Results tagged ‘ Lance Berkman ’
The Astros on the verge of sending five-time All-Star first baseman Lance Berkman to the New York Yankees, a source told MLB.com on Friday. Berkman told reporters Friday he had been approached the club about waiving his no-trade clause, and he approved a list of four teams he would consider going to. The Yankees are on the list.
Considering the struggles he’s had at the plate this season, Astros slugger Lance Berkman said Tuesday it wouldn’t surprise him if the club decided not to pick up his option for 2011 and allowed him to become a free agent.
Berkman, who entered Tuesday hitting .250 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs, stands to make $15 million next season if the Astros pick up the option. If they decide to not pick it up, they’ll pay him a $2 million buyout.
“I don’t get any indication they are going to pick it up,” Berkman said. “I think the chances are that I probably will be a free agent at the end of the year. It’s not concerning, but it’s certainly a position I’ve never been in before in my career.”
Astros general manager Ed Wade said he has informed Berkman’s agent, Mike Moye, no decision on Berkman’s option would be made until the off-season. Berkman would like to remain in Houston and hopes the club will chalk up his struggles to missing most of Spring Training and the first two weeks of the regular season after undergoing knee surgery.
“There were some extenuating circumstances where they may feel like I’m not a declining player, but just some circumstances that have kept me from performing the way I’m used to performing,” Berkman said. “It’s all in their court. That’s the power of a team option.
“They can make that determination. They haven’t given me any indication one way or another what they were thinking as far picking it up or not picking it up, but if I’m just sitting here looking at what I’m seeing and knowing the kind of year I’ve had, I would say they probably won’t pick it up, but I don’t know that for sure.”
There’s a good chance the Astros will be starting three rookies in most games the rest of the season. Call it throwing in the towel or looking towards the future, but the bottom line is the Astros had to shake things up. One player said Tuesday it felt like Opening Day all over again, coming to the ballpark and knowing Jason Castro, Chris Johnson and Jason Bourgeois would be in uniform.
The Astros were getting little offensive production from their catchers and had top prospect Castro waiting in the wings. Pedro Feliz has been a huge disappointment at third base since signing as a free agent and with Johnson tearing it up at Triple-A Round Rock, the move made sense. Tommy Manzella has been starting at shortstop since Opening Day and appears to have settled down defensively, while the Astros hope he can make more strides on offense.
Despite the high-price contracts of franchise icons Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt and left-fielder Carlos Lee, the future is the Astros is in their young players. Players like Castro and Johnson and Double-A pitcher Jordan Lyles, who will pitch in the Futures Games this year.
“Obviously when you’re in the situation we are, having gone through a little more than a third of the season and you’re still sucking wind, you get to the point where you’re like, ‘Hey, let’s try something,’” Berkman said. “I think, that’s kind of where we are now at this point.”
Berkman admits he feels old, but not necessarily because he’s surrounded by fresh-faced youngsters.
“I don’t think we’ve had as many young guys as this probably since the early ’90s when Craig [Biggio] and Jeff [Bagwell] and those guys started infusing the organziation with the next wave of new talent,” Berkman said. “You had those playoff teams, good teams in mid ’80s and a few good teams in there and that wave came and went and you’ve got some new guys coming in. I don’t think this is dissimilar. In any organization, you’ve got cycles and it’s time for some of these new guys step in and see what they can do.”
The Astros finally got things rolling at home this week by going 5-2 on their home stand against the Nationals and Cubs, winning five of the final six games after getting pounded by Washington on Memorial Day. Now they have to try to get things ironed out on the road.
The Astros have lost nine of 11 road games since sweeping the Cardinals May 11-13 and will play 20 of their next 26 games away from home. That’s the price they paid for having so many home games early. Houston opens a 10-game trip to Colorado, the Yankees and Kansas City on Monday and returns home for six games before another 10-game trip. Ouch.
“It’s going to be interesting,” manager Brad Mills said. “That’s a lot of travel. We’re going to be playing a lot and then we have an off day [June 14], which is nice because it’s been a while. It’s going to be kind of a fun road trip with using a designated hitter in the American League ballparks and so forth.”
The Astros will use a DH in New York and Kansas City, and Mills said he’s not prepared to name a DH just yet. Carlos Lee is the most obvious choice, and Lee said after Sunday’s game he’d rather play in the field than be the DH. Still, he will likely end up as the DH in most games.
It all gets underway Monday when Houston sends Wandy Rodriguez (3-7, 5.07 ERA) to the mound against Jason Hammel (2-3, 6.09 ERA). Here are the rest of the pitching matchups for the Rockies series:
Tuesday: Brian Moehler (0-2, 6.49 ERA) vs. Jeff Francis (1-2, 3.70 ERA)
Wednesday: Felipe Paulino (1-7, 4.01 ERA) vs. Aaron Cook (2-3, 5.00 ERA)
Thursday: Roy Oswalt (3-8, 3.22 ERA) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (3-4, 3.77 ERA)
A ball bounces over the head of left fielder Carlos Lee and leads to two runs in the ninth inning. Prior to this week, that would have done in the Astros. They would have went down quietly in the ninth and been saddled with another less.
