August 2010

Astros call up 5 players, including Bogusevic

Former first-round draft pick Brian Bogusevic, who was drafted by the Astros in 2005 as a pitcher before transitioning to the outfield in 2008, is among five Minor League players who will join the team Wednesday, the first day rosters can be expanded beyond 25 players.

The Astros announced Tuesday that Bogusevic, infielder Matt Downs, right-handed pitcher Henry Villar and left-handed pitcher Wesley Wright would be recalled. The club will also purchase the contract of catcher Brian Esposito. Bogusevic and Villar will be making their Major League debuts.

Bogusevic, 26, hit .278 with 13 home runs, 26 doubles, 57 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 130 games for Triple-A Round Rock. This is his second full season as a position player after being drafted as a left-handed pitcher out of Tulane University.

Downs, who was recently claimed off waivers by the Astros, appeared in 29 games for the San Francisco Giants this year, primarily as a second baseman, and hit .244. In three Minor League stops this season with Round Rock, Triple-A Fresno and the Rookie Arizona League Giants, Downs has combined to hit .244 with seven homers and 32 RBIs.

Villar, 23, is 4-7 with a 4.15 ERA in 36 games, including 11 starts, at Double-A Corpus Christi, and Wright will be making his third appearance on the Astros’ roster. He has made 10 appearances, including four starts, overall for the Astros in 2010, posting a 1-2 record and a 6.28 ERA in 15 games, including 14 starts.

Esposito will be the third catcher on the roster after hitting .205 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 58 games with Round Rock and Corpus Christi this season. He is a veteran of 11 professional seasons, but has played in only one inning of a Major League game and has not had an at-bat.

To make room for Esposito on the 40-man roster, the club will transfer right-handed pitcher Brian Moehler from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. Moehler is scheduled to go undergo season-ending surgery his lower abdomen Wednesday in Philadelphia.
 

Perhaps future not so dim for Astros

The Astros are knocking on the door of third place and could be pushing the Cardinals at season’s end if they keep playing like they have been in recent weeks. Say what you will about these youngsters, but they’re growing up before our very eyes.

J.A. Happ, one year removed from being a rookie, threw a two-hit shutout on Monday, and rookie first baseman Brett Wallace went 3-for-3. Angel Sanchez isn’t a long-term option at starter, but he makes gritty plays night after night. And Tommy Manzella continues to make strides offensively and defensively.

Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence have had good second halves, Michael Bourn is coming on strong, but the key to the Astros’ run has been pitching. Pure and simple. Astros starters have posted a 2.27 ERA in the club’s last 21 games (13-8).

It’s just enough to give you hope next year will be better. Hope that the pitching staff could be pretty good, and hope there is something good on the near horizon.

Happ, Astros battling struggling Cards

The only poor start J.A. Happ has had in an Astros’ uniform came Aug. 4 at St. Louis when he allowed seven runs, six hits and three walks in one inning. Otherwise, Happ has been pretty good since coming to Houston. He’s 3-2 with a 4.26 ERA in six starts with the Astros, holding opponents to a .207 batting average. He’s 3-0 with a 1.16 ERA in four starts this year at Minute Maid Park, one of which came with the Phillies before he was traded to Houston in July. Right-hander Jake Westbrook (1-2, 4.06 ERA) starts for the Cardinals, who are five games out in the NL Central race and in danger of being left in the Reds’ dust.

Here is the Astros’ lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

3B Chris Johnson

1B Brett Wallace

SS Tommy Manzella

C Jason Castro

LHP J.A. Happ

Medical updates on Bourn, Lindstrom

Right-hander Matt Lindstrom, who’s been on the disabled list since Aug. 17 with a lower back strain, threw between 30 and 35 fastballs at about 80-85 percent effort in the bullpen prior to Sunday’s game and reported no problems.

Lindstrom was originally scheduled to throw Saturday and begin a Minor League rehab on Monday for Double-A Corpus Christi, but the back began bothering him again and moved back his bullpen session by one day.

“I’m not trying to throw as hard as I can out there,” Lindstrom said. “I was just trying to get a feel for the mound again and stuff. We’re going to continue to reevaluate how I feel and go from there. I’m anticipating an outing with the Double-A team within the next couple of days, so it should be fine. It’s a day-to-day thing. Whenever I wake up I try to see how I feel, but today was a good day.”

This has been a frustrating stretch for Lindstrom, who struggled through back issues and lost his job as closer just prior to going on the disabled list. He’s going to take the day off Monday, but is encouraged his arm feels great.

“I was making really good progress in Philly, and the last couple of days started to feel the spasms come back a little bit and we tried to stay off it,” Lindstrom said. “That’s why we pushed my bullpen back to today. Today I was waking up and feeling a little cranky, but we did the things we needed to do to get ready to throw another ‘pen. It went well.”

