into the RF-CF power alley.  Then Jason Castro doubled off the RF wall on the full, missing a home run by about two feet, Jose Altuve singled on a soft line drive to RF, and Castro scored when Jed Lowrie's routine grounder skipped between second baseman Brendon Ryan's legs.  Rumbelow balked the remaining runners into scoring position, but Carlos Correa eventually went down on a check swing for the final out.

The sixth was largely uneventful, aside from Gattis' walk and Gómez's fly out to CF.  Gómez's fly out was eventful only for a frustrated bat-flip after he made contact.  When he was returning to his dugout, there was some chirping between the dugout and Gómez, possibly because the Yankees didn't like his display of frustration after he flew out.  Gomez clearly mouthed "shut up" a few times, and Murphy, the catcher for the Yankees accosted him in the way past.  Both dugouts emptied, both benches were warned, and the game continued.

The seventh was significant for the third crooked number of the night.  Chris Capuano was on the mound for the Yankees.  After Marwin flew out to CF, Jason Castro singled on a line drive to RF on a breaking pitch down the middle of the plate.  Pinch-hitter Handsome Jake walked to conclude an eight-pitch at-bat - the payoff pitch bounced short of home plate.  Pinch-hitter Chris Carter struck out for the second out - looking at a back-door breaking pitch that seemed to miss away.  Carlos Correa walked to load the bases, then Colby Rasmus walked on a high breaking pitch to bring Castro home.  Evan Gattis followed with a two-run line-drive single over the 5.5 hole on a breaking pitch down in the zone.  Carlos Gómez then hammered a three run home run into the bullpen located in RF - the pitch was a low fastball that was meant to be away, and instead ran over the plate a little, and Gómez made no mistake.  While it was funky revenge on the Yankees, Gómez didn't show anyone up at all, and rounded the bases at a good clip without doing too much talking.

Out of respect to Brendan Ryan, who is normally a middle infielder, we won't comment too much on the last two innings.  González and Marisnick both hit hard grounders that eluded the corner infielders for singles, and Correa, Carter and Gómez all hit the ball hard into outs.

The damage was done down at the bottom of the order.  The last six hitters (in order) included Colby Rasmus (2-5, BB, 2B, 3B), Evan Gattis (2-4, 2xBB, HR), Carlos Gómez (2-6, 2B, HR), Luis Valbuena (1-5, 2B), Marwin González (3-5, HR) and Jason Castro (3-4, BB, 2B).  Altuve perhaps showed more signs of turning the corner (1-3, BB) and he sat for the last three frames.  The second spot in the order went a combined 0-6 - Jed Lowrie had four of the at-bats, and Carter the other two.

Turning Point:
In the first frame, Ivan Nova set the first two Astros down quickly before walking Carlos Correa.  The Colby Rasmus hit a soft fly-ball that Jacoby Ellsbury tried to make a play on coming in.  He ended up diving sideways to try and glove it, and it bounced past him.  Rasmus headed to third base, then the floodgates opened.  The next five batters reached on a walk, two doubles, a single, and another walk, and that was enough for Dallas Keuchel.  The Astros also put a 4-run inning and a 6-run inning on the board - the six run inning equalled the most they have scored in any of their last 19 games.

Man of the Match:
Like... everyone.  But especially Dallas Keuchel.  He and Castro were awesome tonight.

Goat of the Game:
Can't really award a goat with a 15-1 win.

On the Morrow:
Collin McHugh (13-7, 3.96) versus Michael Pineda (9-7, 3.97)

Pineda is returning from the disabled list after a few weeks off for a forearm strain.  Who knows how this will turn out.

1 Eastern, Noon Central.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday Morning Hot Links!

Be sure to check out the Masked Marvel's recap of the 1-0 walk-off loss at Yankee Stadium last night, allowing the Rangers and Angels to pick up a half-game on the Astros. FanGraphs gives the Astros an 80.6% chance of winning the division, a 92.1% chance of making the postseason, and an 11.3% chance of winning the World Series.

The Astros are 45-21 at home, 24-36 on the road. Quick math will tell you that the Astros have 15 home games left, and 21 road games left, so you might be thinking "Oh no this is bad," and you might be right to feel its unfair to not just let the Astros play every game at home from here on out. Do keep in mind, however, that 13 of the 36 games remaining come against the Rangers and Angels - seven on the road between September 11-17, and six at home between September 21-27.

*The Astros and Dallas Keuchel are working out details of a contract extension. Keuchel says it's about staying in Houston and winning and not about money. Well, maybe a little bit about money:
Me personally, it's not about the dollar amount. It's about winning, because it doesn't last forever...So at the end of the day, I just want to win. I want one of those rings. With that being said, it's got to be something that's fair and that's right for both parties. I'm not trying to break the bank. I'm just out here to have fun and pitch and do the best I can.

*George Springers took BP yesterday.

*Ken Rosenthal discussed the Astros' solid bullpen.

