Orioles bounce back, win the rubber match

Trailing 3-1 in the ninth, the Astros managed to get two runners aboard. With one out, pinch-hitter Carlos Corporan grounded into a 4-6-3 DP to end the game and give the Orioles the series. We sat in front of a cousin of O’s monsta slugger Chris Davis — the fam calls him “Christopher” — who had two hits to raise his BA to .358.

The hottest team in baseball!

Thanks to Erik Bedard — and Scioscia’s so-so Angels, even with Albert Pujols — the Astros won their sixth straight game tonight. It’s the longest winning streak in MLB this season.

Of course.

Next up: The Astros are returning to Houston to host the Orioles. We’ll be at the Juice Box for the series — and to follow the draft at Thursday’s postgame draft-watching event at the ballpark. We’ll have pics and video — and we’ll hear what GM Jeff Luhnow has to say about the crop of young talent that he gets to choose from first.

How many Altuves …

Jose was just a few Altuves short in this bid for a two-out, ninth-inning homer against the A’s on May 25 in the Juice Box. Instead, it was the last out of the game. The loss wasted a pair of two-homer performances by both Jason Castro and Matt Dominguez … the first time two Astro teammates had multi-HR games since Biggio and Berkman did it on July 25, 2005. Starter Lucas Harrell lasted just 1.2 innings, surrendering 6 runs — losing his focus when A’s cleanup hitter Seth Smith confounded the Astros’ trademark defensive shift by dropping a nasty bunt for a single.

The Astros lost more than the game

Besides dropping the series opener to Detroit at Comerica Park, the Astros had three other losses Monday.

First was All-Star Jose Altuve, who left the game with disorientation and a partially dislocated jawbone after colliding with rightfielder Jimmy Paredes. Next was staff ace Bud Norris, who surrendered a grand slam and was later pulled with back spasms. Off the field, exec George Postolos’ abrupt resignation was announced. It’s not known yet how long Altuve and Norris will be out. Postolos’ exit, however, is permanent.

Altuve’s replacement will likely be Marwin Gonzalez and/or Paredes himself. If Norris misses any starts, well, they won’t go to Philip Humber, because he’s another one of the casualties this week. After going winless as a starter, and being scored in the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ratings as the very worst player in all of baseball (-1.4), Humber was let go by the team. Just a year removed from a perfect game, good-guy Humber ended his season early at 0-8, 9.59, with the league lead in losses.

Humber’s replacement on the roster is Edgar Gonzalez. His career ERA: 5.88.

In which the Astros try to get Mike Scioscia fired

Angels owner Arte Moreno is a bazillionaire. I looked it up. That’s why he can afford Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton and Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio all on the same team this year.

Moreno has manager Mike Scioscia signed all the way through 2018. But because he’s a bazillionaire, it’s only money — and that’s why he can fire Scioscia right now because of the Angels’ hapless 11-22 start this season, capped by tonight’s series loss to the not-so-hapless Astros. (And with 10 wins, thrifty Houston has scratched out a similar victory total at a fraction of Arte’s hearty payroll.)

The Astros are supposed to slump their shoulders and surrender their lunch money when Pujols comes to the plate when the game’s on the line — as El Damn Hombre did in the ninth inning tonight. Instead, the ‘Stros limited him to a single, turned a double play to preserve the victory, and then kissed their fingertips and pointed heavenward to Brad Lidge.

Two straight losses by the Angels to the Houston Astros. Two more grains of sand through the hourglass before Mike Scioscia is promoted upstairs as a special assistant.

For all the talk of how the American League West would feast on the Astros, it’s fun to see the new kids causing some heartburn.

Rotation, rotation, rotation

Philip Humber (0-7, 8.82) has been sent to the bullpen. He’s out of the starting rotation after Sunday’s loss to Detroit — a game in which Justin Verlander flirted with a no-hitter.

Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 4.96) will take his spot for Friday’s game against the Rangers. In Keuchel, you’re getting a more likely peek at the Astros’ future. You’re also more likely to hear the enemy announcers start pronouncing him name right: It rhymes with “Michael,” guys, not “Puke-uhl.”

Returning to the rotation, at least for a start Saturday, will be Erik Bedard — who had already been sent to the pen after going 0-2, 7.36.

