Big week ahead for Luhnow, Astros, but do you remember when?


The Astros are in the midst of the biggest season in franchise history. And, Jeff Luhnow — despite a long road of building, rebuilding, finding gems and busts and riding the roller coaster — could be entering a huge week for the Houston Astros.

Adding a starting pitcher (e.g. Sonny Gray) would not only mean big news and solidification of the rotation for 2017, but for years to come.

Imagine this rotation starting 2018: Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., Gray, Collin McHugh and fill in the blank for the fifth spot.

But for today, can we reminisce a little? As in Remember When?

Jonathan Villar and Matt Dominguez made up the left side of the infield and many were excited about that?

Bud Norris was the ace of the staff back in 2013 until he was traded to Baltimore, leaving Erik Bedard, Lucas Harrell and a couple of kids named Keuchel and Jordan Lyles to pick up the slack?

…many people thought Brandon Barnes, Robbie Grossman, Brett Wallace, Justin Maxwell, Jimmy Paredes, Paul Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer actually had a future in Houston?

…the Astros drafted Jason Castro with the 10th pick, passing over Justin Smoak, Wallace, Gerrit Cole and others? #gulp

…when Luhnow kept Brad Mills and then replaced him later with Bo Porter (who?)?

…the bittersweet summer of 2011 when Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Jeff Keppinger were traded and Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez and Paredes made the jump from Class AA?

…Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Villar, Clemens, Domingo Santana, Oberholtzer, Mike Foltynewicz and Telvin Nash were 8 of the Top 10 best prospects in the organization. That was only fives years ago (2012)?

…22-year-old Lyles led the team in wins for a whole season (7)?

…most of you would have been thrilled if Luhnow had kept Tony DeFrancesco as manager after the 2012 season?

Yes, there’s a lot of water under the bridge since Luhnow took over and turned around the organization. Do you have another favorite Remember When?

In the mean time, with the trade deadline just days away, the team awaiting the return of Keuchel and two key pitchers floundering in back-to-back games, Luhnow has some decisions to make. And they likely will not be in the short-term rental category, but rather in the long-term ramification file.

  • Is this week all that critical to the 2017 season?
  • The Astros are 6-4 in their last 10 games, but have increased their lead to 17 games. What does A.J. Hinch need to do to “right” the ship?
  • Interesting question: Regardless of the domino effect, which Astro traded away over the past five years would you like to have back on the 2017 team?
  • Do you have a favorite remember when moment from the past few years?
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128 comments on “Big week ahead for Luhnow, Astros, but do you remember when?

  1. Yes reminiscing back to the disaster days….thanks, Chip.
    – Yesterday they reminded us that the last Astro to hit for the cycle (as Aoki and Altuve fell one triple short each) was …..Brandon Barnes
    – One of my favorite remember when’s is this ….in 2017 the Astros as a team (which means they average) .291 BA/.356 OBP/.502 SLG/ .858 OPS
    If you look back at 2012 (their worst offensive team) the best in each of those categories for qualifiers on the team
    .290 BA (Altuve) vs. .291
    .340 OBP (Altuve) vs..356
    .460 SLG (Justin Maxwell) vs. .502
    .769 OPS (Jed Lowrie) vs. .858

    So basically the average Astro this year is better than the best Astro of that year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is this week critical – absolutely yes. Apart from a jewel plucked from the minors as the rosters expand this has to be our last chance to add to the playoff roster so that we go the whole way and not just to second base,

    What to right the ship – Hinch just has to use the new pitching configurations to our better benefit.Too many bullpen meltdowns lately. 60-40 will still win the division though. But is it enough in the playoffs? Probably not.

    Which traded Astro would you like back – JD Martinez? Was he less than five years? Otherwise Foltyzalphbet. I like 99 mph.

    Favourite remember when moment – I remember when Berkman bounced back and won the WS. Come on Beltran.

