Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday Morning Hot Links

Imagine being eight years old right now, born in 2010. You became really aware of the Astros when school got out last summer and watched them through the season. You went to 3rd Grade shortly before Hurricane Ike hit and school was still closed when the Astros acquired Justin Verlander, your mom and/or dad telling you that it's a Very Big Deal. You didn't get to see his Astros debut at Seattle or his next start at Anaheim because they both started at 9pm, but you read that allowing one hit over 8IP is really good. Those afternoon playoff games that the adults were complaining about? They were perfect for you. It means you got to see Altuve hit three home runs in ALDS G1. You saw Bregman take Chris Sale deep. (Because your parents know what's up and picked you up at lunch so you could watch the games). You got to stay up late for ALCS G1 because it was a Friday, and then as soon as G2 was over you went out into the backyard to recreate Altuve's Mad Dash. You had missed too much school so you didn't have to see the Astros get shut down in Games 3-5 but, as Games 6 and 7 were on Friday and Saturday night, you watched the Astros win the Pennant. The World Series was a blur and, though you paid for it with a tardy on November 2, you remember jumping around and screaming with your family at 10:59pm on November 1. Now it's 2018 and all you expect when you wake up is an Astros win and another starting pitcher striking everybody out over the course of 7-8 innings. Don't worry about 2010-2016, kid. This is all worth it.

The Astros lived on the baselines last night, with balls down the lines finally bouncing on the right side of the chalk and leading to a 5-run 4th inning. Astros win 10-0 - their 3rd shutout of the season, and the second time they've put up 10+ runs. Hinch:
That was one of our best games, obviously, in all facets. We made some pretty good defensive plays, we swung the bats. We've been pitching like this almost the entire year. A really good night for us.

We feel good. We've been swinging the bat better. It was about time. We had a sluggish week last week...this is what we like to do, this is what we do as a team when we put great at-bats together.

Houston put up 25 runs from April 9-17 (3-5 in that span). They've scored 26 runs in their last three games.

*Derek Fisher was 1x4 with and struck out looking to end a bases-loaded threat in the 2nd.

Jake Marisnick singled in the 2nd inning on April 10. Fisher doubled in the 6th last night. In between, the Astros were 0x34 with 19K:3BB from the 9th position in the lineup. Walks were drawn by Stassi on April 14, Fisher and Marwin on April 11. That's a .000/.081/.000 slash line.

*George Springer was 2x5 with 4RBI. Since the beginning of the Texas series (eight games) Springer is hitting .344/.405/.719 with as many extra-base hits (6) as strikeouts. It's the 11th 4+ RBI game of his career.

*Carlos Correa hit two home runs, the 69th and 70th of his career, and his first home run since April 3. Of the four home runs he's hit in 2018, three of them have come with runners on base. It's the 7th 2HR game of his career - he had three 2HR games in 2017.

*I like April Brian McCann. He was 1x2 with 2BB last night, giving him eight out of 13 games in which he's gotten on base 2+ times.

*Verlander: 6IP, 2H/0ER, 5K:3BB. It's the first time Verlander walked three batters in a game as an Astro, post-season starts included. Tim Anderson broke up Verlander's no-hitter bid in the 5th and Verlander took exception to Anderson's subsequent actions. Verlander:
Stealing third in a 5-0 game with two guys on in an inning where I was clearly struggling - I walked a guy on four pitches and went 1-0 to the next guy - and I pick you off on an inside move after the way he had kind of been jubilant about some other things, I was just as jubilant about that.

*Joe Smith, Collin McHugh, and Ken Giles retired the final nine batters of the game.

*White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar passed out in the dugout after his appearance in the 6th inning and was taken to a hospital for tests.

*George Springer told the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan that there's not a World Series hangover. Hector Rondon also said the 2018 Astros are "way better" than the 2017 Cubs:
Not now because I'm here, but the way they play, the way they focus, the way they prepare, I think that's the difference between those guys and here. I think we're better than the other guys.

