FREE BLOG WEEKEND: All stars, hall of fame and managers

A few early summer thoughts as Houston hitters fill in the gap and pick up their pitching teammates.

Much of the conversation surrounding the Astros these days is how many players will they put on the All Star team when the teams are announced for the mid-summer gala this weekend. George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa may make up the up-the-middle lineup, but it wouldn’t be surprising if another one or two joined them.

The All Star game may be the conversation now, but when will it become fashionable to talk about the Hall of Fame and Jose Altuve in the same breath?

  • Altuve is only 27, yet he’s light years ahead of Houston’s HOF second baseman Craig Biggio in a number of areas, including hits. Of course, Biggio prolonged his career several years and passed the 3,000-hit mark and helped put the Astros on the World Series map along with Jeff Bagwell. Altuve is headed for his fifth All Star Game, Biggio made seven in his career. Altuve is already over a third of the way to Biggio’s 667 two-baggers (227) and more than halfway to Biggio’s 414 stolen bases (213). Most other numbers are similar. Of course, Altuve need only do what he’s doing for another 12-14 seasons maybe. And, therein lies the only concern. While he seems to be a unique specimen, often times shorter, more compact players don’t hold up over the long-term. Will Altuve surpass Biggio as the best Astros’ second baseman of all-time and enter the Hall of Fame?

Oh, those lineups!

  • With the increased use of statistical data, many teams have increased their use of different hitting lineups to take advantage of situations and pitching matchups. The Astros are no different, using 69 different lineups this year. However, the difference this season is that the Astros can use different lineups whereas in the past they have been forced to use different lineups. In other words, manager A.J. Hinch has the resources this year to almost pull his lineups out of a hat. In the last two years, Hinch used 151 (2015) and 143 (2016) different lineups, not including pitchers. One difference, for the most part, is that Hinch has his order set for the most part when his players are healthy. For example, Springer hits first, Altuve third and Correa fourth most of the time. Ten different players have hit in each of the eighth and ninth spots, though. What’s your favorite lineup? Would you dare make any changes?

Speaking of A.J. Hinch…

  • The Astros’ manager has certainly made you forget the like of Bo Porter, Cecil Cooper, Brad Mills and even Tony DeFrancesco. And he’s moving up the list quickly. With an overall .554 winning percentage in Houston, Hinch trails on Larry Dierker in that category (.556). And, at 224 wins, he’s in 8th place all-time on the Astros’ managerial list and likely to pass and likely to pass Hal Lanier, Bob Lillis and Phil Garner into fifth place with a strong second half. Is Hinch the guy Houston has been looking for since Dierker left or is he just the beneficiary of Jeff Luhnow’s spending?

A few questions for you…

  • The Astros have managed to stay well ahead of the pack despite its pitching issues the first half. What has surprised you most about that run?
  • If Houston gets Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh back for the second half, does that make the team dominant? Wait, more dominant? Do the Astros run away and hide by the end of August?
  • Possibly opening an old would, but do you still burn when you think of the Astros being forced to move to the American League? Or has that simply become an afterthought in this fun season?
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114 comments on “FREE BLOG WEEKEND: All stars, hall of fame and managers

  1. What has surprised me most? No other team in our division has been able to step up and take advantage of our substantial pitching injuries and issues. We are still 13.5 games ahead of the 2nd place Angels, 14.5 games ahead of our in-state rivals, and 15 games ahead of the ancient rhyming Mariners. Oh, and is Oakland still back there somewhere?

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  2. With Keuchel and McHugh back would the ‘Stros become dominant? Not necessarily. Around the ASB the really good teams – if healthy – always seem to start playing significantly better and winning more consistently. Part of this results from mid-season acquisitions and promotions. Part of it is just the survival of the fittest as it works in the context of the game of baseball. Part of it is superior in-game management, especially regarding the pitching staff and handling critical situations and match-ups. Most of the wins late in the season wind up being pitching-based, however, and I think the only teams in our division that have the pitching to stay with us are Texas and Seattle. If Texas can’t get their bullpen working, and if Seattle can’t keep up – and IF we stay healthy, hitting, and loose – we could set some club records and have the kind season people will be talking about for a long time.

