GREAT THINGS HAPPENING TO HOUSTON ASTROS’ FORTUNES
In last week’s column I wished the Houston Astros would pick up a starting pitcher before last Wednesday’s trading deadline.
Boy!! Did I “under wish” on that one. Not only did the Astros pick up a starting pitcher in a regular rotation, but they also managed to pry Zack Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks less than an hour before the 3 p.m. Wednesday trading deadline.
Instead of just getting a member of a major league team’s starting pitching staff, in Greinke the Astros were able to add a future Hall of Fame pitcher who has won a Cy Young Award and is a four-time All-Star who was 10-4 this season before last night’s outing at Minute Maid Park against the Colorado Rockies.
However, adding Greinke didn’t come cheap for Houston. In exchange for the stellar right-hander, the Astros had to give up four of their best prospects including last year’s top draft pick Seth Beer, a 22-year old outfielder, starting pitchers J.B. Bukauskas (22) and Corbin Martin (23) and 25-year-old third baseman Josh Rojas.
The deal was pulled off by General Manager Jeff Luhnow who tried like crazy to substitute lesser prospects than these four, but the Diamondbacks flatly refused and added that it was this deal or no deal as the clock kept edging toward the trading deadline.
Luhnow also wanted to obtain the best talent level possible for the post-season—with the World Series as the ultimate goal—so he reluctantly offered outfielder Derek Fisher to Toronto for starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez (3-14), reliever Joe Biagini and outfielder Cal Stevenson. Ironically, Sanchez has lost more games than aces Greinke (10-4), Justin Verlander (15-4) and Gerrit Cole (13-5) combined.
This second transaction paid immediate dividends as Sanchez started Saturday’s game against the Seattle Mariners and pitched six innings of no-hit, no-run baseball and became part of Astro history as Sanchez was followed by Will Harris, Biagini and Chris Devenski who also were credited for the combined no-hitter the Astros won 9-0.
Saturday night’s gem was the 12th no-hitter in Houston franchise history, with the last coming by Mike Fiers in 2015. The Astros 10th gem was a six-pitcher combined no-hitter in 2003 which involved Roy Oswalt, Peter Munro, Brad Lidge, Kirk Sartoos, Octavio Dotel and closer Billy Wagner, blanking the New York Yankees 8-0.
Luhnow also made a deal with the Chicago Cubbies, getting catcher Martin Maldonado for infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp. Maldanado was with Houston last season and was impressive by his ability to throw out runners attempting to steal. But he opted to test the free agent marketplace and was scooped up by the Cubs.
And to make room for Maldanado, Houston traded back-up catcher Max Stassi to the LA Angels for outfielders Rainier Rivas and Raider Oceta.
While all these transactions were taking place, the Astros proved unruly hosts by whipping Seattle 10-2 Friday, 9-0 Saturday and 3-1 Sunday in the three-game weekend series at Minute Maid Park. Astros pitchers no-hit the Mariners for 15 straight innings during the series.
On Sunday, Verlander became the major league’s winningest pitcher when he allowed just a home run and two other hits to defeat Seattle 3-1 for his 15th mound victory so far this season.
Verlander also surpassed the 200-strikeout plateau in the second inning and totaled 10 for the game and became only the seventh pitcher in major league history with nine seasons of 200 strikeouts or more. He joins Nolan Ryan (15), Randy Johnson (13), Roger Clemens (12), Tom Seaver (10), Pedro Martinez (9) and Bob Gibson (9).
Sunday’s 3-1 win moved the Astros record to 73-40. “No major league team has a better record and no previous Astros team produced a better record through its first 113 games,” according to Monday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.
The 2019 Houston Astros appear to be sitting on top of the major league baseball world and have jumped up to the best team in the major leagues according to this week’s poll.
Let’s hope it stays that way in October!!
KWICKIES…The football season has begun this week for our local high school teams highlighted by running the bleachers and trying to run the mile in a certain time as the coaches work to get the team into playing shape. The key to this week’s sessions is HYDRATION!!
Los Angeles Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who was put on the 10-day Injured List after being bowled over by Houston’s Jake Marisnick on July 7, was designated for assignment last weekend after the Angels ironically traded for Houston’s back-up catcher Max Stassi.
The National Football League’s exhibition season began last week with Denver nipping Atlanta 14-10 in the annual Hall of Fame game. There are 11 games on tap tomorrow including Houston at Green Bay.
The road to Williamsport, Pa. began this week with several regional little league games on tap. The Regional champions will meet later this month for the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
Speedy offensive playmakers seem to be the strength of the Texas Longhorns football team this fall. Wide receiver Devin Duvernay is rated as one of the nation’s most sure-handed receivers. He caught all 41 “catchable balls” thrown his way last season—second-most among all returning receivers at the FBS level from 2018– and returns this season brimming over with confidence.
And speaking of the Texas Longhorns, the Houston Texans released former burnt-orange running back D’Onta Foreman Sunday during training camp. The Texans released the often-injured Foreman early in training camp in hopes that he can start anew with another NFL team.
J.T. Poston won his first PGA Tour victory last weekend at the Wyndham Championship and collected a check for $1,110,000 and 500 FedEx points as the first round of the tournament begins tomorrow in the Northern Trust event. The top 125 FedEx players will be eligible for the event this week.
JUST BETWEEN US…I got a phone call Saturday afternoon from my grandson Logan Smith, who is getting ready to begin his final year at West Point. He just finished a summer course in statistics where he made a B+ and was upset he didn’t make an A-. His class ended every day at 10:30 a.m. and he hurried to the baseball field where he was conducting a clinic for youngsters every day until 3:30 p.m. He planned to play some golf before having to start his senior year Monday by showing the ropes of West Point to the incoming Plebes. He’s looking forward to the upcoming baseball season where he will be the only senior in the starting rotation. He plans to choose Infantry as his branch and hopes to use his degree in mechanical engineering with the Infantry. His top choice of regular Army posts in Anchorage, then Fort Hood and a post in Washington State.