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Astros Get New SS; Still Need Starting Pitchers


Last updated 6/15/2015 at Noon

Whenever a team gets the season started on the right foot, there comes a time when a lull in the victories comes along.

That lull happened to the Houston Astros the first two weeks in June when they were shackled with a seven-game losing streak and saw their comfortable foothold on first place in the American League West Division slowly disintegrate.

Six of those seven losses occurred on their recent road trip to Toronto and a series against the Chicago White Sox, but their return home last weekend to take on the Seattle Mariners hopefully got them over the hump and back to their winning ways.

Houston won two of the three-game series with Seattle—both by football scores—as the Astros opened the series with a 10-0 victory, lost Saturday’s game 8-1 and then came back on Sunday with a 13-0 win.

And the series drew the three largest crowds since opening day both to see their first-place team and their new shortstop Carlos Correa, the No. 1 choice of the 2012 major league draft. Friday’s game drew 32,173 fans, Saturday’s was even larger at 36,762 with Sunday’s series final netting 29,153.

But why the turnstiles spun so wildly last weekend was for the Astros’ fans to catch a glimpse of the major league’s youngest player, the 20-year-old Correa who reminded old-timers of St. Louis’ Marty Marion because of his slick fielding and 6-4 frame.

Correa was not supposed to make his major league debut in Houston until later in the summer. But the fact the team got off to such a torrid start but was slipping back to mediocrity because of boneheaded plays by shortstop Jonathan Villar, Correa was rushed to the majors after just a handful of games at the Class AAA level.

Correa was hitting .335 with 10 home runs, 44 RBI, 21 doubles and 18 stolen bases in 53 Class AA Corpus Christi and AAA Fresno combined games. The front office felt he was ready to make the transition to the major leagues.

The young shortstop appears to be holding his own offensively—batting .240 in games through Sunday—and is fielding his position on a major-league level to the delight of everyone. He has already slapped two home runs with the Astros.

The Astros’ next project in progress is to solidify their starting pitching rotation. They’re looking to add a solid starting pitcher, but aren’t certain who it might be.

Collin McHugh ended last season on a high note and picked up where he left off during the first two months of the 2015 season. But he has slowed down his torrid pace recently.

Scott Feldman looked like he would be a dependable starting pitcher, but he went on the disabled list.

Houston has plenty of average starting pitchers, but is looking for a dependable stopper like lefty Dallas Keuchel, who has one of the best records (7-2) and earned run averages (1.90) in the major leagues.

Young 20-year-old Lance McCullars (3-1) certainly could be the pitcher the Astros need to fill the role right behind Keuchel in the rotation. He had the unfortunate experience of being pulled from Sunday’s game after five innings, despite the fact he hadn’t given up a hit to Seattle.

But the Astros were pummeling the Seahawks in the early innings and there was quite a huge time lapse between innings, so Manager A.J. Hinch decided to take McCullars out of the game after he threw 90 pitches in those five innings. Houston ended up winning the game 13-0 (they must have missed an extra point).

Brett Oberholtzer came off the disabled list and hurled eight innings of shutout ball Friday and should be a prime candidate for the future starting rotation.

Vince Velasquez was brought up last week to make his major league debut and he threw five innings of shutout ball before the bullpen lost it in the late innings.

Brad Peacock was re-evaluated by doctors in Houston Monday as he continues to struggle in his recovery from a nagging left intercostal strain. He threw two scoreless innings and 37 pitches on a rehab assignment for Class AA Corpus Christi but had an un- specified setback that required his return to Houston.

The Houston Astros are bound and determined to win the AL West this season and then get into the playoffs and are hopeful of making the correct moves to get back on that winning track.

Their lead over the second-place Texas Rangers had dwindled to a mere 2 ½ games through Sunday as Houston went 2-8 in their last 10 games while the Rangers were 6-4.

The Astros played two games at home against Colorado Monday and Tuesday and then went to Denver for two games against the Rockies today (Wed.) and Thursday.

KWICKIES…LSU got trounced 10-3 by TCU Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA College World Series in Omaha, after allowing only nine runs in their five previous NCAA tournament games to qualify for the World Series. The Tigers were defeated by the Horned Frogs’ ace Preston Morrison (12-2), the best pitcher in TCU history with 37 career wins, which are the most of any active Division I pitcher. Ironically, this was Morrison’s first NCAA Tournament mound victory in eight career starts.

Vanderbilt on Monday afternoon became the first team in the last 45 games this season to defeat Cal-Fullerton after the Titans had the lead through eight innings. With one out, Vandy got a pair of doubles and a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning for the walk-off 4-3 win and earned the right to meet TCU in the next round.

The apples certainly don’t fall far from the tree as Astros Hall of Famer-elect Craig Biggio’s sons were in the baseball headlines last week. His oldest son, Conor, was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 34th round as a left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing outfielder at Notre Dame. Younger brother Cavan, a second baseman for the Fighting Irish, was named Sunday as a college Golden Glove winner by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

Alex Rodriguez is hoping to reach the 3,000-hit milestone this week when the New York Yankees play in his hometown of Miami. A-Rod currently has 2,995 hits, but has only played six games in the field so far this season. There is no designated hitter when playing at a National League Park and New York Yankee manager Joe Girardi said his inclination is not to start A-Rod, who grew up in Miami and hasn’t played there since 2009.

LeBron James is having a hard time carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back throughout the entire NBA Championship Series and has fallen short in the fourth period of the last two games. Hopefully he led his team to victory Tuesday night in Cleveland so there will be a decisive Game 7 tomorrow (Thursday) at Golden State in Oakand.

Fabian Gomez won the PGA Tour St. Jude’s Classic Sunday, becoming the fifth champion from Argentina, joining mentor Jose Coceres, Angel Cabrera, Andres Robero and Roberto De Vicenzo. Gomez posted rounds of 66-68-67-66—267 to win by four strokes after being tied with Greg Owen for the lead after 54 holes Saturday and will take home $1.08 million for his first PGA Tour win.

The San Diego Padres fired manager Bud Black Monday despite his team playing just a tad under .500 (32-33) in games through Sunday. Pat Murphy was elevated from the Padres AAA team as the replacement for Black.

And while on the subject of major league managers who may be in trouble, Boston Red Sox skipper John Farrell could be the next one to go as his last-place team tried to end its six-game losing streak going into Monday’s action.

JUST BETWEEN US…A tip of the Korner Kap to the West Orange-Stark Mustang baseball team who had to win a district playoff game just to be eligible for the recent State Baseball Tournament. The Mustangs went into the four-team Class 4A tourney in Austin as the No. 4-seeded team and then overwhelmed El Campo 8-0 in Wednesday’s semifinal game before falling to Argyle 7-3 after making an uncharacteristic seven errors in Thursday’s championship game. WO-S came within a whisker of being the first Orange County baseball team to ever bring home the state championship trophy. But I believe the Mustangs have set a precedent for the future of their baseball program.


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