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    • I think deeper teams are more likely to stay the course whereas the leaner rosters wear thin from injuries, fatigue, etc. Think about the Braves of two years ago – they surprised most everyone and entered the summer in good position, then ran off some horrid stretch of like 5 wins and 25 losses in about a month’s time. It took them to the cellar.

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  3. – The Rangers, Angels and Mariners all have records over .500 against the rest of baseball, not including their record against Houston. The Athletic’s record is one game below .500 against every other team besides Houston.
    – Altuve has moved up to sixth in BA in all of baseball and is trending up, while the five guys in front of him have been trending downward from torrid starts.
    -Hinch is making his mark in the Astros coaching history and has a chance to do something no other Astros coach has done. He has a lot to work with.
    – I think what surprises me most about the run of wins has been the ability of the Astros hitters to keep scoring when the other team draws closer.
    – the other thing that has surprised me has been the ability of Astros pitchers to pitch out of jams, especially with Ks.

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  4. 1) Altuve: Several people have compared his numbers to Pete Rose at a similiar age. He has a real shot at 3000 hits / maybe even 3500. Injuries and how well he ages will be the wild cards for him.
    2) Lineups: More contact has resolved all lineup issues. Aoki is probably our weakest semi-regular hitter right now. He is better than at least two of last years starters.
    3) Hinch has a calm, professional demeaner that plays well with the clubhouse. He isn’t the greatest manager in the game but he doesn’t hurt the team either.
    4) Recent Run: I’m surprised that the bullpen has held up so well, especially the young guns. Aside feom Devo we may be taking some guys for granted.
    5) They could be more dominant if the starters consistently throw more innings in the second half. It will be interesting to see what the roster looks like on Aug 1st.
    6) I grew up as an AL fan so the move didn’t bother me as much. The fact that it was tied to an ownership change for a team that needed to retool anyhow seemed like pilling on though.
    7) Personal Note: I read all the articles on Chipalatta and most of the comments. You guys are definately the most informed and interesting group of Astro fans that I’ve found. Keep up the great debates and please keep up the great work on this site.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Welcome! I agree with your thoughts on Altuve. I think the big key is that he’s always outworked other players and made the necessary adjustments. His power has really developed, but in a few years it will wane. If he can be satisfied spraying singles and doubles when that occurs I think the sky is the limit.

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  5. *Do you still burn when you think of the Astros being forced to move to the American League?*

    Not at all. I actually much prefer the American League now. I do, however, wish there could be a restructuring of divisions – and one day the leagues (with a consolidation of rules) – so that all the teams in our division would be in the same time zone or at worst no more than 1 time zone over. One day I’d like to see a localized division of the Astros, the Rangers, the Royals, the Cardinals, and either a New Orleans or Nashville expansion team or the DBacks. Two hour time differences in the same division just isn’t right.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Do you realize the DBacks are 2 hours behind us during baseball season? I just wanted to clarify this when it comes to division realignment. I agree with you that I would like to see divisions realigned better. I also am fine with the move to the A.L. now. It has grown on me.

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  6. On a more pleasant front, yesterday a young righty named Cesar Rosado from the Dominican Republic started his second game for the Astros Tri City affiliate from the New York Penn league. For the second consecutive time out, Rosado threw five masterful shut-out innings. In his first outing he gave up no hits; yesterday he allowed two. In his first outing he walked one; yesterday he walked no one. In his first outing he struck out six; yesterday he upped it to seven.

    I don’t know how long he can maintain a 0.00 ERA, a 0.30 WHIP, and a .063 BAA, but hey, you go, Cesar!

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    • And Joe Musgrove had a nice comeback outing in Fresno!