But there’s been a different feeling at Minute Maid Park the last few days. Blown leads late in games are being turned into victories, and somewhere along the line there’s a hint of momentum and — dare are we say? — confidence.
“That’s important going forward,” first baseman Lance Berkman said. “We’ve got to believe that no matter what the circumstances in the game are we have a chance to win it and we’ve got a good feel over the last three games and just keep it going.”
After losing 14-4 in the series opener against Washington, the Astros won the final three games of the series, twice rallying in the bottom of the ninth after closer Matt Lindstrom blew saves in the top of the inning.
Thursday’s wasn’t really Lindstrom’s fault as much it was bad luck. A blooper by Willie Harris bounced over Lee’s head and resulted in an RBI and eventually the go-ahead run in the ninth, but the Astros got a huge break in the bottom of the inning when Cristian Guzman misplayed a two-out fly ball off the bat of Berkman to allow the tying run to score. Lee hit a two-run homer, and the Astros were winners.
“We knew we had three more outs and we were going to give it our best, but and we came out with the victory,” center fielder Michael Bourn said.
They are 20-34 at the one-third mark of the season and on pace to go 60-102. They’re tied with slumping Arizona for the worst record in the National League, but perhaps they’re getting things together. Berkman, Lee and Hunter Pence combined to go 5-for-14 on Thursday with two homers and are all swinging the bat better.
Maybe what we’ve seen the last three days is the real Astros.
There is no bigger reason for the Astros’ shortcomings on offense this year than the struggles of their 3-4-5 hitters: Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence. No matter what the order, the three sluggers have scuffled for most of the season and the Astros’ offense has followed along, but there are signs they could be coming around.
Berkman went 1-for-4 with a run scored Wednesday, one day after going 3-for-5 with three RBIs. In his last 22 games, he’s hitting .288 with three homers and 16 RBIs to raise his batting average to .241 from .175.
Lee went 1-for-3 on Wednesday with a two-run homer. He’s hitting .281 with four homers and 12 RBIs in his past 16 games, raising his batting average to .208 from .189.
Pence went 1-for-4 with a two-run triple Wednesday and his hitting .410 with eight RBIs in his last 10 games. He hit .302 with six homers and 16 RBIs in May and is off to a quick start in June.
If all three guys can continue to heat up with the weather, maybe the summer will be bearable, after all.
Maybe this is the kind of win that can galvanize a team. Not that anyone expects the 18-34 Astros to suddenly be in contention in a month, but they can’t play this poorly for this long, right? Tuesday’s dramatic 8-7 win over the Nationals was significant for so many reasons.
The Astros led 4-0 and then booted the ball around in the fifth inning to wipe the lead away. They rallied to take a lead into the ninth, only to watch Matt Lindstrom blow his second save in a week. Then they got up off the mat again in the ninth and won it on a two-run single by Lance Berkman, who had five RBIs and three hits.
“This is the kind of win that sort of gets you going a little bit because we were up big and then they tied it and they got up again and then we’re down,” Berkman said. “Now it looks like we might be headed for another loss, and suddenly you catch a few breaks and end up winning the game. It can be a big confidence-builder for us.”
And how about Brett Myers? This guy has been terrific. He gave the Astros another quality start, striking out 10 batters. He ended all seven innings in which he was on the mound with a strikeout, and allowed just one earned run in seven innings.
“Every win is huge, but we can only focus on this one and not worry about it tomorrow,” Myers said. “We really can’t go out there and say, ‘Oh, we won in [nine] innings last night and we have momentum.’”
Myers and Berkman may not see eye-to-eye on that issue, but Berkman gushed over the right-hander after the game. Puma said he loves Myers’ intensity and no-excuses approach.
“I was prepared not the like the guy just from playing against him, and I’ve got to tell you he’s one of my favorite teammates in terms of his competitiveness,” Berkman said. “He has a perfect attitude for what you’re looking for in a pitcher. If he loses 2-1 win, he’s always blaming himself and takes responsibility. He’s a competitor and not scared to throw the ball over the plate. I just think he’s a great addition to this team.”
Those quotes are interesting, to say the least. But Berkman didn’t stop there.
“That’s the kind of guy you can win with,” he said. “He’s a warrior. The day he pitches he’s focused, he’s intense and I think the team feeds on that. I think the team takes the personality of the that day’s starter, and he does a great job of bringing that intensity to the ballclub.”
Here are some bonus post-game tidbits:
- Tuesday’s walk-off hit by Berkman was his first since a walk-off homer on Aug. 29, 2008 vs. St. Louis.
- Tuesday marked Berkman’s 13th career game with at least five RBIs.
- Berkman has reached base safely in 21 of his last 22 games.