*On the day Mike Fiers was given AL Player of the Week, FanGraphs' Matthew Kory looked at the PITCHf/x data from Mike Fiers' (The No-No Guy) no-hitter to see if he was cheating.

*We took a look at recently-promoted Francis Martes.

From the Office of the County Clerk - G126: Astros in New York (AL)

Scott Feldman (5-5, 4.05) versus Nathan Eovaldi (13-2, 4.24)

So the Astros rolled into New York to start a three-game series with the horrid Yankees, who have managed to “squander” the AL East lead (although the Blue Jays have been filthy hot since the trade deadline).  The Astros’ recent work on the road has been less than stellar (stats), so either some improved play for some regression to the mean was warranted today. 

As some people have pointed out, hard-throwing righties are not a good match up for the Astros.  Nate Eovaldi throws about as hard as they come, so perhaps we should have expected a 1-0 walk-off loss to be the final result.  Both Texas and the Angels were idle - they were rewarded for their largesse by moving a half-game closer to Houston each.

Going to the shorter format of game-recappery today, in the hope of having some time and energy to do some much needed work afterward.

What went well:
Scott Feldman was magnificent tonight, allowing only six baserunners (all hits) while striking out six.  He threw eight strong innings, had a pitch count of 110 when he left, and he lowered his ERA to 3.75.  All of the hits that he allowed were singles, and only once was he needed to be bailed out by his defence (see below).  The radio guys were talking about Feldman noting that his arm has been fresher than usual since his leg surgery, so perhaps this bodes well going forward. 

Carlos Gómez (the guy in the field) kept the Yankees off the board in the seventh frame.  Brian McCann opened the inning with a single to right, and when Carlos Beltran singled into the deep RF corner, McCann chugged into third with no outs.  Feldman then recorded a vital strikeout of prospect Greg Bird for the first out.  With runners on the corners, Chase Hedley hit a hard line drive to medium CF – Gomez caught it and fired a three-hopper home in time for Hank Conger to make the play on Brian McCann, who had tagged up from third.  Gómez is definitely quick – all he needs to do is hit a little, and the Astros offence starts to become a bit of a force.

The Astros managed three walks against Nathan Eovaldi.  And the culprits weren’t especially likely ones, either.  Jose Altuve, Colby Rasmus and Luis Valbuena all walked.  The team also managed four hits off Eovaldi, two to Correa and one to Gattis and Valbuena, all singles.  Gattis also recorded a hit off Andrew Miller.  So perhaps those five guys are starting to heat up again.  Goodness knows, the Astros could do with scoring more than three runs a game.

Over quickly.  2:47, which is speeding when the Yankees are involved.  I remember the early-naughties affairs, when the Yanks and Sawx would go nine innings, but still manage to rob my life of four hours.

What went less well:
Another loss hung on a lefty reliever.  Oliver Pérez was handed the ball by Scott Feldman after 8 scoreless frames, who, as mentioned above, was awesome.  Oliver Pérez was not awesome.  He started the ninth frame by walking lefty Brett Gardner, then allowed him to head to second on a wild pitch.  That left first base open for an A-Rod intentional walk.  Then another walk to another lefty – Brian McCann, who had three hits and a walk in this game.  If you are counting at home – and I am sure you are – that loaded the bases with no outs, which left Chadwick Qualls in a near-impossible situation.  Qualls was a curious choice to relieve Pérez, for mine.  Perhaps it was because he is a groundballer, but I may have gone with Josh Fields (if he was still in the major leagues) or Will Harris, because strikeouts were certainly needed.  Anyhow, Qualls allowed a deep fly ball off the bat of ex-Stro Carlos Beltran, which would have been enough to get Brett Gardner home if he had been on crutches.  Game Ovah!!

More Caught Stealings and other TOOTBLANS.  The sixth frame was the Astros' best scoring chance of the night.  Carlos Correa singled to right on a soft line drive, and Colby Rasmus followed with a walk.  Carlos Gómez sac-bunted the runners into scoring position with one out.  The next batter was Evan Gattis, and he hit a high chopper to the first baseman (Greg Bird), who corralled the ball rather quickly.  Greg Bird did well - he looked Correa back to third, Rasmus was caught too far off second, and Bird fired the ball to Didi Gregorius who tagged Rasmus and kept the tag on as Rasmus slid around and past the bag.  Rasmus was therefore the second out of the frame, Correa couldn't advance, and the Astros ended the frame without scoring because of a Valbuena fly out for the third out.

Handsome Jake pinch-ran for Evan Gattis after the latter singled leading off the ninth.  On a full count, Marisnick went / was instructed to go by A.J. Hinch, and when Valbuena swung and missed at a fastball, McCann had time to get Marisnick for a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out twin killing.  The tag was just in time - a great combined play from McCann and Gregorius.   Not good.  

I know I harp on about TOOTBLANS quite a bit, and I don’t want to be the guy who always points out the bad and never the good, but I hate losing runners on the bases, and it seems that the Astros are doing it more this year.  I can understand the logic behind sending Marisnick - the Astros may have needed two hits off a tough closer to score him - but it still hurts.  

