May 2011

Astros-Jays lineups for Saturday

Astros-Jays lineup for Saturday:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

DH Carlos Lee

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

SS Clint Barmes

LF Brian Bogusevic

C Humberto Quintero

RHP Brett Myers

Pictures of the Astros in Toronto

With social media phenom Alyson Footer sitting this trip out, I thought I would take the opportunity to step into her shoes and post some batting practice pictures:

You recognize that guy! That's Astros Hall of Fame announcer Milo Hamilton before calling a game in his 59th ballpark. Quite an achievement

Jays OF Corey Patterson talks to Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn.

Astros pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, formerly of the Jays, talks to Toronto media

The Jays had it really rolling for a while

Astros manager Brad Mills visits with Jays manager John Farrell

Clint Barmes, Brian Bogusevic and Chris Johnson wait for BP to start

Astros pitchers stretch on the field

Rogers Centre roof slides open. That part on left slides in between the two parts on the right. A modern marvel, if you ask me

These gals came all the way from Houston to watch the Astros. Talk about die-hard fans!

The CN Tower soars high over Rogers Centre

Chris Johnson reads off the Astros starting lineup for the camera

Astros position players yuck it up as the roof begins to slide open

Michael Bourn and Jason Bourgeois talk before BP

It’s a whole new world for Astros

The Astros will play their first game in Toronto on Friday when they meet the Blue Jays in the opening game of a three-game Interleague Series. Toronto is the last place the Astros have yet to play, but that will end this weekend.

Playing an American League club on the road, the Astros get to employ the designated hitter this weekend, and to no one’s surprise Carlos Lee is at DH on Friday night. Aneury Rodriguez is on the mound against Jo-Jo Reyes, who has not won in 26 straight starts.

Here is a press box view of Rogers Centre (lineup is below):

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn

SS Clint Barmes

RF Hunter Pence

DH Carlos Lee

LF Jason Michaels

1B Matt Downs

3B Chris Johnson

2B Bill Hall

C J. R. Towles.

Can the Astros turn it around?

The Astros are 15-29 for the second year in a row. Last year, you remember, they were 17-34 before they finally got their act together and finished the season with a 59-52 run that was done largely after the trades of Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.

Whether this year’s team can pull off a similar turnaround remains to be seen, but if you’re looking for something positive during the team’s current five-game losing streak you can point to starting pitching. The starters were expected to be a strength for the Astros, and it appears the top four spots in the rotation are beginning to get on track at the same time.

J.A. Happ allowed four hits and three runs in six innings Thursday (a loss to the Cardinals) while striking out eight, and Wandy Rodriguez threw eight scoreless innings Tuesday in Atlanta and really has it going. Then there’s Brett Myers, who righted his ship by allowing eight hits and two runs in six innings Monday in Atlanta.

Of course, the offense has been held to six runs in four games during the four-game trip through Atlanta and St. Louis and is looking more like the 2010 offense instead of the club that was so competitive in each and every at-bat and every inning for the first six weeks of this season.

The Astros open Interleague Play on Friday in Toronto, and that’s going to be a tough assignment. The Blue Jays have been playing very well and have one of the game’s best — and most surprising — sluggers in Jose Bautista. This weekend will be the Astros’ last Interleague venture until a 12-game stretch against AL teams beginning June 20, and considering how tough their Interleague schedule is, they can only hope to have the offense clicking and the starters working deep into games when it starts.

Astros-Cardinals lineups for Thursday

The Astros finish up their quick trip to St. Louis on Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals, assuming the weather holds up. Left-hander J.A. Happ (3-4, 5.49 ERA) will start for St. Louis and face right-hander Kyle McClellan (5-1, 3.62 ERA).

Both Matt Holliday, who injured his quadriceps muscle, and Lance Berkman, who sprained his right wrist, are out of the lineup Thursday after suffering injuries in Wednesday night’s game.

Here are the lineups:

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

CARDINALS

SS Ryan Theriot

RF Jon Jay

1B Alberto Pujols

LF Allen Craig

CF Colby Rasmus

C Gerald Laird

2B Tyler Greene

3B Daniel Descalso

RHP Kyle McClellan

Astros-Cardinals preview

Reeling from a gut-wrenching loss to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday afternoon, the Astros open a two-game series at 7:15 p.m. today against the St. Louis Cardinals, who enjoyed a walk-off win over Roy Oswalt and the Phillies on Tuesday.