You can read an expanded interview with Rondon in The Athletic (subscription required). Also check out Our Boy Tyler Stafford telling us (before last night's game) to chill out with the worry about the Astros' offense.

*Yuli Gurriel on his brother Lourdes, who was called up to Toronto yesterday and went 2x5 with 3RBI:
I don't want to give him too much pressure, but he hits better than me, runs better than me, and plays better than me defensively.

*Fresno won 12-4 and their 12-4 start (how's that for symmetry) matches the best start through 16 games in Grizzlies history. Oh, and if you want a replica World Series ring it may be cheaper to fly to Fresno next weekend and just be one of the first 5000 fans.

*Corpus beat up on Frisco 11-3. Ryne Birk went 5x5 with 2RBI; Yordan Alvarez was 2x5 with two doubles, a walk, and 4RBI. Taylor Jones (3RBI) and Stephen Wrenn each had three hits and a walk.

*Quad Cities scored four runs in the top of the 9th at Burlington, but it just wasn't enough to overcome the 28-3 deficit they faced. Pitching lines:

Cesar Rosado: 0.2IP, 0H/4ER, 0K:3BB
Cole Watts: 1.1IP, 8H/6R (2ER), 4K:1BB
Carlos Hiraldo: 2IP, 2H/3R (0ER), 4K:2BB
Patrick Sandoval: 1.2IP, 10H/10ER, 0K:1BB
Carlos Sanabria: 1.1IP, 4H/5ER, 4K:1BB
Robert Corniel: 1IP, 0H/0ER, 1K:0BB

Robert Corniel is now the King of Quad Cities. Burlington got 17 singles, eight walks, four doubles, and three home runs in the win. Torii Hunter, Jr. was 1x6 with 4Ks.

*From the NY Times' Tyler Kepner: Meet the New Hampshire Fisher Cats' power trio Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio.

*Shoutout to Elsik Soccer for their 3-1 State Semifinal win over Irving. The Rams play for the State Championship at 6:30pm this evening.

*I have A Thing tonight and there will not be Hot Links in the morning.

Friday, April 20, 2018

I Spy With My Little Eye....Someone Who Starts with a Y - Differences Game

HAPPY FRIDAY!! Another week of 2018 baseball in the books and I had a huge reminder that this is a long season and panicking over 10 hits through 4 games in April is just dumb. I know that and will try to cut it out.

Anyway! Grab your coffee, relax, forget about your real world responsibilities for a minute or two and enjoy a round of "Spot the Differences"! 

I usually will post these on Fridays, so come back again next week!

PHOTO REQUEST: If you attend an Astros game or event and take a cool photo, send it to me at to be considered for a future differences game. Please keep in mind that, to me, all Astros photos are great, but in order for one to be selected for a game, it must be clear, have detail enough for me to alter ten things and please, no personal photos. Credit will of course be given to the photographer. Thanks!

Lastly, I have included more differences for your finding pleasure. Can you find all 10? - Leigh







Friday Morning Hot Links

Everything is okay again, guys. The Astros won three out of four in Seattle and are 13-7 overall heading into a series against the 2014 Astros Chicago White Sox. Milwaukee, Colorado, and San Diego are the only other teams that have played 20 games this season. Minnesota, at 13, have played the fewest.

*The Astros scored 16 runs in the past two games, 20 in the last three. They scored 21 runs from April 9-16. Mariners manager Scott Servais:
We got shut down. You have to give Houston credit. Their pitching is as advertised. Their guys are throwing the ball really well. They really did - they shut us down in this series.

Jose Altuve was 3x4 two doubles, a walk, and 4RBI - his first 4RBI game since July 4, 2017 against Atlanta, and the 7th of his career.

Max Stassi was 2x3 with a solo home run, a walk, and three runs scored. It was Stassi's 2nd home run of the year, tying his previous career high, set in 2017.

