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Houston Astros collide, allow winning run to score (GIF)

Astros collisionThe Houston Astros are the worst team in baseball, so the way they lost Friday night’s game in Pittsburgh was quite fitting.

Houston blew a 4-1 and lost 5-4 after two players collided when they were trying to catch a pop up to shallow right that allowed the winning run to score.

The Pirates loaded the bases and Russell Martin was facing Edgar Gonzalez with two outs. Martin had a full count and popped the ball up to shallow right. Second baseman Jake Elmore was calling it all the way, but right fielder Jimmy Paredes ran into him, knocking him to the ground. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Brian T. Smith, manager Bo Porter said the ball was Elmore’s, while Elmore said he couldn’t hear whether or not Paredes tried to call him off.

The ball hit the ground to give Martin a walk-off RBI single to win the game — much to his surprise. None of the Pirates players were running hard because they all thought it was going to be caught.

Now the best part is Eye on Baseball points out that another blooper from earlier in the game helped the Pirates make the comeback. This is another must-see GIF:

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Mike Scioscia correctly protests Houston Astros’ pitching change; Umpires were wrong

Mike Scioscia umpireAn MLB spokesman said on Friday that the umpires made a mistake by allowing the Houston Astros to make a pitching change in the seventh inning of Thursday’s Angels-Astros game, a move that was protested by Mike Scioscia.

The Astros were up 5-3 in the top of the seventh. Paul Clemens had just walked Chris Ianetta to put runners on first and second with two outs. Left-handed batter J.B. Shuck was coming up, so Houston decided to bring in lefty relief pitcher Wesley Wright. Scioscia decided to counter by pinch-hitting for Shuck with right-handed batter Luis Jimenez.

This is what led to the error.

Astros manager Bo Porter responded to Scioscia’s move by going back to his bullpen to have right-handed Hector Ambriz come in. However, he did not have Wright pitch to a batter, which is required when a reliever is brought in.

Rule 3.05(B) states:

If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.

With Ambriz coming in, Scioscia also made a change and subbed out Jimenez for lefty Scott Cousins, who popped out to end the inning.

Ambriz gave up two runs the following inning and was charged for a third run, which was the winning run.

MLB says it is reviewing the matter. I’m not really sure what there is to review — the umpires made a big mistake and MLB confirmed it. Scioscia knew the rule. It’s shocking that the umpires didn’t.

Astros owner Jim Crane open to having Roger Clemens make a start this season

Roger Clemens may be 50 years old and five years removed from baseball, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing his career. Clemens is scheduled to pitch for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League on Saturday, and if the rumors are true The Rocket still has some pretty nasty stuff in his arsenal. If he performs well this weekend and is interested in returning to the MLB, the Astros just might have him.

Astros owner Jim Crane told FOX 26 Sports on Thursday that he is open to the idea of having Clemens make a start for Houston this season. Sounds like a major publicity stunt for the worst team in baseball, doesn’t it? Crane insists that wouldn’t be the case.

“If it goes alright (with Sugar Land) and he comes to us, we’ll talk to baseball about it at length,” Crane said. “The only thing we don’t want to do is make it a publicity stunt. If we did it, I want to try and take it and turn it into a positive, which would be Roger’s doing it for the good of baseball. The extra proceeds on the game might go to the (Astros’) community charity deal to build (baseball) fields, do something positive out of it.”

If you’re making a baseball decision that has nothing to do with winning a baseball game, it’s always going to be viewed as a publicity stunt in some capacity. Raising money for charities would be nice, but the Astros would be lying if they said they aren’t desperate to sell tickets and salvage something from their abysmal season.

“I think the fans might like it,” Crane continued. “It might be fun and certainly get a few people in the ballpark. I don’t see anything negative about that, but the Astros wouldn’t want to do it for the money, the extra gate or anything like that.”

Would a sell out during a season in which your team ranks in the bottom four in the league in attendance be nice, Jim? You bet it would be.

H/T Hardball Talk
Photo via Sugar Land Skeeters

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?