May 2012

Astros offense is struggling

Since pounding out 15 hits in an 8-1 win over the Mets on May 2, the Astros’ offense has gone into a deep freeze. Sure, the club has faced some good pitchers with Carlos Zambrano, Adam Wainwright and A.J. Burnett having their best outings to date at the expense of the Astros, but did they all get on track because of the Astros’ funk?

Here are some team and individual numbers outlining the Astros’ recent struggles, though it’s fair to note they’re 4-5 in their last nine games despite hitting sub-.200 as a team:

  • The Astros are hitting .197 in their last nine games (59-for-299) with a .252 on-base percentage and .281 slugging percentage.
  • The Astros have scored 12 runs in their last seven games, during which they’ve gone 2-5. That included a pair of 12-inning games, too. Houston is averaging 1.7 runs per game in that span.
  • CF Jordan Schafer is hitting .182 (6-for-33) in his past nine games, which include a four-hit game against the Marlins. He also hasn’t walked in his last four games.
  • LF J.D. Martinez went 0-for-4 on Sunday to extend his slump to 1-for-35. He’s hitless in his last 25 at-bats.
  • SS Jed Lowrie is hitting .125 (3-for-25) in his last six games with no RBIs.
  • C Jason Castro is hitting .176 (3-for-17) in his last six games, and that includes two hits on Sunday.
  • 1B Carlos Lee is hitting .182 (4-for-22) in his last six games, and that includes two hits on Sunday.
  • 2B Jose Altuve is hitting .158 (3-for-19) in his last six games.

Maxwell dons No. 44 for Astros

The Astros haven’t had a player wear No. 44 in a regular-season game since Roy Oswalt was traded midway through the 2010 season. That changed Friday night at PNC Park, when Justin Maxwell – wearing No. 44 – started in left field.

Maxwell, acquired on waivers from the Yankees on April 8, was wearing No. 22 but made a deal with bullpen coach Craig Bjornson to take his No. 44, effective Friday. Bjornson, who always wears a pullover that hides his number anyway, switched to 50.

“It’s just the number I usually wear in the Minors and it’s the first time I get to wear it in the big leagues,” Maxwell said. “I asked Craig Bjornson if I could have the number and he said, ‘Sure.’ I kind of threw it out there instead of just attacking him.”

When Maxwell joined the Astros, he asked equipment manager Carl Schneider if he could have 44, but it wasn’t available. Maxwell decided to wait a month before asking Bjornson.

“I didn’t want to come in here and say, ‘Hey guys, how’s it going? Can I have your number?’” joked Maxwell, who said he’s going to give Bjornson something in return.

Oswalt, arguably the greatest pitcher in franchise history, wore No. 44 from 2001-10. Pitcher Sergio Escalona wore the number last year in Spring Training, but switched to 52 in the regular season.

Mills: No ill intent on Lopez pitch that struck Ramirez

Tempers flared in the seventh inning of the Marlins’ 5-3 win over the Astros on Wednesday when Houston reliever Wilton Lopez hit Hanley Ramirez with a pitch. Ramirez glared at Lopez and was escorted to first base by an umpire in an effort to keep the peace.

Lopez, who flashed the Marlins’ ’ lo viste sign – which is two fingers forming a sideways “V” over one eye –  as he left the mound when manager Brad Mills pulled him from the game, wasn’t available to talk. Mills said the hit by pitch wasn’t intentional.

“There’s no way we’re trying to hit him there,” he said. “A ball just got up and away from him. Look at how many pitchers we went through already. We don’t want to take a chance of going through absolutely everybody. That was just a ball that he opened up on it and the ball rode up and there was absolutely no intent.”

Astros pitcher Wilton Lopez flashes the Marlins’ lo viste sign as he leaves the mound during Wednesday’s game /Getty images.

Still, the Astros weren’t pleased at the gesturing of Ramirez and some of his teammates when the teams met last month in Miami.

“Very mature,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said sarcastically when asked about the incident. “He’s lucky I wasn’t Hanley. I would have chased his [rear] all the way to Puerto Rico.”

Warnings were issued to both benches, but the remainder of the game was played without incident.

“That’s just part of the game,” Guillen said. “He’s a kid. It’s no big deal. The umpires controlled that situation very well. I don’t have any problem with that. You’re just a kid and the emotions get to you. That happened and I don’t have a problem with that.”

Astros’ lineup Wednesday vs. Marlins

The Astros will send Lucas Harrell to the mound tonight at Minute Maid Park in an effort to finish what would be a very good homestand if they can beat the Marlins and Josh Johnson. The Astros are 6-2 with one game remaining at home before playing three games in Pittsburgh and two in Philadelphia.

Here is the lineup for the Astros:

CF Jordan Schafer

2B Jose Altuve

SS Jed Lowrie

1B Carlos Lee

LF Travis Buck

3B Chris Johnson

RF Brian Bogusevic

C Chris Snyder

RHP Lucas Harrell

Watch Mills react to 3-2 win over Marlins

The Astros finally broke though against a tough pitcher Tuesday, scoring a pair of unearned runs in the sixth inning against Miami’s Anibal Sanchez to tie the game before Brian Bogusevic’s pinch-hit, RBI double in the eighth sent them to a 3-2 win, snapping the Marlins’ seven-game winning streak.

Here’s the post-game video of manager Brad Mills:

Mills video on Astros loss

Carlos Zambrano, who derailed the Astros’ late-season playoff push with a no-hitter four years ago while he was with the Cubs, showed his stuff against a new generation of Astros by throwing a three-hit shutout to send the Marlins to their seventh win in a row, 4-0, on Monday night. The Astros never managed a runner past first base as Zambrano threw a baffling array of split-fingers, sinkers, cutters and sliders to hand Houston its third shutout loss of the season. Zambrano improved to 17-8 lifetime against the Astros, including 10-4 at Minute Maid Park.

Here’s what manager Brad Mills had to say:

Astros’ lineup Monday vs. Marlins

Astros’ lineup Monday against Miami:

CF Jordan Schafer

2B Jose Altuve

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Carlos Lee

SS Jed Lowrie

3B Chris Johnson

RF Travis Buck

C Chris Snyder

P Wandy Rodriguez

Interview with Brad Mills

Here’s Saturday’s post-game interview with manager Brad Mills:

Astros post-game Saturday

Here’s a video package of the Astros from last night’s game, with highlights and interviews:

Astros lineup Saturday vs. Cards

The Astros will try to go for five in a row with this lineup tonight vs. the Cardinals:

2B Jose Altuve

RF Brian Bogusevic

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Carlos Lee

SS Jed Lowrie

3B Chris Johnson

CF Justin Maxwell

C Jason Castro

RHP Bud Norris



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