May 2011

Lyles’ debut most anticipated since Pence

Astros manager Brad Mills said it best Sunday when he said he told Jordan Lyles he could be with the club for two starts or 20 years. Whatever the future holds, it begins now. The Astros’ top prospect – only 20 years old – makes his long-anticipated Major League debut tonight at Wrigley Field for the Astros when they face the Cubs.

Barely three years removed from his high school graduation and being drafted 38th overall by the Astros (who gave him a $930,000 bonus), Lyles’ debut is the most anticipated in team history since perhaps Hunter Pence in 2007. Pence was the Astros’ top prospect when he made his Major League debut on April 28, 2007 at Minute Maid Park, going 1-for-3 in a 10-1 win over the Brewers. He went 2-for-4 the next night and has been in the lineup since.

Of course, Pence was 24 years old by the time the Astros finally called him. He had a terrific spring that season, but the Astros were committed to finding a way to keep former top prospect Chris Burke on the roster with Craig Biggio closing out his career with his final season at second base. Despite being the most difficult out in the Grapefruit League in 2007, Pence opened the season at Triple-A Round Rock, with Burke opening the year as the starting center fielder. It took less than a month for Pence to get called up, and later in the year he moved to right field, where he’s been entrenched since.

The Astros aren’t promising anything to Lyles more than two starts – tonight against the Cubs and Sunday in San Diego against the Padres. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is expected to be healthy enough to return to the rotation by then, but if Lyles puts together two quality starts, the club is going to have a decision to make. They’re going to have to find a way to keep Lyles in the rotation, which could come at the expense of Rule 5 pick Aneury Rodriguez.

But first things first.

Lyles got off to a rough this year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, but has slowly gotten into a groove. He pitched six innings in his most recent start May 25. In his last three starts, he was 2-1 with three earned runs allowed in 20 2/3 innings. Like Pence did four years earlier, Lyles dazzled the Astros in Spring Training with his composure and competitiveness, but began the season in the Minors anyway.

For a Minor League organization that hasn’t had many prospects to get excited about in recent years, the Astros can’t help but be excited about Lyles. Whether this is the start of a terrific Major league career or something else remains to be seen. But there’s little doubt it’s time to see what Lyles can do.

Astros-Diamondbacks lineups for Sunday

Here are the lineups for Sunday’s series between the Diamondbacks and the Astros:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn

2B Jeff Keppinger

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos lee

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

SS Clint Barmes

C J.R. Towles

LHP J.A. Happ

DIAMONDBACKS

SS Willie Bloomquist

2B Ryan Roberts

RF Justin Upton

CF Chris Young

LF Xavier Nady

1B Juan Mirando

3B Melvin Morda

C Henry Blanco

RHP Josh Collmenter

Lyles on his way to Astros

The Astros announced Saturday afternoon they will place left-hander Wandy Rodriguez on the 15-day disabled list Monday with fluid in his left elbow joint and will purchase the contract of top prospect Jordan Lyles, a right-handed pitcher, from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Lyles, 20, the Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year last year, will make his Major League debut on Tuesday when he gets the start for the Astros against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He’s 3-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 10 starts this year for the RedHawks. Lyles is also scheduled to start June 5 in San Diego, manager Brad Mills said.

“He’s been pitching well,” Mills said. “His last outing [Wednesday] was six shutout innings and he only threw 77 pitches. He’s put some pretty good outings together. Everyone’s excited with the way he threw in Spring Training for us and we’re exited for him. This will be a good time to see him pitch.”

Rodriguez underwent an MRI on Saturday morning because of discomfort in his elbow. He was scheduled to start Saturday’s game against Arizona, but was scratched on Friday. Rodriguez is 3-3 in 10 starts this season with a 3.41 ERA, and is 3-1 in his last seven starts with a 2.16 ERA.

In Lyles’ last seven starts, he has been one of the top starting pitchers in Triple-A, posting a 3-1 record with a 2.00 ERA. In that span, he has allowed two runs or less in six starts and one run or less in four starts.

Lyles, the club’s 38th overall pick in 2008, dazzled the Astros in Spring Training, posting a 1.98 ERA in five appearances while competing for the fifth starter’s job – a spot that eventually went to Nelson Figueroa.

To make room for Lyles on the 40-man roster, catcher Jason Castro will be transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

 

 

Astros’ lineup for Saturday

Astros’ lineup for Saturday:

CF Michael Bourn

SS Clint Barmes

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

3B Chris Johnson

1B Brett Wallace

2B Bill Hall

C J.R. Towles

RHP Bud Norris

Astros’ lineup for Wednesday

The Astros finish up their series with the Dodgers this afternoonat Minute Maid Park. Aneury Rodriguez (0-2, 5.72 ERA) starts for the Astros against Dodgers left-hander Ted Lilly (3-4, 4.71 ERA).

Here is the Astros’ lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

SS Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

3B Chris Johnson

1B Brett Wallace

2B Bill Hall

C J.R. Towles

P Aneury Rodriguez

Astros postgame notes from Tuesday

The Astros sure let one get away Tuesday, with second baseman Bill Hall committing a costly error with two outs in the third inning. Instead of escaping the inning, starter J.A. Happ gave up a grand slam homer to Jerry Sands that gave the Dodgers a 5-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

The Dodgers sent down the final 12 batters of the game after the Astros had loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth to win, 5-4.