Carlos Gómez (the guy who bats).  Gomez hasn’t been great with the bat in the American League.  He looks like he is pressing a little too much.  His triple-slash is a Marisnick-esque .181/.218/.241.  He has a bit of a spotty track record – sometimes being all that, and sometimes struggling – but I can’t see them sitting him any time soon.  The sac bunt was also interesting... I thought it was a little defensive, but with a better bunt he may have beaten it out.

Does Evan Gattis always hack at the first pitch in vital at-bats??  In the sixth today, he did it again.  First pitch grounder, neither runner advanced.  Sigh.

Chris Carter had a rough night - 0-4, 3K.  Remember this??  Not a good match up for Carter - hard throwing righties sometimes aren't his thing.  But still... dude had better get it going.

On the Morrow:
Dallas Keuchel (14-6, 2.37) versus Ivan Nova (5-5, 3.72)

7 Eastern, 6 Central.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Who the hell is Francis Martes?

So maybe you haven't really been paying attention to the minors this year because Astros County is of course the only Astros blog you ever read (which would be silly) and we haven't really been covering the minors as closely as we have in the past because! hope! success! job changes! less time!

Whatever the reason, maybe you saw Astros Twitter get excited today because of the promotion of one Francis Martes, from Lancaster to Corpus. And maybe you didn't know about this Francis Martes. So allow us to do a little backtracking and fill you in a little on Francis Martes. (See how I SEO? Blawg like a bawse).

Martes is a 6'1" 225lb (like Dre, pure chocolate) RHP out of the Dominican Republic who won't turn 20 until late November. That's nice. He somehow came over to the Astros in the Jarred Cosart trade that included Kiké Hernandez and Austin Wates to the Marlins for Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, and the pick in the 2015 draft that became Daz Cameron. This projects to be Trade Seppuku.

Martes was the unknown. He barely registered in the deal (that originally involved - though to what extent we don't know - Dallas Keuchel) that was completed less than 45 seconds before the trade deadline in 2014. In the linked article Martes didn't even get a mention beyond being included in the first paragraph as part of the deal.

A few days after the trade, and we as a staff were able to process it, Masked Marvel included Martes first "only because I know absolutely nothing about him." After looking at some of the basic dashboard stats, the Marvel wrote that Martes "screams lottery ticket, and the Astros may not know what they have with him for three or four years." This is a perfectly fine assessment. Because why would you jump to any sort of conclusion after Martes put up a 5.18 ERA/1.49 WHIP, allowing 29H/19ER, 33K:20BB in 33IP in the GCL...albeit with Martes 2.4 years younger than the average GCL player.

Then Martes came to the Astros' GCL team, and over his next 11IP allowed 5H/1ER, 12K:3BB in 11IP. So that was nice. Then 2015 happened.

In his first start for Low-A Quad Cities he allowed 2H/1ER, 5K:3BB in 4IP. Meh, right? In his next outing, on May 25, he allowed 5H/2R (0ER), 4K:2BB in 5IP. He allowed 0H/0ER, 2K:0BB in four relief IP on May 30. Pretty good, huh? Over his next seven outings, he threw 39IP in Quad Cities, he allowed 26H/5ER, 34K:8BB. This includes two starts of nine and ten strikeouts in 6IP. Francis Martes was three years younger than the average Midwest League player. Since there wasn't much of anything left to prove in Low-A, the Astros moved him up to the Cal League to see if his stuff could handle Coors Light (what I like to call "Lancaster" and the "Cal League.")

At Lancaster, Martes made his first start against Stockton and struck out nine batters in 5.2IP, but allowed 6H/4ER. Okay, kid's 19. In his next outing, he made a 3IP relief appearance, allowing 5H/3ER, 3K:1BB. Okay, kid's still learning. Then he rattled off four starts - two in Lancaster, two on the road - where he threw 26.1IP, allowing just 20H/2ER, 25K:5BB.

As a reminder, Francis Martes is 19 - 4.1 years younger than the average Cal League player. Of the 345 plate appearances batters have made against Martes, 334 of them have come against older hitters. Righty hitters have a .497 OPS-against, lefty hitters have a .539 OPS-against, and he has allowed one homer to a batter from each side of the plate.

There's a reason MLB.com placed Martes 8th in their Top 30 prospect list, saying "he has made a huge leap forward in 2015, creating hopes that he can become a frontline starter." His fastball sits 93-95, and "touches 98," with a plus curveball and a work-in-progress changeup (all evaluation courtesy of MLB.com). I don't have anything to add to that, having literally never seen him pitch - and you know how I feel about projecting players, never mind projecting players I've never seen pitch before.

So Martes will be 19 pitching in Corpus for the rest of the season. He'll be five years younger than the average player in the Texas League. If you want to project when he'll impact the Astros, my bet is late 2016, but my goodness, what a steal in a trade that was already leaning towards Houston.