A couple pitchers avoided major injuries on comebackers, and a triple play I really don't want to talk about.

See, Evan Gattis forgot how many outs there were and didn't jog it out the first base, allowing the Mariners to turn a triple play. Gattis:
It was just a mistake. I knew how many outs there were. It was about grounding into a double play. At the time I wanted to laugh on the inside because of how stupid it was but it was a 0-0 game. I think I got so mad I couldn't think straight.

*Charlie Morton threw 7IP, 3H/0ER, 8K:0BB, needing just 86 pitches to get through seven. It's his third start without allowing an earned run. Seattle was 15x100 against Astros starters this series. Morton:
That can changed quick and I know that. In 2015 I had a really good start my first five starts...went into DC and I gave up nine runs in two-thirds of an inning. My goal is to just go out there and give quality innings and not think about overall how things are going. 

*Jean Segura, on Morton:
It's unbelievable. He goes from throwing 91 four years ago and now he's throwing 98. I don't get it. I thought when you get older your velocity goes down. 

Read more here:

Read more here:

*It's the seventh straight start in which the pitchers has gone 7+ IP and allowed two or fewer runs.

*Tony Sipp gave up 1H/2ER, 0K:1BB in 0.2IP. His ERA is back to 9.00 and the world spins comfortably on its axis.

*Did you miss Kenneth this series? He apparently came into Seattle with back tightness and the Astros held him out as a precautionary measure. Hinch:
Luckily our starting pitchers have gone deep into games, and I don't have enough innings for all our relievers, so Giles being down a few days hasn't impacted us.

*Myles Straw is turning heads in this installment of The Athletic's Minor League Matters.

*The Red Sox outscored the Angels 27-3 in a three-game sweep in Anaheim.

*Missed this from last week: In The Athletic, Friend of AC Sung Min Kim wrote about Former Astros Great Lucas Harrell and how playing in Korea has been more like a dream than an exile. Pitcher Jae-Kuk Ryu, on Harrell:
He's just unbelievable. There is no guy as weird as him, at all.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday Morning Hot Links

We did it. We survived the first stretch of 9pm starts. Three down, just 20 more to go - next 9pm start is May 7-9 at Oakland. Bats back? Bats back. 7-1 win over Seattle. The Astros are 12-7, 1-1 when the Rockets play a playoff game. The Rockets are 2-0 in playoff games when the Astros also play.

*Turning point in the game was Derek Fisher's over-the-fence grab of Jean Segura's flyball to left in the bottom of the 5th, when the game was 1-1. Hinch:
It was a big momentum play with the way the game was going. Everybody exhales and then we come back and score a lot of runs. So it obviously was a turning point.

*The Astros' six-run 7th inning is a new season-high for an inning - they had scored five runs in an inning twice this season. Eleven Astros came to the plate. FACT: Eleven Astros didn't come to the plate in the entire game combined against Bartolo Colon.

*Houston got five extra-base hits - all doubles - for the first time since April 2. They had four extra-base hits in their three previous games combined.

We're a good offense, don't forget that. It was coming and there's more to come. As the game went on our at-bats got better and better, which is encouraging. I don't think we can allow a rough patch to get in the way of the reality that we're a really good hitting club.

*Mariners SP Mike Leake:
I left a few balls up. And with a lineup like that, you don't get many chances.

*Jose Altuve grounded into two double plays, his first GIDPs of the season. The last time he GIDPd twice was April 7, 2017 against the Royals, and it's just the 9th time he's done it in his career.

*Marwin was 2x4 with two runs scored, yet has not had an extra-base hit since April 9.

*The Astros struck out ten more times, giving them 10 double-digit strikeout games in 19.

*Derek Fisher was 0x4 with 3K. Fisher and Marisnick are a combined 10x77 with 41K:2BB in 80 plate appearances.