      *I really like Hinch’s style, and it’s hard to argue with how his players respond to him. As the saying going, “attitude reflects leadership.” Yesterday, Altuve was thrown out at 2B, but the first guy to high-five him was Hinch for his hustle. The air of positivity is infectious.
      *I suppose off subject just a tad is my overwhelming happiness for Brian McCann. Seeing what he does off the field with kids fighting cancer, and the way he handles his business on the field – he’s yet another guy that makes this edition of Astros incomparable to any I’ve watched over the years.
      *Remembering when Oswalt, or Clemens were pitching lights-out, but as soon as we were down by 1-run, even the pitchers feared the game was over. There’s no safe lead against the 2017 Houston Astros!
      *Stiff test this weekend vs Yanks.
      *The AL seems a much better league. How far we’ve come from Brett’s Wallace and Myers. I am interested to see which one of Nats, or Dodgers emerges in the NL.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t sleep on the Diamondbacks. That team reminds me a lot of the mid-90’s Astros squads. As for the Nationals, they are fortunate enough to play in the NL East…especially with Turner out for awhile.

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      • Turner is unbelievable, just watched him a few days ago and didn’t realize he’s injured now. He beat out a routine grounder to 2B, then proceeded to steal both bags uncontested. Wish he was on our team, but then what? Ha!

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      • Turner was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken wrist. There is no timetable for his return as of this morning.

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  7. Good post, Chip. Here’s what I think:
    – Altuve – I think the guy will have longevity, because he is not a small person, he is a regular sized/solidly built guy in a shorter body. I think it helps that the middle infielders are not the targets they used to be under the new slide rules. I think about 10 or 11 seasons from now he will be closing in on the 3000 hit mark and that along with great BA numbers, high doubles, SBs, etc should roll him into the Hall.

    – Lineups
    Against rightys
    CF Springer
    RF Reddick
    2B Altuve
    SS Correa
    C McCann
    DH Gonzalez
    1B Gurriel
    LF Marisnick – much better numbers against rightys than leftys
    3B Bregman

    Against Leftys
    CF Springer
    3B Bregman – above .400 OBP against leftys
    2B Altuve
    SS Correa
    1B Gonzalez
    C McCann
    DH Beltran
    RF Reddick
    LF Aoki

    Hinch – He is doing a very good job, seems to know to let this team have fun, gets their attention when he has to, makes mistakes in lineups and pitching replacements like every other manager in the league, but seems to be a great fit for and communicator with a team that sports an interesting mix of vets and youth.

    The Astros have managed to stay well ahead of the pack despite its pitching issues the first half. What has surprised you most about that run?

    – Agree with Mr. Bill – very surprised that no team in the division (or in the AL) has made a run at the Astros while the pitching staff has been mostly on the DL.

    If Houston gets Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh back for the second half, does that make the team dominant? Wait, more dominant? Do the Astros run away and hide by the end of August?

    – There will probably be some adjustments as the guys get back – they may look a little rusty, may have trouble extending out. But I have a problem seeing this team slipping much. I see them cruising with a solid lead for the rest of the season.

    Possibly opening an old would, but do you still burn when you think of the Astros being forced to move to the American League? Or has that simply become an afterthought in this fun season?

    – I did not like the move at the time, but don’t really notice or think about it anymore. I like having a rival in the Rangers in the division and getting used to the other three teams. I do hate them playing in the Pacific time zone so often. That is a bit tough.
    I sure do like the Astros being able to flip that lineup more often without an automatic out in the 9th spot.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Free-blog Weekend? Okay, I have some questions concerning the second half:

    1. Still want Luhnow to trade for a MOR [no TOR’s are available]?
    2. Stick with Bregman at 3rd or trade him for pitching and give Collin Moran and/or JD Davis a shot?
    3. Would you rather see Aoki or Fisher in LF vs. righties?
    4. Stick with Beltran at DH most of the time, or give Gattis more opportunities (when not catching)?
    5. Who goes down when Keuchel comes back?
    6. Who goes down when McHugh comes back?
    7. Can Hoyt get his stuff back together to make the playoff team, if, as we all now expect, we get there?
    8. Who is the team MVP in 2017? Okay, you can propose a ‘win, place, and show’ betting ticket.