Monday Morning Hot Links

Well well well. The kids go back to school (so I hear, mine isn't old enough yet) and the Astros sweep the Dodgers. You parents ought to be feeling pretty good right about now. Be sure to check out the Masked Marvel's recap of yesterday's win over Clayton Kershaw - well, not so much Clayton Kershaw, more of the Astros' win over the Dodgers bullpen. The Astros had not swept the Dodgers (and keep the league switch in mind) since Brian Moehler, Chris Sampson, and Geoff Geary got wins at Dodger Stadium on May 9-11, 2008.

Perspective

From June 28 to the beginning of play August 24, 2012 - three years ago to the day - the Astros had won seven of their previous 50 games. 43 losses in 50 games. The winning pitcher on August 1, 2012? Mike Fiers, for Milwaukee.

Scoreboard Watch

The A's and Mariners both won, the Angels lost, and the Rangers beat the Tigers to remain four games back of the Astros. The Rangers have won nine of their last eleven games and have an off-day today because they seemingly don't ever have to play any games (the Astros have played 125 games, the Rangers 123), but will start a series in Arlington against the Blue Jays on Tuesday.

FanGraphs gives the Astros an 82.9% chance of winning the division and a 94.5% chance of making the postseason - both are season highs.

Hot Links!

*ESPN's Christina Kahrl: Astros ready to lift off for an October destination.
Sure, this was just a three-game series in August. But beating the team with the best one-two rotation punch in baseball in the middle of a pennant race demonstrates that you can beat anybody in a short series. 

*Kenley Jansen, on the 9th inning:
Two (expletive) hits. What can I do?

*Clayton Kershaw says it's time to panic after the sweep.

*Brian T. Smith refers to the Dodgers as "Magic Johnson's precious baseball baby"

*Hinch, on Gomez's failed attempt to steal home:
I know it's maddening sometimes with the outs on the bases. But we're always trying to get 90 feet.

*McCullers spent his three-week vacation in Corpus working on his mechanics and a "slider-slurvish" pitch.

*This freaking Mike Fiers/Pine Tar thing isn't going away.

Non-Astros Read of the Day:

The Knowledge: London's Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS

From the Office of the County Clerk - G125: Astros versus Dodgers

Lance McCullers, 5-4, 3.17 versus Clayton Kershaw (10-6, 2.34)

The Astros, you might have heard, made some serious statements in the first two games of this series.  Specifically, they whipped out a no-no in the opening game of the series, then they tagged Zack Greinke for three extra-base hits in the second game of the series.  The Dodgers scored one run in the two games, while the Astros scored three runs in each of the first two games.  In the last four Astros wins, they have won by scores of 3-2, 3-2, 3-0 and 3-1.  So it was fitting that they won today by a score of 3-2 on a walk off.  If the Astros manage to start scoring more than three runs in a game, then look out, rest of the league, because they could be seriously dangerous.

Before we get to the game recap, it seems pertinent to look at the other AL West contenders.  Texas - the new second-place team on the AL West totem pole - completed their third win in a row (and third win of the four game series) against the Tigers to stay four games back of the Astros.  The Angels were up by five runs after the first inning against the Blue Jays (and with Garrett Richards on the mound, too), but by the end of the third inning the Jays had the lead.  It ended up being a laugher, with the Jays running away with the win by a score of 12-5.  So the suddenly-free-falling Angels lost their fourth in a row, and were swept at home by the Blue Jays.  The Blue Jays happen to be the next opponent of the Rangers in Arlington, so that will represent a fair challenge to the neighbours from the north-west.

On the Mound:
McCullers' outing can't be summed up in simple terms.  The guy is complex.  He has - at times - command and control problems, but when he is hitting his spots, he has filthy, nasty stuff.  Three wild pitches are probably evidence that he isn't an easy guy to catch, let alone hit.  It will be fun watching McCullers' career develop over the next few years - if he learns how to spot the ball more consistently, then he has a serious chance of being a legitimate ace.  McCullers' final line was a very solid 7IP, allowing 8 baserunners (all hits) while striking out eight.  He allowed two earned runs, but it is fair to say that if he hadn't thrown any wild pitches, he may have thrown a shutout.

The first inning was a great example of that.  Jimmy Rollins grounded out to first on the first pitch of the game before Chase Utley doubled to left field on a line drive just inside the line to the LF corder.  Next up was Justin Turner, and Utley advanced to third base on a wild pitch (a curveball in the dirt) before scoring on a sac fly to CF for the first run of the game.  Gómez nearly nailed him from medium depth in CF - I like how he got behind the ball and caught it coming in.  Adrian Gonzalez flew out to left to end the frame.

The Dodgers managed two hits in the second - Andre Ethier led off with a base hit to left field, but he was out sliding into second base.  Ethier grounded the ball down the third base line just fair, and the ball ricocheted off the stands where they jut out, into shallow left field.  Marwin González played it perfectly off the stands and nailed off a strong throw, probably about the same distance as a shortstop to first-base throw.  Jose Altuve got the tag down just in time, and Ethier was retired on the play.  Just as well, because the next batter was Yasiel Puig, and he singled to LF before stealing second.  But he was a spectator at second for the rest of the inning, as McCullers struck Carl Crawford out, and set down A.J. Ellis on a fly out to RF.