Look past Bedard’s stats — even if it takes a gulp — and there’s a good reason to give him another shot. He has been effective in long relief, as early as Opening Day and as recently as this past weekend. As a starter, Bedard has had trouble making it to the fifth inning, sure — but that doesn’t distinguish him from much of the staff of late.

Ankiel’s away, my boys

Rick Ankiel, who slugged a pinch-hit home run in his first at-bat on Opening Day, has gone down swinging. He’s been designated for assignment by the Astros. The team has 10 days to trade him, release him or get him to accept an assignment to the minors.

Despite a .194 batting average, Ankiel was slugging a team-best .484. The all-or-nothing Ankiel was second on the team in both home runs (5) and strikeouts (35 in 62 at-bats).

The Astros also DFA’d outfielder Fernando Martinez (.182, 1, 3).

Replacing them are J.D. Martinez (.244, 2, 7), activated from the DL, and young Trevor Crowe, who was hitting .300 with 11 steals at Oklahoma City.

Also, IF Brandon Laird (.200) was sent down and the very interesting IF-OF Jimmy Paredes, who’s been hitting a team-best .376 for Oklahoma City, is being given another shot at the big-league level. Having seen Paredes play the infield for the Astros last season, I’m glad he’s being stretched out in the pasture more often this year.

The roster adjustments were an inevitability. Veteran players like Ankiel were placeholders and potential mentors for younger players until the farm talent ripened. Playing the younger hands in May won’t necessarily improve the play, but it will preview the future — and that future might as well as come sooner rather than later.







Let’s turn two, even if we lose two

One bright spot: The Astros’ defense leads the league in double plays, with 40.

That’s far more than the number of runs the Tigers scored against them in tonight’s game (17). So there’s that.

The Astros now stand at 8-23 on the season. That’s a winning percentage of .250. For the morbidly fascinated, that projects to a season total of 41 wins (rounded up) and 121 losses, which would just edge out the loss total of Marv Throneberry’s 1962 Mets.

Meanwhile, over in the National League

Meanwhile, over in the National League

O&BB follower Greg Stratton was texted this photo from his brother Gary, who is in Chicago for a work-related conference — and who had time to squeeze in a ballgame Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. He picked the right night to go. The poetic balance of National League baseball — something Astros fans don’t get to see anymore — was on full display that night. Both teams had an equal number of home runs (3 apiece), both teams ended the game with identical season records (10-16) … and both teams sent their pitchers up to hit. The Padres beat the Cubs, 13-7 — a pairing of the absolute luckiest and unluckiest numbers around. The score, I mean.

Suhwwwwing, batta!

ImageAbove: Young rookie Geo. Ruth of the Boston nine is retired on three strikes.

Transplanted Astros watcher Yancey Roy of Newsday, pausing from his coverage of New York politics to talk about more important things like baseball, asks this one:

Astros have 232 strikeouts (I think) in 23 games. 10 per game. What’s the MLB record for a season?

For the uninitiated: That’s strikeouts by Astros batters, not pitchers. The steady breeze being generated at home plate will allow Jim Crane to bump up the ballpark thermostat this summer, saving precious dollars toward Wandy Rodriguez’s contract player development.

Guesses, anyone?

I would’ve guessed the answer was the Rob Deer or Gorman Thomas era of the Milwaukee Brewers, when they swung hard for the fences and didn’t need no stinking batting averages. The Crew managed 1,040 team strikeouts in 1987 — led by Deer (186), Dale Sveum (133), Glenn Braggs (97) and Robin Yount (94).

And I wouldn’t have been close.

The record is freshly minted: In 2010, the Diamondbacks struck out 1,529 times. That’s an average of 9.4 K’s per game. (The AL record was set by the A’s just last year —  1,387 whiffs, and they didn’t even need Reggie Jackson.)

The 2013 Astros have struck out 248 times in 25 games. That’s an average of 9.9 strikeouts per contest. The sample size is small, but projects to historic futility: a record 1,604 strikeouts for a full season. Chris Carter leads the charge (43), followed by Rick Ankiel (29), and Carlos Pena (26) — a trio who have clubbed a combined 12 homers but have a cumulative batting average of .204.

However, the march to the record — and back to the dugout — may be slowed by the hand injury to Justin Maxwell (22 K’s) and the demotion of O&B Blog sentimental favorite Brett Wallace (17 in just 24 at-bats). But there’s still that chance. 

Thanks for your question, Yancey. And now, on with the countdown.