Results tagged ‘ Pirates ’

Astros-Pirates preview

The Astros and Pirates open a three-game series today at PNC Park. Over the last month, both teams have struggled. Well, the Astros have struggled for the past three months, but the Pirates are really sucking air.

Since Aug. 3, the Astros are 6-22, which is the worst record in the Majors in that span. The Cubs are next at 8-22 and the Pirates have the third-worst record at 10-19.

Here are some more notes on the Astros and Pirates:

– The Astros enter the series with just 13 wins in 66 road games this year. In 1979, Astros pitcher Joe Niekro won 13 games on the road, going 13-7 with a 3.32 ERA.

– The Pirates are enjoying the best home season they’ve had in decades. They have a .606 winning percentage at home, which is their best since posting a .654 winning percentage at home in 1992. They have a 2.98 ERA at home, the best since a 2.79 ERA in 1984.

– There’s quite a disparity between the ages of the Astros’ and Pirates’ rosters. The Astros’ average age is 26 years, 255 days, which is the youngest in the Majors. The Pirates are 28 years, 309 days, which is the 15th oldest in the Majors.

– Brett Wallace has an unusual breakdown for the Astros: all of his home runs have come on the road, but his batting average is much higher at Minute Maid Park than it is away from home. He’s hitting .317 at home with no home runs and .237 on the road with six home runs.

– In his two impressive Major League seasons, Astros 2B Jose Altuve has not been able to figure out Pirate pitching. He’s hitting .230 (14-for-61) in his career against the Pirates, which is the lowest of any NL Central opponent.

– Edgar Gonzalez last pitched in an MLB game in August 2011 for Colorado, and hasn’t started a big-league contest since September 2009 while with Oakland. His career has been a pretty extensive odyssey. He was with the D-backs from 2003-08 and was sent down eight times. He pitched for the A’s in 2009 and was signed by the Dodgers, Rays and Rockies in 2010-11, pitching in one Major League game. Since November, he has been signed by the A’s, Rockies and Astros.

Astros lineup Thursday vs. Pirates

The Astros send rookie lefty Dallas Keuchel to the mound tonight against the Pirates trying to snap a nine-game losing streak.

Astros lineup:

2B Jose Altuve

SS Marwin Gonzalez

CF Justin Maxwell

1B Scott Moore

LF J.D. Martinez

3B Chris Johnson

RF Brian Bogusevic

C Carlos Corporan

P Dallas Keuchel

Luhnow excited to add more talent to system

More has been written about the players the Astros have dealt in the past few weeks, proven veterans like Brett Myers, Carlos Lee and Wandy Rodriguez, than the bushel of players the Astros have gotten in return.

That’s natural when you consider the prospects the team has acquired are unknown commodities, but general manager Jeff Luhnow likes what the Astros were able to do in Tuesday’s trade of Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates.

The Astros sent Rodriguez to the Pirates and acquired left-handed pitchers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain and outfielder Robbie Grossman. Owens is on the 40-man roster and headed to Triple-A Oklahoma City, Grossman is going to Double-A Corpus Christi and Cain is headed to Class A Lancaster.

In all, the Astros have acquired 11 Minor League players and two players to be named later in four July trades.

“We’ve accumulated quite a lot of talent in our system, and it’s everywhere – from rookie ball to Triple-A – and we feel good about that,” Luhnow said.

Owens, 24, has posted an 8-5 record and a 3.14 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He has 85 strikeouts and has walked only 25 in his 117 1/3 innings pitched. Owens, who will join the club’s 40-man roster, was Pittsburgh’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 and 2010.

“To have a left-handed starting pitcher that’s that close to the big leagues is huge for us,” Luhnow said.

Grossman, 22, was hitting .262 with 20 doubles, seven home runs, 35 RBIs and a .374 on-base percentage in 94 games for Double-A Altoona this season. Primarily a center fielder, Grossman was named Pittsburgh’s Minor League Player of the Year last year after hitting .294 and leading the Florida State League with 124 runs scored and 104 walks in 134 games.  The switch-hitting Grossman is currently ranked by MLB.com as Pittsburgh’s No. 7 prospect. He was originally a sixth-round selection in the 2008 Draft out of Cy-Fair High School in Houston.