Kiké Hernández singled leading off the third, but he was erased two pitches later on a sweet 6-unassisted-3 double play.  McCullers allowed a two-out single in the fourth inning (a soft line drive to CF), but that was all for that frame.  He entered the fifth with a narrow 1-0 deficit.

After striking out Carl Crawford to open the fifth inning, A.J. Ellis doubled to the base of the visitor's bullpen fence with one out.  McCullers then struck out Kiké Hernández on four pitches, but Ellis advanced twice during Rollins' two-out at-bat, both times on wild pitches.  The second wild pitch bounded off Castros' arm into the Dodgers dugout, so Ellis would have scored whatever.  That increased the deficit for the Astros to 2-0.

McCullers retired the side in order in the sixth, including a two-out strikeout of Adrian Gonzalez.  In the seventh inning, he was in a bit of trouble again - Andre Ethier singled to RF, then Yasiel Puig singled to CF, sending Ethier to second base.  After a Carl Crawford strikeout, McCullers struck A.J. Ellis out on a peach of a curveball away, and Castro had time to stand up and punch a throw to third base to nail Andre Ethier, who was trying to advance.  The tag was in plenty of time, and McCullers was out of the frame.  That also ended his night at 94 pitches -  a solid effort, and a pat on the back for Doug Brocail.

I know I often gloss over how the 'pen pitched, but that is because they are so very good - leading the AL in ERA (2.63) and the Bigs in OPS (.594) - thanks Christina Kharl.  Chad Qualls struck out two in a scoreless eighth, Tony Sipp allowed a hit and a walk while retiring only one batter, but he was bailed out by Vincent Velasquez, who struck out Yasiel Puig and retired Carl Crawford on a line drive to CF.  Luke Gregerson allowed a lead off single, but he was sacrificed to second and was grounded to third.  Gregerson got Utley to ground into a routine play to an overshifted shortstop to end the frame.

At the Plate:
Jose Altuve has frustrated a few good pitchers in his time, and tonight it was the turn of Clayton Kershaw.  Altuve led off the Astros' half of the first with a single into LF - a hard grounder through the 5.5 hole - but the rest of the side went on a fly-out, a fielder's choice (Altuve out at second) and a strike out.  The Astros went in order in the second inning before Jose Altuve recorded the second Astros hit of the game with an infield single to shortstop with two outs in the third - very similar to his base hit in the first.  But Altuve was also one of two Astros baserunners thrown out on the base paths - he was promptly picked off by Clayton Kershaw in clinical fashion.  In the fourth, the Astros went in order, and a Chris Carter two-out double into the LF corner was the most significant play of the fifth.  Carter took a fastball that missed arm-side and up, and he turned on it, pulling it just fair to the base of the out-of-town scoreboard on the full.  Handsome Jake grounded back to the mound to end the fifth inning.

The Astros entered the sixth inning with a 2-0 deficit, and they managed to (i) cut it in half and (ii) have another runner thrown out on the bases.  Jose Altuve, with one out, showed great plate coverage when he went down and away to hit a line drive on a fastball located off the plate.  The line drive was snagged on the bounce by Yasiel Puig at the edge of the warning track, and he has a cannon, but not enough of one to get Altuve at second.  Carlos Gómez then hit a soft single to the left side, just out of the reach of Jimmy Rollins to send Altuve to third.  Gómez was jammed on a fastball up and in, but he hung in there, and got enough on it to record the hit on a soft line drive.

That put runners on the corners with one out, and when Carlos Correa grounded back to the mound, it looked like a double-play was the most likely outcome.  But Clayton Kershaw generates a lot of torque when he pitches, and his trail leg (his left) had landed on the third-base side of the mound, so his back was semi-turned toward the plate.  When he went to field the ball, he put his glove behind his trail foot, and the ball caromed off his heel, toward third base, before even reaching his glove.  It was a rotten piece of luck, but Altuve still may have scored regardless, but Correa reached and Gómez advanced to second.

Kershaw bounced back to get Jed Lowrie on a fly out to RF, and Gómez advanced to third, again challenging Puig's cannon - wwho threw the ball to third on the fly, and Gómez was safe in a nick of time.  That set up perhaps the play of the game - Kershaw is a lefty who is a little slow to the plate at times, and Gómez tried to steal home on a 2-1 count.  Kershaw did well to step off the rubber in a nick of time, and he lobbed a throw to Ellis, who came forward to get it, and reached back for the tag.  Ellis probably tagged a headfirst sliding Gómez on the chin before he touched the plate, and that was the ruling from the HP ump.  As Gómez slid through the bag, his left foot clipped Ellis on the jaw, rotating his head a little, and injuring him.  Ellis was lucky not to have been knocked out cold - loss of consciousness in sport is most often associated with a rotation of the brainstem, and being hit on the jaw like that is a great way to cause that rotation.  He was ruled to have made the play, and after the injury delay, he returned to the game to catch the next inning.  That ended the inning for the Astros.

