Archive for Houston Astros
Via LoHud, the Astros have claimed Brandon Laird off waivers from the Yankees. New York designated the infielder for assignment when they re-acquired Steve Pearce from (who else?) the Astros earlier this week, so think of it as a straight one-for-one trade.
Laird, 24, hit .254/.307/.414 with 15 homers while repeating Triple-A this season. He’s a .256/.295/.409 career hitter at the level in nearly 1,200 plate appearances, and last season he had four singles and three walks in 25 big league plate appearances in New York. This is a real good opportunity for Laird, who should get a chance to claim an everyday job with a team that epitomizes rebuilding at the moment.
Via Brian McTaggart, the Astros have claimed Justin Maxwell off waivers. The Yankees designated him for assignment last week when they had no room for him on the Opening Day roster. Maxwell had a nice spring, so it’s not a surprise that he was claimed. At least the Yanks got to keep Chris Dickerson for outfield depth. Both guys were out of minor league options and I figured they’d lose both.
Via MLBTR, the Astros have claimed Lance Pendleton off waivers. The Yankees designated him for assignment earlier this week to make room on the 40-man roster for George Kontos. Remember, the Astros have the righty a look in Spring Training as a Rule 5 Draft pick, but they eventually send him back. Pendleton is from Houston and went to Rice (also in Houston), so he’s right at home. Good luck, I’ll miss you Pants Lendleton.
Once upon a time, the best team in the American League — the team destined for a first place finish, a classic ALCS and, unfortunately, a disappointing World Series loss — found itself no-hit by a motley bunch of Houston Astros. Now, these Astros were no schlubs. After all, they entered the game 36-28, in first in NL Central, just half a game worse than the Yanks. Plus, as Dallas Braden and countless others have shown, no-hitters can come from the unlikeliest of unlikely pitchers. But this nine-inning effort was unique in that it took six pitchers, each throwing harder than the last.
On paper, the original pitching match-up looked every bit the lopsided affair this game would turn out to be. Astros’ ace Roy Oswalt would face off against the Yanks’ Jeff Weaver in one of those painfully unexciting Interleague games that have come to dominate the mid-June schedule. Weaver, as was his pinstriped wont, had nothing from the start, and Oswalt had everthing. The Astros took a 1-0 lead after a Craig Biggio leadoff double, a flyball and a wild pitch, and Oswalt struck out Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi.
And then the Yanks caught a break. Oswalt left the game with a groin injury, and the Yanks could feast on 8 innings of bullpen work. Even with Jeff Weaver on the mound, the Yanks had 24 outs against pitchers not as good as Oswalt.
The break, it turned out, was anything but. Peter Munro took over for Oswalt and was effectively wild. He walked three — the only three Yanks to reach base — and struck out two in 2.2 innings of work. Kirk Saarloos took the ball for 1.1 hitless innings, and then the Astros brought the heat.
Over the final four innings of the game, the Yanks had to face Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner, each throwing harder than the last. The trio combined for eight strike outs over the final 12 outs of the game, and the game ended when Hideki Matsui grounded out to first. No runs, no hits.
Overall, the Astros’ pitching line was one for ages. 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 13 K. What made it confounding, though, was the sheer number of pitchers the Astros used. Houston seemed even more confused than New York. “I kind of expected him to hug me,” Billy Wagner said after the game, referring to first baseman Jeff Bagwell. “It was kind of a weird situation.”
Weird indeed. The 2003 Astros became the first team to use six pitchers in a single no-hitter, and the Yanks, who hadn’t been on the wrong end of a no-hitter in decades over a span of 6980 games, found themselves in the record books for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes, you lose, and sometimes, you lose historically.
Tonight, the Astros return to the scene of the crime seven years and one new stadium later. Lidge, Dotel, and Wagner have moved on to greener pastures, and while Oswalt has stayed with Houston through thick and thin, the Astros are engaged in a race to the bottom with the Orioles. One team will be crowned worst in baseball four months for now.
For now, the Astros and Yanks will just have to look back on that odd June 11 no-hitter and laugh. “Whatever kind of history it was,” said then-manager Joe Torre at the time, “it was terrible. It was one of the worst games I’ve ever been involved with.”
There is justice in the world: the Astros fired GM Tim Purpura this afternoon. No, this is not Yankees related. But as a baseball fan, it’s frustrating that the man held his job for so long. How a man can keep his job after failing to sign his top two draft picks — when the team didn’t even pick until the third round — I don’t know. Apparently Astros owner Drayton McLane, who also owns one of the best names in sports, doesn’t know either. And remember, the teams’ first few picks were lost because they just had to sign Carlos Lee and Mark Loretta. In addition to that, they didn’t pick up any additional picks by failing to offer arbitration to Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
Oh yeah, and Purpura and Garner continued to trot out Craig Biggio while he pursued a personal record, which was to the detriment of the team.
Now, if we can just get Dave Littlefield out of Pittsburgh…