*Gerrit Cole was lights out, throwing 7IP, 5H/1R (0ER), 5K:2BB. Only five strikeouts? Garbage. ESPN Stats says Cole is the 6th pitcher in MLB history to strike out at least 40 batters in his first four starts with a new team.

*Joe Smith and Collin McHugh retired the 8th and 9th inning in order.

*Last night was the 11th time in 19 games the Astros have allowed two or fewer runs.

*In The Athletic, Jake Kaplan breaks down where the worry spots are for the Astros' offense.

*Collin McHugh brought some grasshoppers down to the clubhouse last night.

*Check this slideshow from the Chronicle with 15 album covers reimagined with Astros players.

*The Dallas Keuchel Smoke Stack 60 claimed its first victim.

*Ben Reiter - the Sports Illustrated Guy who wrote the 2017 World Series Champs article back in 2014 - has a book coming out in July called Astroball: The New Way to Win it All.

*There's a debate over whether or not Allie LaForce - reliever Joe Smith's wife - should have asked LeBron for his thoughts on the passing of Pop's wife.

*Mike Scioscia thinks Ohtani's next start will come in Houston next week.

*Hardball Times: The physics of Bryce Harper's broken-bat blast.

*How Hiram Bithorn Stadium was salvaged in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

*From Eno Sarris in The Athletic: How Adam Ottavino designed a new pitch.

*Derrick Goold has a great piece about John Brebbia and minor-league pay.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

Another starting pitcher rolls, but the Astros actually come through with a few runs (though not as many as they should have), win the game, and we learn how to love again. Astros win 4-1. They're 11-7.

*McCullers' line: 7IP, 1H/1ER, 11K:1BB. 69 of his 102 pitches were for strikes. After allowing a 2-out home run to Cano, McCullers retired 19 of the next 20 batters he faced.

His career vs. Seattle: 55.2IP, 39H/17ER, 70K:21BB - a 2.75 ERA / 1.09 WHIP. McCullers:
Those guys can really bang. They've got a great hitting team and a great team in general. They have a lot veteran leadership over there, a lot of of guys who are the greats of our generation, especially Robby and obviously Ichiro. When you face those guys, you've got to be on top of your game. Maybe they bring the best out in me.

*Chandler Rome notes that McCullers threw 17 changeups in his first three starts of the season, and 16 changeups last night.

*Robinson Cano, on McCullers:
I don't think he changed anyone's approach because we all know how he goes to his pitch, his breaking ball. He's not a guy who's trying to beat you with his fastball. He's confident in what he's got and puts it where he wants. You have to give the guy credit. He knows how to pitch.

*Chris Peixoto notes that the Astros have seven double-digit strikeout games from their starters this year, the most in MLB history through 18 games.

*Lin-Ariel Miranda had not thrown a pitch in the Majors this season. The full and complete list of pitchers who allowed more home runs than Miranda in MLB in 2017: Rick Porcello. The Astros loaded the bases twice, and were 2x9 w/RISP. Josh Reddick was 0x3 w/RISP.

*Jake Marisnick: 0x4, 4 strikeouts. That's 24 strikeouts (and no walks) in 45 plate appearances. He got his 24th strikeout through 61 PAs last season, but also had a .914 OPS to go with it.

*Brian McCann was 1x1 with two walks and hit his first home run of the season last night, a 2-run blast that let the Astros breathe a little bit.

*Tony Sipp will be activated from the DL today, so James Hoyt is heading back to Fresno.

*Fresno got eight runs in the first inning and have won seven straight games. Fresno is also donating leftover food from home games to the homeless, and that's very cool.

*Shohei Ohtani left his start against Boston after 2IP, 3ER, and a blister on his finger.

*The Hardball Times: 10 interesting facts about Tommy John Surgery.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

Hey guess who forgot they hadn't done their taxes and has/had (depending on when you're reading this) to be at H&R Block by 7am!? Last night was our first late night Astros Baseball Experience of the season, the first of three this week. So if you like not sleeping and extreme mood swings, then the next 72 hours are for you.