Evan Gattis was at the plate on Gómez's caught stealing (or TOOTBLAN, however you want to put it), and he doubled to start the seventh.  But he was a spectator at second base as González, Carter and Marisnick all went down swinging.  I was watching carefully on GameDay at that time, and I thought that Carter and Marisnick were hosed on a couple of pitches off the plate inside - Carter on a 3-0 count, and Marisnick on a 1-1 count.  However, BrooksBaseball.net does not agree, calling both pitches on the edge of the callable zone.  Anyhow, after Gattis' double, the side went in order in the seventh, and in the eighth Kershaw finally managed to retire Jose Altuve while facing the minimum.

So Kershaw handed the ball directly to closer Kenley Jansen with a 2-1 lead.  Carlos Correa led off with a single on a hard grounder to the right side on a fastball up and away, then Luis Valbuena struck out swinging.  Carlos Correa easily stole second - which was vital in the final shakedown, before Evan Gattis popped out for the second out of the frame.  That brought left fielder Marwin González to the plate - he had been 0-3, 3K to that point - and he was obviously sick of striking out because he jumped on the first pitch he saw.  It was a fastball that was meant to be down-and-in, but it leaked back out over the plate, and González lined it into RF.  The ball landed just on the grass where the RF stand juts out, about five yards short of the warning track, and that meant that Correa could cruise home.  González stopped at first, and the game was tied.

Chris Hatcher, who has been up every game in this series, got the assignment to pitch the tenth.  He opened well, striking out Handsome Jake after missing the strike zone with his first two pitches.  Hatcher also started Jason Castro off with two balls, but when he came into the strike zone, Castro was ready.  The pitch was a fastball that was meant to be down-and-away, but it leaked back over the plate and Castro put a good swing on it.  The ball flew to LF, and just snuck into the first row of the Crawford Boxes for a walk off home run.  The Dodgers reviewed, but to no avail, and the call was upheld.

That represented the fourth walk-off of the homestand - including the second walk-off home run - so the Astros maintained the gap over the Rangers at 4 games.

Looking at the box score, Jose Altuve was the standout performer, with a 3-4, 2B night.  He blotted his copybook somewhat when he was picked off.  Carlos Correa went 2-4 with two singles and a stolen base, and he drove in the first run of the game, and scored the tying run of the game.  Gómez, Gattis (2B), González and Castro (HR) all went 1-4, and Chris Carter went 1-3 with a double.

Turning Point:
Marwin González pounced on Kenley Jansen's first pitch, which was a cut fastball that backed up a little, and leaked arm-side and over the plate.  González put a good swing on it, and the ball wasn't in the air for too long, so Van Slyke had no chance to run it down.  Carlos Correa, with two outs, was off and running on the crack of the bat, and he scored the tying run without a throw.  That took the Astros into extras, and we know how things finished half-an-hour later.

Man of the Match:
Jason Castro gets the nod for a tough night behind the dish and at the dish.  Catching Lance McCullers is no fun, especially when he brings his wicked breaking ball to the party.  But Castro hung in there, nailed a base runner, and hit the walk off home run to the opposite field to ice the game.

Goat of the Game:
No need for a goat.  Not on a sweep day.

On the Morrow:
The Astros open a three-game set on the road against the Yankees, who now sit second in the AL East with a 68-55 record (the Astros sit at 69-56).

Scott Feldman (5-5, 4.05) versus Nathan Eovaldi (13-2, 4.24)

7 Eastern, 6 Central.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Morning Hot Links

And of course the Astros beat Zack Greinke - read the Masked Marvel's recap. Notably, the Angels lost and the Rangers won, giving the Astros a 4.0-game lead in the AL West over...the Rangers, who move into 2nd place for the 2nd time this weekend. The A's and Mariners both lost, as well. FanGraphs gives the Astros a season-high 78.1% chance of winning the division and a 91.1% chance of making the postseason. There are 38 games left in the season.

On to the links...

*Hinch doesn't care that the Astros beat Greinke and took the series with an opportunity to sweep the 1st place Dodgers:
We don't care who we're playing. I'd like to sweep these guys. And it's going to be a tough matchup. We're going to have to bring our best to beat the Dodgers again. I think people outside this room, outside this clubhouse care more about what these series mean. I think our guys know it's another win under our belt.

That is a lot of thinking.

*Between Fiers and Kazmir the Dodgers made 30 consecutive outs.

*Mike Fiers donated his cap and the Justin Turner strikeout ball from the no-hitter to the Hall of Fame. And no, Don Mattingly won't be asking about pine tar.

*The career ups-and-downs of Mike Fiers.

*Now is apparently a good time to ask Mike Fiers about hitting Giancarlo Stanton in the face.

*The Dodgers and their $300m payroll have a wider margin for error than the Astros.