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    • 1. I’d listen, but not pursue any.
      2. Stick with Bregman. He’s doing fine. Defensively, he’s probably a little worse than Moran and a little better than Davis. Offensively, he’s contributing and is surely valuable for his energy. A real question is what does trading him buy us?
      3. Aoki for now. It’s kind of the same thing as Bregman above. September and October may be a different story…we’ll see.
      4. Both. Stick with Beltran, but use DH to give Gattis more ABs and rests to Altuve/Springer/Correa from time to time.
      5. Today I would send Martes.
      6. Depends. I’d send Hoyt down and move Paulino to the pen, but suspect they go other way.
      7. Probably not. There will be a roster crunch.
      8. I might argue McCann or Reddick, actually, but the numbers from Altuve/Correa/Springer are too good to ignore.

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      • I like your #6. I just think that now they’ve stretched out Paulino, it’s hard to go back to 25 pitches. The goal was to get him to starting major leaguer. He’s still young, less tenured, like Martes. They’ll likely accept any of management’s decisions, and keep their work-in-progress.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll take a crack at these, too!

      1. More MOR’s should be available at deadline. For a lefty specialist, I liked Sean Doolittle the other night (A’s), but Guduan had a nice comeback last night to right his ship. Until a deal comes along that’s juicy, I’ve got my eggs in Luhnow’s (judgment) basket.
      2. We’re loaded at 3B, but I’d trade Davis and Moran before Bregman, because I don’t think we’d get what Alex is worth *either among those 3. Gurriel (looks ok at 1B) is still the better fielder, and so is Marwin smoother at the hot corner.
      3. Fisher all day.
      4. Sprinkle in Gattis at DH, and any number of others. Beltran is still a professional hitter with good power.
      5. Keuchel for Hoyt
      6. McHugh, when? The mystery continues.
      7. Yes, Hoyt will be fine. He’s just had a run of poor outings. His slider is wipeout effective when “on.”
      8. Show: Springer; Place: Keuchel; Win: Correa. Altuve could supplant George.

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    • 1.yes
      2. Stick with bregman at 3rd for this year. This team is too good to mess with the young core right now.
      3.Fisher in LF versus all pitchers.
      4.Stick with Beltran for the rest of the year at DH with others getting a few starts against LHP.
      5. Whoever is left of Martes or Paulino or Hoyt.
      6.Same as above
      7.If we trade for a proven reliever, Hoyt might miss out on the playoff roster.
      8. Judging only by what has transpired so far, I give the MVP of the first half to Springer, then Correa, then Keuchel.

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      • Quite an admission, Springer for MVP. Couldn’t happen to a more focused & better guy, either! He’s the one guy that if traded or hurt, makes us a completely different team imho. I’d like nothing more than to see him win the All Star MVP for the sleight last season.

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  9. What I’ve been surprised at since 3/4 of the rotation has been out, is it didn’t really affect the position players like I would have thought! The rest of this team played like Keuchel was pitching, or McCullers was. They still hit big homeruns, and managed to get Martes and Paulino wins!
    I’m finally getting used to being in the AL, and maybe that’s because of the DH.
    I still think the NL will eventually get the DH.
    No….I don’t think these guys are gonna run away and hide in August, they haven’t even played their best baseball yet!! Can you imagine how much better they will be!
    I still think Luhnow is gonna sign another front line starter and another lefty in the bullpen.
    Hi Chip…..glad to “see” you back, even if it’s just a short visit!

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  10. Well, for tonight it is neither Aoki nor Fisher in left field against a righty. Mr. Hinch voted instead for Marwin Gonzales.

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    • Marwin holds his own in left! The only thing that kid can’t do is pitch! Unless or until Marwin stops hitting, I want him in the lineup everyday!

