Astros lose on ‘Bad News Bears’ play (Video)

Many people considered the Astros to be the worst team in baseball entering the season, and they’re finally living down to expectations. Houston has the worst record in MLB — 36-74 — and they’ve gone 4-31 over their last 35 games. If you’re wondering how a team can fare so poorly, look no further than the play seen above.

The Astros and Nats were tied at 4 in the 11th when Kurt Suzuki attempted to move Roger Bernadina up from first to second on a sac bunt. He got much more than he expected thanks to some embarrassingly sloppy fielding from the Astros.

Pitcher Wilton Lopez and first baseman Steve Pearce collided trying to catch the popped up bunt, and then Pearce air-mailed the throw into right field. Right fielder Brian Bogusevic then picked up Pearce’s throwing error and matched him with one of his own. He chucked his throw over the catcher’s head, allowing Bernadina to score and Suzuki to reach third. Bernadina’s run was all Washington needed to seal the 5-4 victory in 11.

Yes, the Astros turned a poor bunt into an RBI triple. Way to go, Houston.

Forearm bash to Eye on Baseball

Astros Criticize Cardinals’ Field Conditions After U2 Concert

Considering they are currently toting a record of 33-69 and are a solid 21 games out of first place in the NL Central, it would be tough for the Houston Astros to blame a loss on anyone but themselves. Rarely does a baseball team get a chance to blame U2 for their misfortunes, but if the opportunity presents itself you might as well strike.

The Cardinals hosted a U2 concert at Busch Stadium recently while St. Louis was on a road trip.  As a result, the stadium’s grass had to be torn up and replaced with a new surface from Colorado that was installed at night during cool temperatures.  It was known beforehand that the new surface could be a little tricky and play a little quicker than usual, but the Astros were still caught off guard.  Hunter Pence fell running in on a fly ball that became a triple and Michael Bourn fell trying to field a ball in center field.  Jose Altuve fell rounding first on a single and Jason Bourgeois had a ball skip away from him, forcing an error.

“I didn’t expect it to be tough until I fell down,” Pence said. “We knew there was a new sod and ground balls were going to be tougher. We really didn’t expect all the slipping to go down.”

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MLB 2011 Preview: Houston Astros Should At Least Finish Ahead of Pirates

Previewing the 2011 MLB season, we’ve already named the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox the top World Series favorites. Last week we looked at the how the NL Central might shape up with the Cardinals, Reds, Brewers and Cubs Yesterday we previewed the Pirates, and today we finish up the division with the Houston Astros.

The Tweeners: Houston Astros

Off-Season Moves: The Astros acquired utility man Clint Barmes from the Rockies in exchange for right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino. Essentially, they got a guy who can play almost anywhere on the field for a guy who seemingly has no business in any starting rotation. They also picked up another utility man in Bill Hall and took a flier on left-handed pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, a guy who showed some promise before a disappointing 2010, both via free agency.

Strengths: The Astros have several guys who can play all over the field. Barmes played second base, third base and shortstop last season and has played in the outfield in the past. Hall played every infield position except first base last season with the Red Sox and also played every outfield position. He even pitched an inning — without allowing a hit or walking a batter. Last year’s primary second baseman Jeff Keppinger also played at shortstop and has played at first and in the outfield in the past.

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Managerial Lineup Card Screwup has Michael Bourn Bat Twice in a Row

First it was Rays manager Joe Maddon this past weekend, now it’s Cecil Cooper. There’s something about managerial lineup card screwups lately. Maddon had two of his players written in the lineup card as playing third base and thus he had to forfeit the DH spot. Much like Maddon, Astros manager Cecil Cooper fell victim to habit. Cooper made a couple of lineup switches, having usual leadoff man Kaz Matsui slide down to the second spot and bumping two-hitter Michael Bourn to lead off. Problem is although he told his guys about the switch, he apparently didn’t write down the lineup properly on the card:

Because the Astros presented plate umpire Eric Cooper with a lineup card featuring Matsui leading off and Bourn batting second, that move provided embarrassment after Bourn was brought back to the plate after leading off with a single to right.

Once Milwaukee manager Ken Macha questioned the lineup card to Eric Cooper, Matsui was called out with an assist to the catcher and then Bourn had to bat again.