*The Astros have optioned Preston Tucker to Fresno to make room for Lance McCullers, and to give Tucker a chance to figure out his swing. Hinch:
He's in the area of the roster where he's got options and we have the opportunity now to get him some at-bats. I don't think his swing has been particularly sharp in the last couple of weeks, really since the road triple. 

The "road triple" to which Hinch is referring came on....I don't know. Tucker hasn't hit a triple this season. But in August, Tucker is hitting .152/.188/.304 with 11K:1BB in 48 PA. This arbitrary endpoint ignores the five hits Tucker got in the last three games of July but whatever.

So your outfield will be a combination of Springer, J.D. Martinez, and Delino DeShields Gomez, Rasmus, Marisnick, and Gattis. Why Tucker and not, say, Chris Carter? Carter doesn't have any options left, and would have to pass through waivers in order to get sent to the minors. Rather than run the risk of letting him go to another team, the Astros can stash him on the bench, let him get his 8-10 PAs/week until the rosters expand in nine days.

*The Astros honored Craig Biggio in a pre-game ceremony at Minute Maid last night. If you don't remember, "Craig Biggio" was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last July. His teammate Jeff Bagwell should be inducted next summer, and if he is not, the moon will turn to blood.

From the Office of the County Clerk - G124: Astros versus Dodgers

Zack Greinke (13-2, 1.58) versus Scott Kazmir (6-8, 2.43)

A banner night for the Astrso last night continued into the pre-game celebration today, when Craig Biggio was honoured in a Hall of Fame pre-game ceremony.  Jason Castro was an interested observer - if he continues developing his defensive skills, he could make it into the lesser-known catcher-only Hall of Frame.  Zing!  Anyhow, Craig Biggio was all class during the ceremony, but when he was in the broadcast booth, he confessed that he left Mike Fiers' start to head out for dinner in the fourth inning last night.  Jeff Luhnow, at that time, apparently warned him that he could miss a no-hitter, but Biggio left regardless, and as a result, Mike Fiers had to pitch with one less supporter in the stands.

The Astros sealed the series tonight with a 3-1 win, with all three runs scoring of Zack Greinke.  Interesting happenings under Houston on the AL West totem pole - the Rangers are now the second placed team after they avoided a late-inning meltdown against the Tigers.  The Angels were pounded by a solid Toronto lineup.  The Rangers and Angels are 4.0 and 4.5 games behind the Astros respectively, and I think both teams have considerable collapse potential.  At this point, the Blue Jays and Rangers hold the wild card spots, but the season still has 38 games left to play (for the Astros, at least).

On the Mound:
Scott Kazmir was dominant early before struggling in the fifth and sixth innings.  However, the overall performance was excellent, with only one earned run scored mostly because Kazmir was able to negotiate his way around a number of Dodgers baserunners in the middle innings.  Kazmir's overall line was significant for six innings pitched, seven baserunners (six hits and one walk) against eight strikeouts.  He threw 98 pitches in the process.

As I said earlier, Kazmir was excellent early in the game.  He retired the side in order in the first on a fly-out, line-out, fly-out sequence.  In the second, he sandwiched a hard fly out to the base of Tal's Hill around two strikeouts (of Gonzalez and Utley).  In the third, the struck out the first two batters (Kiké Hernández and Yasmani Grandal) before getting Alex Guerrero on a grounder to third base.

The first Dodgers baserunners reached in the fourth - the second time through the order.  Jimmy Rollins led off with a soft single into the LF-CF power alley, but Colby Rasmus pounced on it, and got the throw off quickly.  The throw was a little off target, but Jose Altuve had time to glove it, and get back to the second base bag in time to nail Rollins on a slide.  The Dodgers requested a review of the decision, but to no avail because the call stood.

The next batter was Yasiel Puig, and he hit a hard knuckler to Carlos Correa, who couldn't come up with the ball, deflecting it a couple of yards away to his right.  But Puig was left stranded at first, because Justin Turner struck out on a similar pitch to the one that ended the game last night, and Adrian Gonzalez grounded out to end the frame.

Kazmir was in trouble for much of the rest of his outing, but he worked his way around five baserunners over the next two innings to allow a solitary run.  After Scott Van Slyke struck out leading off the fifth, Chase Utley nailed a low fly ball into the RF corner.  The ball bounced on the warning track and hit the base of the foul pole, just above the yellow line, and ricocheted back into RF.  Utley gunned for third and pulled up with a triple, but the Astros requested a review, and Utley had to head back to second on the ground-rule double.  That ended up being important, because Kiké Hernández drove the sixth pitch of his at bat deep enough to allow Utley to tag and advance, and he would have scored easily if he had been on third.  With two outs, Grandal walked, but Alex Guerrero struck out on a pitch down and away for the last out of the inning.