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    • Although Folty is starting to be the pitcher many expected of him I have no regrets with that trade. I like Gattis as a backup catcher and occasional DH. Although he has struggled of late I still believe in James Hoyt. His peripherals show he is a much better pitcher than he is showing. Hoyt has a 3.09 FIP and a 2.45 xFIP. Although he is 30 he has very little experience at the major league level. I think Hoyt will figure it out and be a solid bullpen piece for the Astros in 2018,

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  3. One memory that really stands out for me was the lineup we had planned for 2013:
    Castro C
    Wallace 1B
    Altuve 2B
    R. Cedeno SS
    Dominguez 3B
    Carter LF
    Maxwell CF
    Ankiel RF
    Pena DH
    A 5′ 6″ second baseman and 9 clowns.
    I could go on and finish naming the rest of that team managed by Bo Porter, but it was absolutely brutal. To me, that was as bad a team as it gets in major league baseball.

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    • Funny thing – that 2013 lineup somehow scored 27 more runs than the 2012 team – of course the 2013 team had such bad pitching it did not matter.

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    • Wow going down memory lane – here is the lineup for the 2012 opener (in the NL)

      CF Jordan Schafer
      2B Altuve
      LF JD Martinez
      1B Carlos Lee
      RF Brian Bogusevic
      3B Chris Johnson
      C Jason Castro
      SS Marwin Gonzalez
      P Wandy Rodriguez

      And here is the lineup for the last game of 2012
      2B Tyler Greene (was Altuve on suicide watch??)
      SS Jed Lowrie
      3B Matt Dominguez
      LF Justin Maxwell
      C Carlos Corporan
      CF Brandon Barnes
      1B Brandon Laird
      RF Jimmy Paredes
      P Edgar Gonzalez

      Man – I don’t even remember Brandon Laird or Edgar Gonzalez

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      • Looking it up – Brandon Laird hit 39 HR and had 97 RBIs for the Nippon Hams last season and so far this year has 22 HR and 63 RBIs in 88 games – this may say as much about the Nippon Hams as it does about Mr. Laird.
        Edgar Gonzalez somehow pitched in parts of 10 seasons in the majors despite a 17-27 record and 5.92 career ERA. 2013 was the last season he appeared in the majors, but he is pitching in the Mexican league for Monterrey very well this season. Monterrey is called AAA which I don’t think equates…..

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  4. Seems like the perfect time to mention that the Astros released RHP Kyle Smith yesterday. Smith was our return in the trade of Justin Maxwell, but he was not the same pitcher after TJ surgery and was hit hard in Fresno this year.

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  5. Playing loose with “past few years” it would be over a half century of frustration after that 11-2 win thanks to Bobby Shantz and Roman Mejias. That was followed with 2 more wins. Three in a row. Houston is going to win the WS their first year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I saw that too…but at the prices that starters are going for, I wonder is Mr. Luhnow is playing a little coy. Can he afford to depend on Keuchel and McHugh as starters down the stretch? And will McCullers be up or down on his game come September?

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      • Totally agree – I think he would not say he “must” trade for a pitcher even if Keuchel and McHugh were never coming back and LMJ was getting bombed every start. He never really does say much in public and rarely does anyone have a handle on what he is going to do ahead of time. He’s hoping for a late bargain I think.