Since losing the middle game of their series at the Reds earlier this month when Brandon Lyon blew a save in the ninth, the club is 3-10 and has lost three in a row entering the Cardinals series. The good news for the Astros is Bud Norris is on the mound, and he’s owned Busch Stadium. He’s 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA against the Cardinals, including 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA in four career starts at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals counter with right-hander Kyle Lohse, who’s 7-7 in 15 career games, including 14 starts, against the Astros. His 2.96 ERA against the Astros is his second-lowest earned run average against any foe.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn — Has reached base in 36 of 40 games with an at-bat.

2B Angel Sanchez — His eight infield hits are tied for fifth in the NL.

RF Hunter Pence — Tied for seventh in the Majors with 31 RBIs

LF Carlos Lee — Went 0-for-4 on Wednesday to snap 10-game hitting streak.

1B Brett Wallace — Ranks fifth in the majors in hitting since April with a .353 average.

3B Chris Johnson — Hitting .263 (9-for-39) in May.

SS Clint Barmes — Hitting .239 (11-for-46) in May.

C Humberto Quintero — Is in an 0-for-10 slump.

RHP Bud Norris — Ranks fifth in the Majors since 2009 with 9.44 strikeouts per nine innings.

CARDINALS

SS Ryan Theriot

CF Jon Jay

1B Albert Pujols

LF Matt Holliday

RF Lance Berkman

2B Allen Craig

C Yadier Molina

3B Daniel Descalso

RHP Kyle Lohse

Astros have a terrific manager in Mills

Any speculation that Astros manager Brad Mills is in any sort of danger of losing his job in the midst of the Astros’ ownership change is downright silly. Sure, Mills’ record in his 1 1/4 year with the Astros is 11 games under .500, but you have to step back and look at the bigger picture. You have to see what he’s had to work with as a whole.

Mills took over a team in 2010 that had an aging core and very little young talent on the way up. Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Bud Norris are still younger players on the upswing, but he had a disgruntled Roy Oswalt, a frustrated Lance Berkman, an injured Kaz Matsui and and what seems at times to be a content Carlos Lee.

As last season progressed, Mills had to blend in newcomers Jason Castro and Chris Johnson, and that was before the trades of Oswalt and Berkman. He suddenly had a new first baseman in Brett Wallace, who was suffering growing pains, and a pitching staff that had undergone some upheaval.

All the Astros did was go 59-52 to finish the season following their 17-34 start, earning Mills some much-deserved recognition in the NL Manager of the Year voting.

Astros owner Drayton McLane trimmed payroll entering this season, which led to the trading away of Matt Lindstrom from a bullpen that could use him. They signed Bill Hall on the cheap and traded for Clint Barmes with hopes of bolstering the offense, but it hasn’t happened. Mills’ young and inexperienced bullpen has been shaky, and players like Johnson and Brett Myers haven’t duplicated the success they had last year.

Is any of this on Mills? Sure, he’s the manager and plenty of responsibility falls on him, but he’s not responsible for the budget constraints that have kept him from putting a more competitive team on the field, and he’s not responsible for the lack of talent in the farm system. Given time and the proper tools, Mills has what it takes to manage a winner.

He’s a smart baseball man, has put together a terrific staff and learned under close friend Terry Francona while with the Red Sox. When Astros general manager Ed Wade fired Francona as manager of the Phillies (and Mills as first base coach), he later called it the biggest mistake of his career. Francona went on to win two World Series with the Red Sox and could be in line for a third.

Here’s hoping the Astros’ new ownership doesn’t some day look back and say the same thing about Mills.

Astros-Mets preview for Sunday

The Astros will try to win a series against the Mets by sending rookie right-hander Aneury Rodriguez (0-1, 5.50 ERA) to the mound for today’s series finale at Minute Maid Park, where the roof is open and it looks like another spectacular day in Houston.

This will be Rodriguez’s first start against the Mets and only the third in his Major League career. The Astros will face left-hander Chris Capuano (2-4, 4.93 ERA), who held the Astros to one earned run in seven innings for a win on April 21 in New York.

Here is manager Brad Mills’ lineup:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn

C J.R. Towles

RF Hunter Pence

1B Carlos Lee

2B Bill Hall

LF Jason Michaels

3B Chris Johnson

SS Clint Barmes

P Aneury Rodriguez

A feature on Jim Crane

Here’s a video posted by the NCAA about Jim Crane, who is leading a group to buy the Astros:

Astros-Mets lineup for Friday

Here are the starting lineups for Friday’s game between Astros and Mets:

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

P Bud Norris

METS

SS Jose Reyes

C Josh Thole

3B David Wright

RF Carlos Beltran

LF Jason Bay

1B Daniel Murphy

2B Justin Turner

CF Jason Pridie

RHP Dillon Gee (2-0, 3.80 ERA)

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