“Grossman has a unique ability to get on base, and it’s something we’ve always liked,” Luhnow said. “He did it in high school when he was here in Houston and he’s done it his entire career. He really profiles as a good, plus center fielder who can lead off and get on base at a high clip.

“Something we’ve stressed all year with this club is pitch selection and not chasing and getting on base and doing the things that set up for big innings. We’ve done better, but we haven’t executed that as well as I would like to see. We’re doing a lot of reenforcing of that playing style in the Minor Leagues, and so we get someone who excels in that. He’s the first Minor League player to have 100 walks and 100 runs since Nick Swisher, who’s well-known for that kind of stuff. He has tremendous offensive upside for us and can play defense.”

Cain, 21, is 3-5 this season with a 4.20 ERA in 16 starts for Class A Bradenton in the Florida State League. He has allowed just a .242 opponent’s batting average, including a .226 mark against right-handed hitters. A graduate of Waxahachie High School in Texas, Cain was considered one of the top high school players in the state before being selected by Pittsburgh in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft.

Wandy on his way to Pittsburgh

Wandy Rodriguez, the last remnant from the Astros’ 2005 National League championship team, was shipped to the Pirates on Tuesday night in the latest of a flurry of deals Houston has made this month.

Rodriguez told MLB.com getting traded was difficult, especially when he went into the dugout and hugged teammates and coaches before leaving the ballpark. He’ll join the Pirates when they arrive in Houston on Thursday.

“I feel like I could cry,” he said. “It’s a hard situation. We’ve been together for years in Spring Training and through the season and when he I said goodbye to my teammates, it was very emotional.”

Rodriguez, signed by the Astros as an un-drafted free agent in 1999, had been in the organization for more than 13 years.

“I’ve been in this organization for a long time,” he said. “The city and the fans have been great to me.”

That being said, Rodriguez understands the club is headed in a new direction as it rebuilds.

“I understand for the Astros organization, they want young guys,” he said. “Pittsburgh is very, very good and playing really good now.”

The Astros, who also sent cash to the Pirates, also acquired left-handed pitchers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain and outfielder Robbie Grossman. It’s the third trade the Astros have made in a span of five days as they continue to stockpile Minor League talent.

“Wandy has been a terrific pitcher for the Astros for a long time,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “Trading a player like Wandy is not easy, but we know this deal is a very good one for us, the Pirates and for Wandy. We thank him for all he has done for the Astros and wish him continued success.”

Rodriguez was 80-83 with a 4.04 ERA in his seven seasons in Houston. He’s struck out more batters than any left-hander in Astros history and is second on the team’s all-time charts among lefties in starts (218), wins and innings pitched (1,306 2/3).

Rodriguez, 33, is making $10 million this season and $13 million next year. There’s a $13 million option for 2014 that essentially kicks because Rodriguez is traded. It’s unknown how much money the Astros are sending in the deal.

Owens, 24, has posted an 8-5 record and a 3.14 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He has 85 strikeouts and has walked only 25 in his 117 1/3 innings pitched. Owens, who will join the club’s 40-man roster, was Pittsburgh’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 and 2010.

Grossman, 22, was hitting .262 with 20 doubles, seven home runs, 35 RBIs and a .374 on-base percentage in 94 games for Double-A Altoona this season. Primarily a center fielder, Grossman was named Pittsburgh’s Minor League Player of the Year last year after hitting .294 and leading the Florida State League with 124 runs scored and 104 walks in 134 games.

The switch-hitting Grossman is currently ranked by MLB.com as Pittsburgh’s No. 7 prospect. He was originally a sixth-round selection in the 2008 Draft out of Cy-Fair High School in Houston.

Cain, 21, is 3-5 this season with a 4.20 ERA in 16 starts for Class A Bradenton in the Florida State League. He has allowed just a .242 opponent’s batting average, including a .226 mark against right-handed hitters. A graduate of Waxahachie High School in Texas, Cain was considered one of the top high school players in the state before being selected by Pittsburgh in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft. <p>

Barmes tells MLB.com he’s agreed to terms with Pirates

Clint Barmes, who appeared in 123 games for the Astros last season, has agreed to terms on a two-year, $10.5-million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Barmes, who was in Pittsburgh on Monday for a physical, told MLB.com he chose the Pirates because they guaranteed him two years and he was able to reunite with manager Clint Hurdle, who was Barmes’ manager in Colorado when he broke into the Major Leagues. It also appealed to Barmes he could remain at shortstop.