I wonder whether Kazmir would come out for the sixth, as he seemed to be getting hammered in the fifth, and his stuff looked a little more flat.  I may have had someone in the 'pen warming to start the frame, perhaps, and if that was the case, Kazmir may not have gotten to finish the inning.  Anyhow, the lead off hitter was Jimmy Rollins in the sixth, and this time he doubled to the LF-CF gap without getting thrown out.  The pitch was an elevated 87 mph fastball away that looked flat, and the ball bounced off the fence on the visitors bullpen on the bounce.  Yasiel Puig grounded him to third, then Justin Turner hit one back up the middle to score Rollins on a single.  Still with one out, Adrian Gonzalez singled to RF to put runners on first and second, bringing lefty-masher Scott Van Slyke to the plate in a vital spot.  Kazmir responded by throwing three straight change-ups, none of which Van Slyke was close to, so he struck out swinging.  Chase Utley was unable to advance the runners further, and his ground-out to second represented the third out of the inning.

Will Harris got the seventh, and he was gold... again.  He set the side down in order, including the first two batters on strikeouts on six pitches, all strikes.  The seventh pitch of his outing was put in play by Carl Crawford, but it was a grounder to Jose Altuve, so the Dodgers sat down quickly.  I wondered whether Harris would start the eighth, but Pat Neshek got the assignment and he was nearly as good, retiring the side in order on 13 pitches.  And Luke Gregerson was awarded the save, allowing only a lead-off single and a hard-hit line-out to CF in the process.  Andre Ethier struck out to end the game.

At the Plate:
If I had to pick someone in this series to have thrown a no-hitter, then I would have picked Zack Greinke most times - at least in 2015.  His attempt at a no hitter lasted exactly two pitches, because Jose Altuve hit a hard line drive on his second pitch to the LF side of Tal's Hill.  The ball rolled all the way to the wall, and despite Kiké Hernández's best efforts, Altuve rolled into third for his first triple of the season, and eleventh of his career.  I wondered whether he would be stranded there, because Greinke quickly had Carlos Gómez in an 0-2 hole.  Gómez was then retired on a hard grounder to third base that Altuve did not attempt to advance on, but the next hitter (Correa) also grounded to third base.  The second grounder was slowly hit, and Justin Turner (playing third for the Dodgers) came in but was unable to make the play.  He bobbled the ball, and both Altuve and Correa were safe.  Correa reached on an error, but was awarded an RBI by the official scorer.  Sadly, Correa was also awarded a caught stealing, which ended the frame.

The second inning was remarkable for a Luis Valbuena home run to the back wall of the Astros' bullpen.  Valbeuna had worked himself into a 3-2 count, and on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, be pushed all his chips into the middle, and sold out on fastball.  The Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal called for a fastball down and away, Greinke missed glove-side-and-up, and Valbuena hammered a no-doubt shot that was estimated to have travelled around 410 feet.  That increased the Astros' lead to two.

Greinke was pretty much nails after that, because he set down the next eleven in order, two on strikeouts.  However, with one out in the sixth, Jose Altuve was also sitting fastball in a 2-1 count.  Grandal again wanted the pitch down and in (in a similar spot to Valbeuna's home run, remembering that Altuve bats right and Valbuena bats left), and again the ball leaked glove-side-and-up.  That put the ball squarely in the inner or middle third, and Altuve turned on it, mashing a hard line drive halfway back into the Crawford Boxes.  That restored the cushion to two runs (the Dodgers had scored one in the top half of the frame), and gave Jose Altuve double-digit home runs for the season.  He became the ninth Astro to do so this season.

Greinke resumed cutting through the Astro lineup like a hot knife through butter.  He set down the next five, not looking troubled in the process.  His last two batters were Colby Rasmus and Evan Gattis, and he struck them both out.  If he opts out of his contract, Greinke is going to get seriously paid this offseason.  J.P. Howell retired the Astros in order in the eighth.

The Astros had four baserunners on three hits and an error... and scored three runs!  Jose Altuve went 2-3 with a triple and a home run, and Valbuena went 1-3 with a home run.  The only other baserunner was Carlos Correa, who reached in the first and was caught stealing.

Turning Point:
Scott Kazmir looked great early on, and he was staked to an early 2-0 lead.  He had two vital strikeouts in the midst of his struggles.  In the bottom of the fifth, he got Alex Gurrero to swing at ball four - something sinking down and away to the righty.  His strikeout of Scott Van Slyke - three consecutive change-ups - went half way toward stranding runners at first and second in a one-run game.  Van Slyke was the second out of the sixth.

Man of the Match:
Yesterday, I wondered whether Marwin González may get some starts at second base because Altuve has been... um... "not sharp".  Thank goodness that I am in my parents' basement writing for a little-read blog and not running the Astros.  Jose Altuve had a great outing against a tough righty, and therefore wins the MoTM.

Goat of the Game:
Colby Rasmus has been one of the better Astros hitters recently.  Not tonight.  0-3, 3K.

Up Next:
Batman Returns (Lance McCullers, 5-4, 3.17) versus Clayton Kershaw (10-6, 2.34)

Lets see what Doug Brocail taught McCullers during his vacation in Corpus.

2 Eastern, 1 Central.  Grab a broom, everyone.