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      • On the other hand, Chip, McHugh looked so good yesterday, especially his curve and slider. We see the results of the game, but every pitching coach and stats guy is pouring over every pitch he threw and looking at the results of those pitches. We see two home runs from a tired, sweaty pitcher in really draining conditions and forget this guy hasn’t been in a major league game in ten months.
        We also get to read about Keuchel, but they have all the info on what he threw for Tri City on Sunday, what looked normal, what didn’t. They know if Keuchel is healthy and ready and we’re guessing.
        I think Luhnow has a real good idea of what we have and what he thinks he might need for the playoffs.
        I won’t be surprised if he makes a big trade and I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t. He already has what many consider to be one of the best teams put together in the last 50 years. We’re going to see what he thinks about his team and we will find out what he really thinks in about 8 days or sooner.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 1oldpro, totally agree. I NEVER looked at the hits, runs, etc of my pitchers. More on were they able to miss bats, how often they were fooling hitters, how the pitch was coming off their hands, their composure/confidence/command on the mound, etc. But, you have to look at a guy a little warily who has missed over half the season, especially in light of the struggles of the rest of the staff. As I’ve said, if Keuchel and McHugh are their old selves down the stretch, talk about some rested arms. They could be the best “acquisitions” of the summer!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Chip, I wrote not long ago the FO does not trust the health of the starters, and we’ve seen why with all the DL stints over the season. I think Dan’s post below was spot on, Luhnow looking for a bargain (but other tms are making trades for TORPs) while JL waits to see how the field shakes out at the deadline. Hopefully JL won’t rue the fact he waited to long. Question, how might the Ver/Wilson combo help this tm? Might a change of scenery revive Ver? I think this tm needs an addition at the front end, not the back. Most starters barely go 5-6 innings and the bp continues to implode lately, hate to see them worn by the end of the season (2015). Can we go with the Detroit connection moving forward, make it work with what we have without bankrupting the farm further. At least with the Det connection it seems $$$ can factor in this trade more than prospects. Can/will Crane afford to eat some salary for a shot at a WS (that this tm is very capable of winning)? The baseball gods smiled on the Cubs last yr, everything fell in place, thus far they have done the same for the Stros this yr, despite the inj and they continue to win) I truly feel they can win it all this yr, go for it I say……

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    • I don’t think the guys on the market are clear improvements. If you aren’t getting someone better than Mike Fiers then why give up prospects and necessitate a shuffling of pitchers beyond what will already occur when DK comes back? As for the bullpen, I suspect they’re working hard on a lefty.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. By the way, I wrote this today, not as a Debbie Downer. Rather, it’s a reminder of just how far this team and franchise has come in the past few, SHORT years. Luhnow is no longer signing retreads and wannabes. And there aren’t nearly as many AAAA players making their way around either.

    Just sayin’…

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  7. Well when Uncle Jeff calls me I’m going to share. McCugh who knows, total crap shoot, DK could be hurt again in 2 weeks. LMJ is a mess. We are having a once in an every 25 years season, hate to see it end in quick in the playoffs because of starting pitching. Go get Sonny, as long as KT and Forrest aren’t in the deal, and of course none of the starting 9 not named Beltran

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    • I think that’s the problem, right now, Kevin. Beane is probably demanding KTuck and/or Whitley. If not, I think a deal would have been done by now. If Oakland would take Fisher, F. Perez and, let’s say, Daz Cameron I think Luhnow would do it, but considering what the White Sox got for Quintana I am fairly confident Beane is holding out for a top 25 (industry) prospect.

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  8. Oh my goodness……looking at who we had back in 2011-2013 gave me an instant headache! But, back then we were grateful for anybody who had a glove and a bat!!
    We have become soo spoiled the last 2 years with the talent that we have we expect to win every game! I will say this, if Luhnow doesn’t fortify the stating pitching, and bullpen I doubt Dallas Keuchel is gonna be quiet. He wasn’t happy late year with Luhnow when the Astros made no moves at the deadline. *IF* Luhnow goes out and gets Sonny Grey……we will see a VERY happy Dallas Keuchel!! Not making any trades this week, will signal that good, bad, or different…..you’re on your own boys.

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  9. Lookiing back over the Luhnow years, I’m with all of you in wishing we had held on to J.D. I like his trading history. I think it was brilliant when he picked C. Correa instead of the experts pick of Buxton. The huge mistake in his era to me was picking Appel #1. Most on this board wanted Gray, I wanted Aaron Nola and I still hold with that .