“In talking with my agent and talking with the club, they were wanting to make a decision and they wanted to know by pretty much yesterday who their shortstop was going to be so they could continue to move on,” Barmes said. “It was one of those things they had a few others guys lined up behind me, and the way it was explained to me I was the first in line as far as who they wanted. They threw a great offer.”

Barmes, 32, played a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop last season for the Astros, who couldn’t afford to re-sign him during their rebuilding phase. Barmes missed the first couple of weeks of the season after breaking his hand in Spring Training and wound up hitting .244 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs.

“I definitely enjoyed my time in Houston,”  he said. “I know talking to [general manager] Ed Wade and the plans for the club and different things, I hate to say that I didn’t fit. But the direction they were heading made it hard. I enjoyed my time there, especially the people in the organization and my teammates and I think their heading in the right direction.”

Barmes said Milwaukee talked to him about a possible two-year deal, but the Brewers wanted to wait until the Prince Fielder situation played out before making any moves.

“We decided [Pittsburgh’s] offer was too good to pass up,” Barmes said.

The Astros could choose to find a shortstop through a trade or free agency or fill void the internally with Angel Sanchez or Jimmy Paredes, who could be moved from third base, though the club is reluctant to do that.

“We’ll have to explore different options to find a front-line shortstop or someone to share time with Sanchez,” Wade said.

Because Barmes is a Type-B free agent, the Astros will receive a compensation draft pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft if he signs officially with the Pirates before Wednesday.

Mills getting long in tooth among NL Central managers

Brad Mills and Terry Francona, former college roommates who worked together for years with the Phillies and the Red Sox, could soon be battling each other 18 times a season in the National League Central.

News reports say Francona is set to interview for the Cardinals’ vacant managerial position after he was let go by the Red Sox earlier this year. This comes after Ryne Sandberg was given permission to interview in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, the Cubs have fired Mike Quade and are going to interview Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, who interviewed in Houston before Mills go the job two years ago.

Believe it or not, Mills is now the second-longest current tenured manager in the NL Central behind Dusty Baker. Here’s a breakdown of the managerial status of the teams in the Central:

St. Louis Cardinals — Vacant following the retirement of Tony La Russa.

Chicago Cubs — Vacant following the dismissal of Mike Quade.

Pittsburgh Pirates — Clint Hurdle just completed his first season in Pittsburgh.

Milwaukee Brewers — Ron Roenicke led the Brewers to the division title in his first season in 2011.

Houston Astros — Brad Mills has completed two seasons on the job.

Cincinnati Reds — Dusty Baker took over following the 2007 season and replaced Pete Mackanin, who was hired on an interim basis.

Astros’ lineup for Tuesday vs. Pirates

Here is the Astros’ lineup for Tuesday’s game vs. Pittsburgh:

CF Jordan Schafer

2B Jose Altuve

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Carlos Lee

RF Brian Bogusevic

3B Jimmy Paredes

SS Clint Barmes

C Carlos Corporan

P Henry Sosa

Astros lineup for Thursday’s game

Here is manager Brad Mills’ lineup for Thursday game against Pirates:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Jeff Keppinger

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

1B Brett Wallace

3B Matt Downs

SS Angel Sanchez

C Carlos Corporan

RHP Jordan Lyles

Garner remembers Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner was Phil Garner’s guy. Garner didn’t all the physical tools of Willie Stargell or the stature of Dave Parker, but he had heart and determination. Much like the city of Pittsburgh itself and the manager who guided the Pirates to the 1979 World Series title.

Tanner passed away Friday following a long illness at age 82, and Garner – a member of the 1979 Pirates team – took some time to reflect on their relationship.

“I’m sad, but I am going to take Chuck Tanner’s advice. I’m going to celebrate his life,” Garner said. “Without Chuck, I’m another bench player who never made it. Chuck believed in me, and I certainly hope I had a chance to pattern my managerial career after Chuck and I hope people will say being around me they enjoyed it as much. I was just as optimistic as Chuck Tanner. That would be the highest compliment I could have.”

When Garner was managing the Astros from 2004-07, Tanner was a fixture in the visiting clubhouse before Astros games in Pittsburgh.