“It’s always unfortunate when the next guy comes up and hits the grand slam after you make an error,” Hallsaid. “[Happ] knows I’m out there playing my heart out, and I know he’s out there pitching his heart out. But sometimes the other team gets the best of you, and they got the best of us today.”

Here are some postgame notes:

  • The Astros have had 11 of their last 13 games decided by three runs or less, and nine games in that span decided by two runs or less.
  • LHP J.A. Happ suffered a tough-luck loss despite lowering his ERA to 4.99 to 5.30. He gave up only three hits and one earned run in five innings, but a grand slam homer accounted for four unearned runs.
  • Happ has allowed three earned runs or less in five of his last six starts, posting a 3.67 ERA in that span, which covers 34 1/3 innings.
  • The Astros’ bullpen threw four scoreless innings in relief of Happ. Since blowing a save in Atlanta on May 17, the bullpen has combined to throw 19 innings, allowing earned run in that span.
  • RF Hunter Pence had two doubles, giving him six straight multi-hit games and seven of his last eight. He is the 19th player in franchise history to have multiple hits in at least six straight games (Brett Wallace did it earlier this season).
  • 1B Carlos Lee went 1-for-3 with two RBIs. In 18 games in May, he’s hitting .314 with two homer sand 10 RBIs. He hit .194 in April.

Astros-Dodgers lineups

Here are the lineups for Tuesday’s Astros-Dodgers game:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn

SS Clint Barmes

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

2B Bill Hall

C Humberto Quintero

LHP J.A. Happ

DODGERS

SS Rafael Furcal

2B Jamey Carroll

1B James Loney

CF Matt Kemp

RF Jerry Sands

C Dioner Navarro

LF Jay Gibbons

3B Aaron Miles

RHP Chad Billingsley

Astros-Dodgers preview

The Astros, coming off a nice series win in Toronto, return home for six games, beginning tonight against the Dodgers at Minute Maid Park. Left-hander Clayton Kershaw starts for the Dodgers against Bud Norris.

  • Bud Norris is 7-1 in 13 starts at Minute Maid Park since last year’s All-Star break. Over that time he’s surrendered the major’s lowest opponent batting average at home (.178).
  • Brett Wallace is one of only three Astros to ever have at least a .400 batting average through the first 22 home games o the season. He’s hitting .406 at home this year.
  • Hunter Pence’s 23 hits with RISP are ht emost by Astros player at this point of the season since 1974.
  • Chris Johnson is hitting .400 (12-for-30) since May 11, averaging one RBI per every 3.3 at-bats. Prior to May 11, he was hitting .181.
  • Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw’s 10 wins in May since 2009 are the most in the NL in that month.
  • Dodgers IF Jamey Carroll can afford to take as many pitches as he does (64.1 percent of pitches taken), considering his success with two strikes. His leads the Majors with 27 two-strike hits.
  • The Dodgers have left 359 men on base, which is the third-most in the Majors. And they have a .214 batting average with men in scoring position, the lowest in the Majors.

Here is the Astros’ lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

SS Clint Barmes

RF Hunter Pence

1B Carlos Lee

LF Jason Michaels

3B Chris Johnson

2B Bill Hall

C Humberto Quintero

RHP Bud Norris

Astros try to end road trip on good note

The Astros will end their week-long, three-city road trip this afternoon with the final game of the series against the Blue Jays. The Astros have won only two series all year and can make it three win a win today.

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (2-3, 3.45 ERA) will start for the Astros against Houston-area native Kyle Drabek (3-2, 4.32 ERA). Rodriguez is 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his last six starts, during which the Astros are 4-2.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn — Hitting .280 on current road trip.

2B Angel Sanchez — He’s fourth on the team with 18 RBIs

RF Hunter Pence — Has multi-hits in his last three games.

DH Carlos Lee — Hitting .333 (20-for-60) in May.

1B Brett Wallace — Hitting .197 (12-for-61) in May.

3B Chris Johnson — Hitting .300 (15-for-50) in May.

SS Clint Barmes — Hitting .183 (4-for-22) on current road trip.

LF Brian Bogusevic — Making his third start of the season.

C J.R. Towles — Is in a career-long 0-for-28 slump

TORONTO

SS Yunel Escobar

LF Corey Patterson

RF Jose Bautista

2BAaron Hill

1B Juan Rivera

C J.P. Arencibia

CF Rajai David

DH Edwin Encarnacion

3B Jayson Nix

Astros react to loss to Jays

Here is some cut-and-dried reaction from the Astros’ 7-5 loss to the Jays on Saturday, a game in which SS Clint Barmes let a ground ball roll under his legs in the sixth to help Toronto rally from a 4-0 deficit against Brett Myers. Jays slugger Jose Bautista hit two homers, including one off Myers following the Barmes error.

Clint Barmes on the error:

“We’ve made mistakes a lot of times this year that have hurt us, and I made a really big one today and it’s pretty frustrating, that’s for sure. Especially with what our record reads and kind of how it’s gone this year.”

Manager Brad Mills on the error:

“If you had to choose who you would want the ball hit to, it would be Clint. He always makes that play. It seems like when a team is able to hit home runs like they did, they can put runs on the board in a hurry. Myers did a good job of battling all the way through, but any time you give Major League teams extra outs, they’re going to be able to take advantage of them.”

Brett Myers:

“He’s solid every day for us. It’s my fault. I should have picked him up there. I thought I made a pretty good pitch. I hadn’t thrown Bautista a breaking ball day, and it just so happens he’s sitting on it right there. That’s the way it is, I guess.”

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