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Center fielder Michael Bourn left Sunday’s loss to the Mets in the eighth inning with a strained hamstring. He said he was day-to-day and hoped to be able to play in Monday’s series opener against the Cardinals in Houston, but don’t expect the Astros to rush him to action.

Bourn said he first injured the hamstring beating out an infield hit in the third inning Sunday. He left the game in the eighth.

“It’s alright,” he said. “It got tight on me earlier in the game and that’s why some balls I couldn’t run out. Before it got too bad, I came out. I knew better than to try to keep going in there and to try to run again. You could feel the tightness and it was hot out there. Instead of being dumb, I tried to be smart.”

Bourn’s single Sunday gave him an eight-game hitting streak. He’s batting .382 during the streak with a .432 on-base percentage and five stolen bases. His infield hit was his National League-leading 32nd of the season.

 

Astros try to finish off good road trip Sunday

No matter what happens in Sunday’s finale against the Mets, the Astros have had a very good road trip. They entered Sunday’s game at Citi Field with a 6-3 record on the trip, ensuring them their first winning road trip of the season

Bud Norris (6-7, 5.03 ERA) starts for the Astros on Sunday against knuckle baller R.A. Dickey (8-5, 2.64 ERA), who threw so well against the Astros a couple of weeks ago.

Shortstop Tommy Manzella, who had a career-high three hits Saturday, is hitting second in the lineup. Carlos Lee is starting at first base for the second game in a row, as manager Brad Mills has Jason Michaels in the spacious left field at Citi Field. And Geoff Blum returns to the starting lineup, starting at second base.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn — Has a seven-game hitting streak (.400)

SS Tommy Manzella — Hitting .273 in August

RF Hunter Pence — Has 30 RBIs since the All-Star break

1B Carlos Lee — Leads the Majors in RBIs since July 28 (28)

2B Geoff Blum — Hitting .296 on the road this year

LF Jason Michaels — Hitting .310 with five homers, 18 RBIs in last 42 games with an AB

3B Chris Johnson — Second in the NL in batting (.362) since All-Star break

C Jason Castro — Has thrown out 10 of 36 runners trying to steal

RHP Bud Norris — Is 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA in his last six starts, with the Astros going 6-0

METS

RF Angel Pagan

2B Luis Castillo

CF Carlos Beltran

LF Chris Carter

3B David Wright

1B Ike Davis

C Josh Thole

SS Luis Hernandez

RHP R.A. Dickey

Astros go for sweep against Phils

If you gave up on the Astros a few months ago, you’re missing out. No, they’re not going to the playoffs, but this team plays with energy and emotion and has slowly bought into Brad Mills’ philosophy of playing the game the right way. Early in the season, they weren’t hitting and weren’t excecuting on defense, but they’ve brought it all together.

Just ask the Phillies, who are in danger of being swept at home by the Astros. The Astros send left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (9-12, 4.00 ERA) to the mound today against Kyle Kendrick (8-6, 4.58 ERA) in an attempt to polish off a four-team sweep at Citizens Bank Park. The Astros have won four consecutive games, all on the road, and are 40-35 since June 1.

Here is the Astros’ lineup:

CF Michael Bourn — Hitting .400 against the Phillies this year

2B Anderson Hernandez — Making his seventh start of the year

RF Hunter Pence — His 30 RBIs since the All-Star break are third in the NL

LF Carlos Lee — Has 23 RBIs in his last 25 games

3B Chris Johnson — Leading the NL in hitting (.376) since the All-Star break

1B Brett Wallace — Hitting .200 in August

SS Angel Sanchez — Making his 38th start

C Jason Castro — Hitting .188 in August

LHP Wandy Rodriguez — Allowed a total of five earned runs in last six starts

Never-say-die Astros do it again

Say what you will about the Astros, but their play during the month of August has been quite impressive. Credit goes to manager Brad Mills and his coaching staff for getting the most out of their players. Carlos Lee has raised his game to another level since Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman got traded, and young guys are stepping up. They’re hungry for jobs and ready to prove themselves.

Tuesday night’s 16-inning win over Phillies featured so many heroes it would be difficult to single them all out. The bullpen threw seven scoreless innings, with Fernando Abad and Jeff Fulchino throwing two innings each and Mark Melancon gutting his way through three innings on a night when overworked Brandon Lyon wasn’t available.

There was the hustle of Tommy Manzella, who made two terrific plays to rob Carlos Ruiz of hits in the ninth and 11th innings and then hustled down the line in the 16th to beat the throw at first and allow the Astros to push another run across the plate.

There was Chris Johnson banging out four hits in six at-bats, including the game-winner in the 16th, to raise his batting average to .340. There was catcher Jason Castro staying in the game in 13th after he was struck by a ball and dropped to the dirt. Not that Castro had much of a choice considering the Astros used all of their players.