“He’s always come in and say hello and I always invited him to come say hello,” Garner said. “Once we got caught up, he always wanted to ask about Carol [Phil’s wife], the children and mom and dad, and then we’d get down to baseball. He was absolutely the best. You just could not find a better man.”

Garner played for Tanner with the Oakland A’s in 1976 before being traded to the Pirates in spring training 1977, reuniting him with Tanner. He was traded, along with Chris Batton and Tommy Helms, to the Pirates for Dave Giusti, Doc Medich, Doug Bair, Rick Langford, Tony Armas and Mitchell Page.

Garner hit .500 in the 1979 World Series and was a favorite of Tanner for his hard-nosed style of play, which ultimately earned him the nickname “Scrap Iron.”

“He never met a day he didn’t like,” Garner said. “His famous deal was you could get beat 15-0 in the worst conditions under the sun – snowing, sleeting and hailing – and he’d come in after the game and say it was great. He’d say, ‘Just think what else we could be doing? Nothing else is as good as playing baseball.’ We’d say, ‘Yeah, right, Chuck,’ but his attitude permeated everybody’s spirit.

“Chuck loved life every day. You know when you saw Chuck Tanner there wasn’t going to be any sourpuss. No matter what he was doing in his life, he put it aside and was happy to see you.”

As a result of winning the 2005 National League pennant, Garner got to manage the NL in the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh and named Tanner as the honorary coach of the game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. Tanner was in uniform and threw out the ceremonial first pitch, with he and Garner soaking up every moment along the way.

“It was one of those things that turned out to be better than I even thought it would,” Garner said. “I thought it would be wonderful for Chuck to be able to do that and for me to do it for Chuck. In the end, it was gratifying for both of us. We couldn’t shut him up. He was talking and telling stories and it was the absolutely best experience I could have had at the All-Star Game.”

Garner kept in touch with Tanner through the years, though he admits he became harder to reach the past few months while Tanner’s health deteriorated. But like many who came in contact with Tanner, Garner said he will never forget how great it was to play for him.

“The other thing remarkable about Chuck was his players were his guys,” Garner said. “He would end all his scouting reports – and we could be playing really good teams – and he’d say, ‘If these guys were any good, they’d be on our team.’  He always pumped guys up. He loved every player, no matter what.

“If you put on a uniform and played for Chuck Tanner, you were part of his family. Chuck loved everybody. It will show. People from all walks of life will come to pay tribute to Chuck Tanner.”

Astros still have growing pains

So the Astros won’t finish at .500. Sunday’s loss guaranteed the local nine would finish with a losing record for the second consecutive year and for the third time in four years, but there’s not much the Astros can do in the final week of the season that could spoil the strides they made in the second half.

Sunday’s 9-3 loss to the Pirates was reminiscent of the first two months of the season, when the club didn’t do enough offensively to make up for its mistakes. J.A. Happ pitched a terrific game and wound up with a loss because of a costly fielding miscue and a woeful performance by the bullpen.

In addition to the error by catcher Jason Castro, who couldn’t handle a late throw by third baseman Chris Johnson, the Astros weren’t sharp on defense in the eighth inning, when the Pirates scored four runs to put the game away. Houston is 2-5 on its final road trip with one stop left in Cincinnati.

“It’s been a frustrating trip so far,” Johnson said. “We know what kind of team we have and we know we should be winning some of these games. But we’re not doing the little things. We’re throwing the ball around on defense and not coming up with timely hits. You lose when you do that.”

In the sixth inning Sunday, the Pirates were trailing 1-0 and had runners at first and third base with one out. Ronny Cedeno hit a ground ball to third base, where Johnson fielded it and turned his attention to Garrett Jones heading for home. Johnson threw home, but Castro couldn’t handle the ball and was charged with an error. It led to the Pirates scoring two unearned runs to take the lead for good.

“I hate to say it because it’s not an excuse, but it’s on the learning curve,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “When you go through it a few times – that’s the first time maybe for C.J. this year – but it’s not the first time some of other infielders, so it’s part of the learning curve we’re going through unfortunately.”

Castro was charged with the error, but Mills said Johnson should have gotten rid of the ball right away instead of hesitating and allowing Jones to get so close to Castro.

“There’s no doubt we have to tighten up some things,” Mills said. “It’s kind of something that was happening early in the year when we weren’t scoring enough runs to make up for those mistakes. That’s kind of the way it was today.”

 

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