Tom Lawless got his first loss as Astros’ manager Saturday, a loss that was snatched from the jaws of a win. Needing one win over the last few weeks to avoid a fourth consecutive 100-loss season, Chad Qualls struck again, this time with his sixth blown save of the season.
So, as the team streaks to the end of the season, it’s time . . .
- For Jose Veras to get the ball in the ninth. Veras is — at the very least — on his way to recovering his 2013 form, pitching 24 innings with 26 Ks and 11 BBs and a 2.63 ERA since re-joining the Astros this summer. A combination of Tony Sipp, Qualls and Veras could be productive in the 7-8-9 innings.
- Jeff Luhnow recognizes that if absolutely no other improvements are made to the team this winter, laser focus on the bullpen. Guaranteeing a success in that area of the team should be #1, #2 and #3 on the radar. Houston simply cannot suffer the same indignities from its bullpen for another season, especially given the starting rotation it has obviously put together.
- To admit that the Carlos Lee trade for Rob Rasmussen and Matt Dominguez was a bust. Or at least just a salary dump. It’s time to take open auditions for third base in 2015. Of course, Dominguez is only 25, so there’s time to turn around that career .238/.280/.383 line. Yes, that means a career .663 OPS (.611 this season) from your third baseman.
- For George Springer to get back to the team, though the Astros are 23-22 in his absence. Makes you wonder, though, what this lineup would be like with him penciled into the fifth spot behind Robbie Grossman, Jose Altuve, Dexter Fowler and Chris Carter.
- To consider that Dexter Fowler may be gone this winter. Moving Springer to his natural CF position and bringing in a big RF bat may be the best way to go to bolster the lineup. Consider the trade-off in run production for essentially the same $11-$12 million that Fowler is likely to get in arbitration.
- Everyone realizes that, despite what you may think, Houston is still a desirable destination for managerial candidates. Several coaches and others have already expressed interest. My leading candidates as of today: 1. Rays bench coach Dave Martinez. 2. Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux. 3. Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo. 4. Tom Lawless. Two dark-horse candidates: Craig Biggio and Rangers interim manager Tim Bogar. Bogar would be at the top of the list, but the Rangers would seem to have the inside track since adding the “interim” tag.