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  11. As for me, the MVP has to be either a guy with an ERA under 2.00 and a WHIP under 1.00 who averages at least 6.2 innings every 5th day OR the guy I want to at the plate with the game on the line – say in the bottom of the 9th with 2 on and 2 out. I don’t see any of our pitchers, as good as they are, meeting those qualifications by year’s end. Keuchel has the ERA and the WHIP, but he’s not been healthy, and it seems like he’s been out on the DL forever now. He doesn’t even have enough innings any more to qualify. So for me, the MVP has to be Mr. Clutch hitter – and that guy, in my opinion, is Carlos Correa. Altuve hits for better average than Correa, for sure, but Jose’ has not been nearly as reliable in the clutch. Springer hits more homers than Correa, it is true, starts stronger every night, and plays a more noticeable and AS Game Worthy defense, but he also tends to fade as the innings go by and to wilt as the critical moments of the game come up. Correa seems to me to come through under extreme pressure more than the others, so he is definitely the guy I want in the batter’s box with runners on base, two men out, and the game on the line. Next to Correa, in that situation, I want Reddick. After those two, who do I not want up in that situation? In order, starting with the one I want to see least in a game-on-the line situation, it would be:
    – Gattis [Lord help us – please don’t let him ever be up again with the game on the line!],
    – Aoki [he’s a pretty good table setter, but he is definitely not a hero in the clutch];
    – Bregman [where on earth is that much ballyhooed plate discipline and short, quick power stroke this year, son?],
    – Marisnick [I am just still not convinced the guy can hit WS quality pitching. Marisnick vs. Kenley Jansen or the likes? NO THANK YOU!];
    – Beltran [those who can, do; and I guest those who can’t anymore, teach],
    – Gurriel [still waiting for his hitting to get consistent],
    – Gonzales
    – McCann
    – Springer, and
    – Altuve.

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    • Respectfully counter with Gurriel’s 107 OPS+, .282 BA. Hitting the ball on screws such that he’s lining out to 3B, or peppering well-defended teams. I haven’t even looked at his O and Z swings, but he looks to be well-disciplined at the plate. That’s 20 pts better than last year, and that’s after the league knows his spray charts pretty handily.

      What I like about him is he can change direction of swing, like Altuve and Aoki while the balls aflight, and still remain long and through. Does anyone have a comp on his swing? Career?

      It’s pretty effective if to come out of his slump, his dad just told him to start swinging at strikes. Wasn’t that the quote?

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    • You write of Gattis being at the plate with the game on the line, I checked for go ahead and game winning hits and the box scores do not reflect that stat anymore. It is also not reflected in the team stats. I did get a stat on Baseball Reference (gosh, it took 10 minutes to find that stat) and he has 6 go ahead hits so far this season.

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  12. Terrible and sad story of the Yankee rookie Dustin Fowler carted off the field with a serious season ending injury in the first inning of his first ML game last night.

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    • Yeah – he was going to be the first hitter up in the second inning and never got to bat. And his parents were coming to Minute Maid to witness his second game – so very sad

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  13. I do believe Lance McCullers just walked off the field grimacing and said to Mac, “my back.”

    He puts a lot of torque in that motion, when you stick the spike.

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  14. Either McCullers is hurt again, or someone stole his strikes. He hasn’t been himself since the 2nd inning….he’s thrown a LOT of pitches. I’m really hoping you’re wrong Grayson….I sincerely hope he’s not hurt again.

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  15. Collin Mchugh first rehab game Corpus Christi Hooks:
    One inning
    42 pitches
    7 hits (all singles)
    4 runs
    2 walks
    1 hit by pitch
    I’m going to predict McHugh doesn’t make it back this year.

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    • If he threw 42 pitches and feels good, that is all I care about. Here is a guy who is making his first pitches since last September pitching against hitters in mid season form. This was like his first spring training appearance

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  16. This is about as sloppy as this team has played this year…..6 to 3 and they still aren’t out of the 6th inning. These guys are inventing new ways to beat themselves.
    Here come that Guduan fella…..Lord help us.

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  17. I think there ought the be a stat that plays into the picture more that it does which is the inherited runners scored. Yes, I know there is one but when a reliever comes in as tonight and allows both to score and then 3 more….well you get my drift.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hoyt just punched his ticket back to Fresno. A real shame, he came into the inning to try and clean up a real mess, but kiddo…..you just gave up your 2nd grandslam in *ONE* WEEK..😣

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    • Yeah……I turned off the radio when he gave up that grandslam. Maybe he just isn’t cut out for the majors. He was very effective as a closer in Fresno…..but this ain’t Fresno.