In the last two weeks, the Astros have shown an uncanny ability to come back late in games, which is the kind of stuff young teams normally don’t do. It’s just enough to give you hope that Mill has this team heading in the right direction.

Here are some notes from Tuesday’s marathon game:

  • Game time was 5 hours, 20 minutes
  • The teams combined to use 43 players and throw 533 pitches
  • Bud Norris allowed one run in six innings and has a 3.03 ERA in his last six starts
  • It was the longest game for the Astros since a 16-inning loss in Atlanta on July 6, 2008. That game also featured a long rain delay
  • The Astros are 7-4 in extra innings
  • The Asros are 14-7 all-time at Citizens Bank Park, the best record by an opposing team
  • Wilton Lopez’s career-best scoreless streak ended at 20 innings when he allowed a homer to Jimmy Rollins in the ninth inning.
  • Tim Byrdak has 10 consecutive scoreless appearances under his belt and has posted a 0.93 ERA in his last 30 games.
  • Mark Melancon (three) and Fernando Abad (two) set career highs in innings pitched
  • The only players not on the disabled list who didn’t play for the Astros were starting pitchers Nelson Figueroa, J.A. Happ and Brett Myers and reliever Brandon Lyon, who has been used a bunch lately.

Some pregame notes for Tuesday w/lineups

Before we get to the lineup for Tuesday’s game between the Astros and Phillies (Bud Norris vs. Cole Hamels), here are a few quick pregame notes:

  • Astros starting pitchers have posted a 2.47 ERA in the last 14 games, lasting at least six innings in 13 of those games. The Astros are 8-6 in that span.
  • Hunter Pence is hitting .354 in his last 13 games with 10 runs, six doubles, four HRs and 11 RBIs. His 29 RBIs since the All-Star Break ranks tied for second in the NL.
  • RHP Wilton Lopez‘s 19 2/3 scoreless inning streak is the longest active streak in the NL. Lopez also has the Majors top inherited runners percentage., stranding 25 of 26 in 2010.
  • Since 2004, the Astros are 27-16 (.628) vs. the Phillies. They are the only NL club with a winning record vs. the Phils in that span. Houston was 6-2 vs. Philadelphia in 2009 and is 1-3 against the Phillies thus far in 2010.

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn

2B Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

1B Carlos Lee

LF Jason Michaels

3B Chris Johnson

SS Tommy Manzella

C Humberto Quintero

RHP Bud Norris

Astros trade Feliz to Cards for David Carpenter

The Cardinals have announced the acquisition of third baseman Pedro Feliz and cash considerations from the Astros for minor league pitcher David Carpenter.

Feliz had played in 97 games for the Astros this season at first base and third base and was batting .221 with four home runs and 31 RBIs.

David Carpenter, a right-handed relief pitcher who was converted from a catcher, was 5-3 with a 2.36 ERA in and 20 saves in 49 appearances at Class-A Palm Beach.

Shortstop Tommy Manzella, who’s been out for two months with a fractured finger, is en route to Houston and expected to be activated today.

The Cardinals had inquired about Geoff Blum, but with Jeff Keppinger nursing a sprained toe the Astros need Blum to play second base.

Manzella on way to Houston as trade winds blow

Astros shortstop Tommy Manzella is on his way to Houston following a rehab stint at Triple-A Round Rock, but it remains to be seen when he will be activated and what corresponding roster move might be made by the club.

Manzella, out two months with a fractured finger, hit .366 with one homer and five RBIs in 11 games combined between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock. He’ll arrive in Houston today along with left-hander Fernando Abad, who was recalled following Wednesday’s game when Matt Lindstrom was put on the disabled list.

The Astros close out a 10-game home stand tonight against the Mets before leaving on a 10-game road trip that begins Friday night in Miami against Florida and it appears Manzella will be making the trip.

Houston has informed other clubs that veteran infielder Geoff Blum and third baseman Pedro Feliz could be had in trades, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The Cardinals have had some contact with the Astros about acquiring Blum, but there is nothing serious in the works.

Feliz, who has been a bust after a signing a one-year, $4.5-million deal, could be a fit for the Braves, who have also been in touch with the Astros and are searching for help at third base in the wake of Chipper Jones’ season-ending knee injury.

Feliz is hitting .221 with four homers and 31 RBIs in 289 at-bats and lost his starting to job to rookie Chris Johnson in July.

Manzella could also be used as insurance if the Astros decide they need to put starting second baseman Jeff Keppinger on the disabled list. He’s missed the last two games with a sprained left big toe, but is listed as day-to-day.

Blum has been starting at second in place of Keppinger and hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning Wednesday, but moving him without a healthy Keppinger would leave the Astros without a second baseman.

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