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  10. Follow up to Alien Abduction story:

    Yesterday Astros No. 14 prospect Yordan Alvarez collected a season-best four hits on his way to a 4-for-5 game at the plate. Over the past three games Alvarez has been on fire, hitting .636 (7-for-11).

    Let’s have all our minor leaguers abducted by aliens.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Maybe they were too long. A couple of points: Luhnow would not be candid with the Pope in sharing what’s on his mind about trsnsactions he’s trying to make happen. He’s certainly not going to give a legit quote out to a writer.

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  12. It worked. Nothing is critical. This team might win it all with the guys we have. But I’m certain that our GM wants to increase his odds. Getting a Sonny Gray would be the most painful approach, but it would make both the playoff rotation and pen better. And we’d have him in our rotation next year. I’d still do the painful deal.

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  13. On the other hand, there is a fair amount of good pen help out there. Two of those guys might cost less that a Gray. I’d be happy with a couple of lesser, but still significant deals.

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  14. I’ve liked Domingo Santana since I first saw him play in CC. We don’t really need him on this club, but he’s come into his own. He’s not nearly the gifted athlete that Springer is, but he’s producing more offense than George did at 24. Even with the strike outs, Domingo is still hitting .291 with a. .381 OBP and an .860 something OPS. He’s the real deal and just getting started.

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  15. Last item: I don’t have a favorite remember when moment yet. Unless you want to count those pastrami and egg breakfasts at Alfred’s on Stella Link before Sunday day games. That nice grouchy lady behind the counter used to sneak us Bloody Mary’s in coffee cups before 12:00 noon when it became legal to drink an adult beverage.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. * Do you have a favorite ‘Remember When’ Moment from the last few years? *

    October 2015 – from Keuchel’s first pitch against the Yankees in the Wild Card game up until that horrible moment in game 4 of the Royals series, in the top of the 8th inning, when Will Harris exploded and Tony Sipp’s arm fell off.

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  17. Game 99 on the season tonight! Looked at the lineup for tonight’s game, and completely forgot we were in a NL park….no DH!

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  18. As to the trade deadline, last winter we saw JL sign three on the “deal.” So far on the trade deadline, he has passed on the “the deal,” “the flop”, and “the turn.” So looks like he is set for “the river.”

    Boy I hope Mr. Bill does not read this, but it looks like he knows when to hold’em, when to fold’em,,,,,,,,,,

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    • On a warm summer’s evenin’ . . . on a plane bound for Philly,
      I bumped into Jeff Luhnow, as he was textin’ Billy Beane.
      When I looked down at his touch screen, I saw names that me nauseous;
      I said “Man, does this dude have no conscience –
      or has he had too much caffeine?”

      He said:

      You got to know when to cuss me . . . and know when to trust me;
      I know when to cut a deal; and when to turn and run;
      you’ll never miss those prospects, if October comes a-callin’;
      & Jim wants a big parade down Crawford Street, when the season’s done!

      Liked by 4 people

  19. High Commander Shavaz from Planet Mulkon ….Oops I meant Chip Bailey of Colorado Springs….orders me to sort through the thoughts of the humans who leave comments here and make the ones disappear that will most upset the commenters. This is part of a great science experiment to see which earthlings are worthy to return to our planet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Be careful, Dan, or:
      1. daveb7 will start throwing plants and dirt out his kitchen window, obsessing over Devil’s Tower [a/k/a Globe Life Park], and experimenting with 5-note sequences on his ukelele;
      2. 1OP will reveal that half of his posts on this blog are actually written by HAL 9000 using the 1OP pseudonym, and the rest are written by O.P.-ONE-KEN-O.P.;
      3. Ground Control will come for Major Jeff.