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  19. Sonny Gray has a two hitter through 8 against the Braves but trails 1-0 because Foltynewicz has a no hitter going in the bottom of the 8th against him.

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  20. I loved Kalas going through the batting order and doubling the first half production. Very impressive.

    Then I see on twitter that IF the Astros play .500 ball the rest of the way, it is 94 wins.

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    • And the best hitters lose 2 out of 3 at-bats. .300 is a good hitter, right? It’s that message for all of us losers that we need to hear.

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  21. Too bad we didn’t get rained out after 5. Two completely different ball games last night. Unfortunately, the Yankees won the second half convincingly.

    Getting the rotation back in order will have a huge impact on the performance of the pen.

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  22. Watching our young bullpen arms come into the game, reminds me of what was said about Leo Durocher.

    “When Leo comes into a situation, he makes it immediately worse.”

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    • Different people see different things in a ball game. What I saw in Hoyt was he didn’t have his put away slider or any other pitch to a left hander. He tried but could not put him away. Then at 3-2, he didn’t want to walk him with the bases loaded.

      LMJ has the ability to throw a slider and if it is fouled off, he then throws a better slider.

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      • This may be due to differences in his usage between Fresno and Houston. Getting up multiple times in a game, going multiple innings, etc. could make his pitches a little less sharp. For me, I want to know where the velocity is. I can’t remember seeing it hit 95 (on tv) in a long time.

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  23. Does anyone know why Rogelio Amenteros is on the Temporary Inactive List? If the 23 year old is healthy, in good standing and I suppose tested recently, heck, I’d send him up to AAA.

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  24. Just want to note that I am disgusted with the calls of the umpires, but there is no place for fans throwing balls or any other objects at Joe West or any other umpire. Hope they guy gets jail time.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Harris is disgusted with himself right now. He did get squeezed before walking his first guy, but then threw a very bad pitch on an 0-2 count to a guy hitting .143 and then grooved the pitch for the slam on an 0-1 count.

    Maybe we’ve got the comeback in us tonight though.

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  26. Be careful if you are driving near Minute Maid Park. Several fans are jumping off the band wagon this afternoon.

    When I read their comments on other sites, I just have to laugh.

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    • 45, there is a Facebook page this has a remarkable group of “fans”. I don’t know they came from, but earlier tonight, one guy wanted to move Gattis for Castro. I did not make that up.

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      • I wouldn’t even trade my daughter’s socks for Castro. The socks probably could hit better.

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      • Yeah no kidding.

        Put an electrified fence around the bandwagon. ..and have it guarded by a Rabid pit bull named Borash.

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      • Sorry,Dan, I want everyone to jump on the bandwagon and buy tickets and scream loud and spend their money on the Astros.
        When the season’s over and we need to spend some bucks and all the bandwagon fans are watching the Texans, we’ll be paying close attention to what their money buys OUR team for next season.
        What really makes me happy is all those loud Yankee fans who went back to their penthouse suites in downtown hotels shaking their heads at what they just watched.

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    • He was on his way to second, thinking double, but Reddick cut it off, put on the brakes, turned a .360 and got the ball to Correa, who made a heck of a throw beating him back to first, with a nice little foot block of the bag by Yuli with the tag.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Gardner ripped one in left center gap – Reddick cut it off quickly – Gardner rounded first hesitated a couple times and finally decided to go back to first. Correa jumped up to cut off Reddick’s throw, saw Gardner in trouble and threw without stepping to 1st. Gurriel’s foot redirected Gardner’s hand as he was tagging him.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Absolutely unreal, but then again what a team! We sure have waited a long time for this type of team. And I’d say it’s worth it as they don’t disappoint.

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  28. Great comeback – big plays by Gurriel offensively (2 run HR / 2 run double) and blocking Gardner off 1st base for the tag to end the game

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