Mills sports a new lineup, and the Astros hit and hit. And hit.

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Brad Mills altered his lineup somewhat drastically on Monday for the series opener with the Cubs, and the Astros went out and made him look pretty smart when they hit up the Cubs for eight runs in the first three innings. I doubt even Mills had that barrage in mind when he dropped Jeff Keppinger to the six-hole and flip-flopped Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee, who hit fourth and fifth respectively.

Mills’ line of thinking: Keppinger has been the Astros’ most consistent hitter, but his high on-base percentage has, for most the season, gone for naught as the No. 2 hitter, because the middle of the order has not produced consistently (putting it mildly). So, by moving Keppinger down in the order to hit directly behind Lee, Mills was hoping Lee (and to a degree, Pence) would see better pitches. Mills figured if Keppinger continued to get on base at the same pace he has for most of the year, why not see if those hits can turn into RBIs as well.

While I wouldn’t count on every night going as well as Monday, Mills’ logic makes sense. The only drawback is Keppinger isn’t likely to see as many good pitches in the six-hole as the two-hole, considering unproven rookies Chris Johnson and Jason Castro are hitting behind him. Kepp’s three walks Monday might be a foreshadow of things to come.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

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Roy Oswalt, who needs one win to tie and two to surpass Joe Niekro’s franchise record for career wins, said before the game Monday that he believes he’ll remain on schedule and make his next start as planned. Oswalt took a ball off his ankle in Pittsburgh Sunday and was removed from the game after the fourth inning, but he said the next day he was feeling much better and didn’t foresee any further setbacks.

Oswalt, who may or may not be dealt before the 3 p.m. CT non-waiver trade deadline on July 31, is scheduled to pitch against the Reds on July 24 and the Brewers on July 30.

Read about Mills’ new lineup, Oswalt’s ankle and other news and notes in McTaggart’s notebook here.

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I put a partial percentage of Twitterverse in a confused state in the third inning after Castro hit a three-run homer to put the Astros up 8-0. My original Tweet: Castro is the first Astros catcher to homer since Brad Ausmus hit a grand slam in 2006.

Oops. While the Astros’ offense in the last five years has been nothing to write home about, especially the production coming from the catchers, let’s not get crazy. The corrected stat: Castro’s home was the first three-plus homer by an Astros catcher since Ausmus hit a grand slam on Aug. 5, 2006 at Arizona.

Other notes from Monday’s win:

Johnson recorded his first career home run and has the ball as a souvenir, thanks to it bouncing off the fence and back onto the field. CJ had three hits on the night, marking the fourth time he’s had three hits in a game.

Six of the Astros’ starting nine had multi-hit games. Wandy Rodriguez was 2-for-3, marking the first multi-hit game of his career.

The Astros scored a season-high 11 runs and a season-high 17 hits. It was the most runs for the club since it scored 14 last Aug. 12 at Florida.

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Early in July, a group of wives of past and current Major League Baseball players toured the areas along the Gulf Coast that were affected by the oil spill.

They returned with heavy hearts and a determination to spread the word to others that the spill continues to affect the lives and livelihoods of thousands in the region.

Jill Borkowski, wife of former Astros pitcher and current Minor League pitching coach Dave Borkowski, was one of 10 wives who toured the area. McTaggart wrote a thorough account of the experience, which you can read here.

The other wives involved were Elizabeth Condrey, wife of Twins pitcher Clay Condrey, Megan Thomas (former slugger Frank Thomas), Jamie Buehrle (White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle), Cass Relaford (former player Desi Relaford), Erin Romero (Phillies pitcher J.C. Romero), Julianne Gamel (Brewers third baseman Mat Gamel), Jessica Maholm (Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm), Crystal Durbin (Phillies pitcher Chad Durbin) and Anne Ogea (former pitcher Chad Ogea).

 

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You can also contribute to the Gulf Coast relief fund by texting the word RESTORE to 50555 between now and July 31. A fee of $10 will be added to your cell phone bill and will help aid the region. Half of the proceeds raised will go to the National Audubon Society, which has been helping clean oil-soaked birds, and 50 percent will be distributed to a variety of charities in the area, with the wives recommending how it should be spent.

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The Astros Wives Gala has been going strong for two decades and No. 21 will take place on Aug. 12, at the usual venue — the field of Minute Maid Park. Chaired by Morgan Keppinger and Heather Byrdak, the event will benefit the Houston Area Women’s Center and will be attended by most current players as well as a few past players.

Since the first one in 1990, the Wives Gala has raised over $3 million on behalf of the HAWC, which provides a safe place for women and children who are survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

Tickets aren’t cheap — they start at $500 — but the cause is well worth it. And it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet and mingle with your favorite Astros. The evening, themed “A Night in Paradise,” will include a silent auction and a live auction and will be emceed by radio announcer Milo Hamilton.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 713-781-0053.

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(Kory and Geoff  Blum at last year’s Gala)

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The Astros have teamed up with Third Coast Sports for the fourth consecutive year to bring Faith and Family Night to Minute Maid Park following the 6:05 p.m. Astros game vs. the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday, July 31.

Faith and Family Night tentatively includes a personal testimony from Lance Berkman, followed by a concert by the popular Christian band, Jars of Clay.

Admission to the concert is included with a valid game ticket to the game. All seating for the concert will be general admission seating along the first base side of the ballpark. The band will perform from the warning track near first base.

Fans purchasing tickets for the game must sit in their ticketed seats until the end of the game, but may then move into any available seat on the first base side of the ballpark for the concert.

For more information on the concert and discounted tickets, fans can visit www.astros.com/faithandfamily or call the Astros Ticket Office at 1-800-ASTROS2.

1 Comment

Yes, a line-up change has worked for Mr. Mills. The Astros are finally getting some runs; I especially like the addition of Sanchez, Johnson, and Castro. Keep up the good work!
Jay

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