- The Astros are 4-1 in games in which Berkman has mutliple RBIs.
- Pedro Feliz had five sacrifice flies, which is one shy of his career-high of six accomplished in 2005 and 2006.
- Jeff Keppinger has four three-hit games this year and has multi-hit games in nine of his last 15 contests with a .385 average.
- Wilton Lopez stranded all three inherited runners Tuesday and has not allowed an inherited runner to score this season.
- Matt Lindstrom blew his second save in a week Tuesday and is now 11-for-13 this season and 31-for-38 in his career.
- The Astros stranded a season-high 14 runners on base Tuesday.
- Berkman committed his first error of the season in the fifth inning Tuesday. He was the only NL first baseman without an error.
The Astros had just swept the division-leading Cardinals in St. Louis and had themselves within 6 1/2 games of first place. Life was not good, but it was certainly as good as it could be for a team that endured two eight-game losing streaks in the first five weeks of the season.
But San Francisco has been nothing short of a nightmare for the Astros in recent years. They were crushed 22-0 in their first two games by the Bay last year and suffered an 8-2 loss in Friday’s series opener. Saturday’s game, which the Astros lost 2-1, brought out even more frustration.
They were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners, including leaving the bases loaded in the ninth.
The big story was Roy Oswalt. He pitched his eighth consecutive quality start to begin the season, holding the Giants to six hits and two runs on a two-run homer. Of course, he was outdueled by Giants ace Tim Lincecum, who allowed four hits, five walks and one run in eight innings.
Oswalt was clearly upset about the lack of run support.
“I knew I needed to probably throw a shutout, you know, maybe we can get one [run],” he said. “A pitch backed up on me on a slider. I was trying to go down and away, and it backed up over the plate.”
Teammate Lance Berkman was asked point-blankly what he thought of Oswalt’s comments about the lack of run support: “We’re a team, you know what I’m saying?” he said. “As much as you want to cry for a guy not getting run support, it’s a team game. We win as a team, we lose as a team, and we lost today. I certainly understand his frustration, but it’s not like we’re not trying. We’re out there grinding them out and trying to score some runs, and it hasn’t happened.”
And with that, the 13-23 Astros will try to beat Barry Zito, who’s 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA, in Sunday’s series finale.
Maybe Sunday’s come-from-behind walk-off win over the Padres is the one that will get the Astros going. At 10-21, they need something, anything to help them get on track. Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence and Lance Berkman – who were a combined .199 for the season prior to Sunday – came alive and went a combined 7-for-14 with two homers. It was like the old days, when opposing pitchers had trouble getting through the heart of the Astros’ order.
The task gets tougher for the Astros, though. They open an eight-game road trip Tuesday night in St. Louis, a place where they just haven’t played well since winning the NLCS in 2005. From there, they go to San Francisco – which has already swept the Astros – and close out with two games in Los Angeles, which is another place they don’t play well.
Astros general manager Ed Wade admitted before Sunday’s game his team’s offensive struggles were baffling.
“Is there some avenue, some solution, we haven’t tried yet short of something drastic, which you don’t try to do at this point in the season? No,” Wade said. “There’s no one ready down in Triple-A to come up and be a three-, four-, five-hole hitter, and not a lot is available on the market, and the ones that are available right now you can line up your five or six top prospects and take a run at them. We’ve got to live through this.”
Meanwhile, Astros manager Brad Mills admitted he’s had trouble sleeping the last few weeks because of the team’s troubles. What’s the solution? “I’ve tried Excedrin PM, Tylenol PM, NyQuil and now Sleepytime Tea.”
Mills may have trouble sleeping, but he’s certainly not giving up on his players. He had a team meeting near the start of the season to tell the guys he wasn’t going to give up on them and not to quit working hard.
“That’s what I want these guys to understand,” he said. “We just have to keep working and never give up. They’ve been working and doing things. Are they working too hard at times? That’s in the process, where you struggle, you work to get out of it at the end.”
Astros first baseman Lance Berkman chimed in on the suspension of Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing following the Astros’ game against San Diego on Friday. Cushing was suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
Berkman believes baseball players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs are maligned more than football players.
“The man’s a beast, I know that,” Berkman said. “I don’t know. I didn’t see what he tested positive for. It said he violated the steroids policy. I will say what will be interesting will be to see the reaction because generally when that happens to a football player it is kind of ho-hum.
“You write a story about it and he serves his four games and nobody will ever say anything else about it. If that happens to a baseball player, they want to strike him from the record book. It’s a totally different reaction, and I’m not sure why that is, but I will be following this just to see. I personally love the guy and love the way he plays. It’s a little disappointing, but I’m not going to pass judgment on him. We’ll see how the story goes.”
According to Major League Baseball drug policy, a player receives a 50-game suspension for a first positive performance-enhancing drug test, a 100-game suspension for a second positive test and a lifetime ban for a third positive test.