*This run that the Astros are currently on is impressive, actually. Oh, and hey, me predicting the Astros would get two hits last night was supposed to be a joke. They got three. The Astros are 10-7. As a team they are "hitting" .233/.317/.362 - a .679 OPS. "Good enough" for 18th in MLB, and 9th in the AL. They just dropped two of three games at home to one of the teams lower on the list. Their wRC+ (a stat that measures offense relative to the league in which 100 is average) is 97.

*Mariners pitcher James Paxton was typically dominant against Houston. Paxton vs Houston since the beginning of last season: 27.1IP, 19H/5ER, 27K:9BB. That includes his September 15, 2017 start in which he threw 1.1IP, 4H/3ER, 0K:2BB. Springer (who had two of the Astros' three hits), on Paxton:
He's tough. He throws hard and has a great angle on high ball. It's kind of one of those things where I'm looking for something to hit, and hopefully I don't miss it. 

*The Astros have six hits in their last 19 innings played. Since hanging ten runs on Baltimore on April 3, the Astros have scored 30 runs in those eleven games, and that includes the eight runs they scored in the 9-8 loss at Minnesota. They've lost five of their last six games. Hinch:
That's how it's been the last couple of days. We just have no margin for error, but our starter keeps giving us plenty of opportunities. If we keep doing that, we're going to be happy with it. 

*The Astros have scored 0-2 runs in six of their last ten games.

*Dallas Keuchel had an impressive complete game start: 8IP, 6H/2ER, 6K:1BB, but starts the season 0-3 for the first time in his career.

*The Mariners are now 6-20 against Houston since the beginning of 2017. The Astros are 7-3 at Safeco in that span.

*Gerorge hit his 4th home run of the year, the first against a pitcher not named Cole Hamels.

*Jake Marisnick was 0x3 with two more strikeouts, giving him 20 strikeouts in 41 plate appearances. He has not yet drawn a walk this season. In 41 plate appearances, Marisnick has worked the count to three balls seven times and has not seen a 2-0 or a 3-0 count. He's 1x11 with 6Ks w/RISP and two outs.

I think our at-bats over the last few weeks have been great. It's not like we're facing a bad guy out there. These guys are tough, these guys are good, that's why they're up here.

*With his first out of the game, Dallas Keuchel became the 16th pitcher in Astros history, and the 5th lefty, to throw 1000IP for the club.

*Tonight, Bob Dutton notes, Jose Altuve will play in his 1000th game for the Astros. Altuve:
I didn't know that, but thanks to God for the opportunity to be part of that club. To have 1,000 games in the big leagues means a lot to me. Hopefully, I can play many more. 

*Justin Verlander was named the AL Player of the Week after he threw 15IP, allowed one earned run, and struck out 20 Twins and Ramgers. In nine regular season starts for the Astros from 2017-2018, Justin Verlander has allowed eight earned runs in 60.2IP. Lance McCullers Jr. (whom I love as my own son) allowed eight earned runs in the 4th inning against the Twins last week.

*Tony Sipp is eligible to come off the DL tomorrow and the Astros will meet to determine if he needs a rehab stint.

*SI's Jon Tayler has an excellent look at just how unlikely Sunday night's game could have been.

*Yahoo's Tim Brown has another pair of eyes on Gerrit Cole and compares him to Max Scherzer. He also makes a really good point about all these cancellations that made me delete a paragraph I had already written about it.

*Here's Our Boy Jake Kaplan with a look at how A.J. Hinch is playing the late-and-close matchups, using three pitchers to finish games so far this season.

*The Athletic'$ Tim Britton brings it with an oral history of Patriots Day 2013, or how the Red Sox helped heal Boston after the Boston Marathon Bombing.

*Elite marathoner Shalane Flanagan needed to use the restroom. Desiree Linden waited for her, and then won the Boston Marathon.