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Well I’m going to step out on planet Dummy and say what has been eating at my thoughts for two days now. I read a lot and I know I am far from planet Luhnow, but it has been bugging me about how this thing is playing out.
    I think Luhnow is going try to get Verlander and get Detroit to pick up a bunch of the money.
    Right now, Detroit wants to trade him and there are not a lot of choices.
    The Astros are looking at the playoffs and he is that kind of pitcher.
    Verlander would be a blockbuster that the fans would love and the competition would not like to think about.
    Baseball would go nuts.
    Verlander might actually like coming to Houston at this time and approve the trade.
    I think Verlander has a lot left in the tank.
    I don’t know, but having him pitching to McCann just seems to fit.
    I don’t care about his salary the next two years. We’re talking a dynamic of having what we have now, then adding him and having a better team next year than we have this year.
    I’m pretty sure I’m nuts, but that’s been coming on for a while now anyways.
    Will I get blocked from the blog, Dan, for being a spaceman?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Old pro I was kicking those same thoughts around in my head last week, but I decided not to post them as I thought, Ok I’m going nuts.

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    • OP, I just expressed the same sentiment to Chip in a post a few minutes ago. I’m with you on this. I’m feeling the Astros winning it all this yr and I’m a Cubs fan. Satisfied we won last yr so ready to continue to give love to the Stros though the Astro/Cubs WS I was hoping for probably won’t happen. Even then if both make it I’m pulling for the Stros (30+ yrs removed from Chicago to Tx, I’m converted, lol)

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    • Springer appears to have tweaked one of his quads. He had to play a double off the wall, in center, and he slipped slightly. After the play, he was limping but stayed in to complete the inning. I hope it is nothing serious.

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    • Made a sudden move in the outfield on a ball he thought was going to be a home run and bounced and made him change directions. Quad injury.

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  21. I thought the Phillies had figured out how to handle Altuve when they walked him in the 1st and let him get himself out again on the bases. But they pitched to him in the 3rd inning and he burned ’em.

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    • While your humor is greatly appreciated, that is unfortunately the best advice you could give other teams for dealing with Altuve. Let’s not suggest it again!

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    • Interesting promotions. I assume Martes is now considered to be firmly a big leaguer and not a prospect? It’s nice to see Daz Cameron check in at #10. He’s improved quite a bit and obviously has some tools. Any omissions in your mind?

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      • Well, the inclusion of Joe Perez is very interesting. The guys at MLB must love his potential considering his injury situation. That is a guy the Astros drafted that must be so much better than was advertised.
        My personal favorites are Moran and Framber jumping up so high, and JB Bukauskas actually making the MLB.com Top 100 list without throwing a professional pitch.
        I also love how many young pitchers the Astros have in their top 30.

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  22. Aoki has really picked it up. Over the last month he has a wRC+ of 169, .998 OPS and a 10.3% BB and K rate. Furthermore, Aoki has a history of being a 2nd half player. Now, we know he won’t continue at the wRC+ and OPS rate, but it’s not out of the question to see him be around 110 wRC+ with an OPS in the high 700s. It looks like Aoki is also here to stay for the rest of the season.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. How about the Pink elephant in the room. It’s the 6th game of the LDS, Astros need one out to clinch, 2 men on base, the other team pinch hitting a lefty and we bring out Sipp, That is one scary thought!

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    • If I had any money, I would bet that scenario is not going to happen.
      There is no way Sipp is going to be on the playoff roster, barring a miracle that he grows a new, better arm.
      If the Astros stay on their current course, they will not put that scene into the play.
      They are going to have their best relief pitchers in their bullpen for the playoffs.

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      • My bad LCS thanks for the correction as always Tim. So no lefty , has any team every went into the playoffs with out a lefty dominant specialist, love Devo and harris, but I’m not that confident that can be that person every game

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      • The answer to that question is…probably most. Ignoring LHP who are more than just a LOOGY, how many can you name from recent WS teams? I think KC used Duffy in the pen (poor results), but didn’t have a dominant lefty there entering the post-season in 2014 and 2015. Other than that I can’t even recall the names of the non-elite. There is a huge amount of volatility in reliever performance from year to year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kevin, I didn’t say they would go to the playoffs without a lefty reliever. I said they wouldn’t go into the playoffs with Sipp.