Bourn proceeded to walk in his second at-bat, one that actually counted for his stats. The speedster then scored on a double by Lance Berkman. Luckily the Astros won the game 6-4 so the only things that suffered were the stats of Bourn (who didn’t get credit for his single) and Matsui (who was 0-for-1 without even batting). Weird story. Let’s just hope Cooper’s more careful from here on out. Seriously, do these managers need copy editors for their lineup cards or what?

Players Gone Crazy: Shawn Chacon

First it was Sidney Ponson getting released by the Rangers for being disrespectful towards the team, or something like that. Ponson is a guy who once punched a judge on the beach in Aruba, so as you could imagine, the news was quite shocking to hear. Anyway, there must be some sort of a trend going around MLB clubhouses where players are getting increasingly disrespectful these days. The Astros suspended pitcher Shawn Chacon for getting into an altercation with GM Ed Wade. Wade wanted to talk with Chacon privately in manager Cecil Cooper’s office to discuss matters (Chacon has been unhappy since being demoted to the bullpen). Chacon wasn’t exactly cooperating, as he told the Houston Chronicle:

And I said ‘You can tell me whatever you got to tell me right here.’ [Wade's] like, ‘oh, you want me to tell you right here?’ And I said, ‘yeah.’ I’m not yelling. I’m calm.”

It deteriorated quickly afterward, according to Chacon.

“He started yelling and cussing,” Chacon said of Wade. “I’m sitting there and I said to him very calmly, ‘Ed, you need to stop yelling at me. Then I stood up and said ‘you better stop yelling at me.’ I stood up. He continued and was basically yelling and stuff and was like, ‘You need to (expletive) look in the mirror.’ So at that point I lost my cool and I grabbed him by the neck and threw him to the ground. I jumped on top of him because at that point I wanted to beat his (butt). Words were exchanged.”

Hello Latrell Sprewell, 2008! Maybe he could call Spree for some advice on how to deal with this. And perhaps P.J. Carlesimo could lob a phone call to Ed Wade to offer support. Honestly, I can’t even imagine a dude like that going on the attack after a boss. Sure, everybody says they would want to knock the snot out of their boss, but who actually does it? Chacon says he knows he might be done in the majors after this. I’m not so sure; if teams are desperate for an arm, they’ll come calling. Either way, this is pretty disgusting to read. Who knew GMs had to keep assault in the back of their mind?

What’s Wrong with Lance Berkman?

Hey, you remember that Lance Berkman guy? The stud who made you forget who that goateed first baseman was…Bag…er, I forget. I digress, Lance Berkman has been an absolute beast ever since his first full-season in the bigs in 2000. The guys career OPS is .975 — I think that says enough. He’s bombed over 40 twice, driven in over 100 four times, and he’s hit over .300 three times. Simply put, when the guy’s in the lineup and healthy, he mashes. Until this year.

Lance Berkman is struggling like no other. I mean, his .265 batting average isn’t embarrassing. Nor is his .780 OPS. The fact that I’m even writing this considering those numbers speaks to Berkman’s abilities. But check this out: he only has six extra-base hits on the year. Six! That’s it. Five home runs and one double. No more, no less. Lance says he isn’t concerned, just irritated. But come on, when Ryan Freel and Yuniesky Betancourt have higher slugging percentages than you, you know something’s up. And something is definitely wrong with Berkman. I’d like to see him fix it.

Who is Hunter Pence?

He’s a rookie center fielder for the Houston Astros, and he’s absolutely killing the ball. The 24-year-old former 2nd round draft pick of Houston in 2004 is batting .355 through 16 games this year, with 15 RBI. But check out what the rookie’s done recently — the Giants haven’t gotten him out once this series. Pence is 7 for 7 against San Francisco, and 11 for his last 14. The kid’s OPSing an incredible 1.071 so far. So what gives? Who is this guy?

Well, according to Baseball America, Pence was the Astros top prospect in 2007. In 308 career minor league games, Pence hit .302 and OPS’d .932. He averaged a home run nearly every five games. And in November, despite hitting .339, Hunter was sent home from the Arizona Fall League because of a DUI arrest. Scouts say he’s very competitive player with an infectious makeup, and high energy. Best part is he teared up a bit when his manager Jackie Moore informed him of his call up. So can he keep it up? Only time will tell, but there’s no question that he has the proven track record. We’ll be keeping our eye on this kid to see if he’s the next great thing in Houston. It sure looks that way right now.