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    • I echo what OP says. Sipp is off the playoff roster. Without any changes to the current roster Harris and Devo are very capable of getting LHs out, better than most LOOGYs.

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  24. Correa. Bregman. Tucker. Love these Top 5 picks, especially as Bregman begins to come into his own. But we’re beginning an era when Luhnow will have to really show his polish and what he can do with those mid-first-round picks and even second, third and beyond.

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    • We can do that right now:
      Tyler White is a 33rd round pick and he was called up Saturday night.
      Derek Fisher was called up last night and he was the 37 pick in the 2014 draft.
      Instead of paying $80 million for a closer, we got ours for a #1 pick that everyone said was a disaster and a 2nd round pick from the 2010 draft. I’d say we did pretty well there, because closers are expensive.
      When McCann and Gattis get too old or expensive, mid round picks Jake Rogers, Garrett Stubbs may be ready to play.

      Liked by 2 people

  25. Sonny starts tonight……think he gets pulled back?!! Sorry dudes, but this old gal would be a lot happier if Luhnow traded for this guy…..so would Dallas Keuchel.
    Fisher in center tonight!! I hope he brought some of those MAMMOTH homeruns with him!

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    • I think there will be a lot of scouts watching Sonny Gray pitch. Still six days left. A good chance this is his last appearance as an Oakland Athletic.
      I would feel sorry for the Oakland fans if it weren’t for the empty stadium and those damn drummers out in the outfield bleachers.

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  26. While I was outdoing my 10 mile run I kept going back to OP and verlander. If we can make the money and deal right, I say go. I think he has a second win with a new team for 2 years and he is a proven professional pitcher, a winner , and a bull dog..

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    • I think he would do cartwheels at the thought of having a bullpen to back him up.
      But you never know what a guy(or his fiance) might consider important. He may not want to pitch half his games in our small ballpark.
      However, if we were to score 8 runs a game against the Tigers in their park, that might carry some weight with him.

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  27. Morton pitches a great game and Oh No, it’s Tony Sipp in. Maybe trying to build his confidence but it ain’t building mine.

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  28. 100 games in the books folks! And…..67 wins to go with it! Should be getting Will Harris back by the time they go to Detriot. Think Luhnow will be in Detroit this weekend?? Sonny gave up 4 in 6 innings tonight….I’m still lobbying for him!😃

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  29. – Real good job by the Phillies starting pitcher tonight. How many times this year have we seen a pitcher do a great job and then wear down and break in the onslaught of batter after batter that he has to make perfect pitches to?
    – Derek Fisher belongs.
    – Altuve’s double kept the double’s streak alive.
    – Philadelphia is the kind of team Washington and the Dodgers have been facing this year.
    – Anyone think we will see Bregman tomorrow, with a day off Thursday? I think Springer and Bregman both sit tomorrow.
    – I love the way Morton pulled himself together after a shaky start. They could not hit his curve, except the few times it didn’t curve. Tonight had to give him a lot of satisfaction on more than one level.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Susan Slusser, who covers Oakland for the SF Chronicle is a writer I trust. She wrote tonight that the Astros are one of the frontrunners for Sonny Gray, even though they were not scouting him tonight. She says the Astros have seen him so much lately, they didn’t have to scout him again. There were seven clubs scouting him tonight.

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    • We can lose Tucker or Fisher and it won’t kill us. But what else is it going to cost to get Gray, a guy that would settle very nicely into next years rotation? If they want outfielders, I’d give them Teoscar or Daz or Laureano and Tucker. I like Fisher in next years outfield, our outfield. If we manage to keep Fisher around and sign Gray, we might be better in 2018 if that’s possible. Don’t want to lose Martes at this point. And I think Musgrove has a solid future, but I’d give him up. Can the Yankees possibility have a better offer than we can make? I doubt it.

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