New metric system: Inches, feet, and Altuves.

This chair was labeled “Altuve 27.”

When you have to deal with pranks from your teammates practically on a daily basis, you’re going to go in one of two directions: you’re either going to get tired of the jokes, or you’re going to laugh along with everyone else.

Fortunately, Jose Altuve, who also answers to “Mighty Mouse,” “Little Man” and “Toovie,” can find find humor in the joke, even if he’s the constant subject of the ribbing.

At some point in his professional career, Altuve’s height was recorded as five feet, seven inches. That was eventually deemed inaccurate. The second baseman, 22, is all of five feet, five inches, making him one of the youngest, and the shortest, players in the big leagues.

He’s also maintaining a better-than-.300 batting average, is the early favorite to represent the Astros at the All-Star Game and is proving to be a very sound defensive player. In other words, life is good for the diminutive Altuve, even when his teammates purposely raise their hands above their heads during post-win high-fives so that he has to jump up.

Altuve’s height and baseball acumen have made him a fan favorite in Houston. One fan has gone as far as to create a new measuring system, “How Many Altuves?” In this blog, Bryan Trostel offers a simple metric converter that will convert feet into Altuves.

For example, if it’s 300 feet from your front door to the mailbox, exactly how many Altuves would that be?

Answer: 55.38.

Give it a try. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

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Congrats to Double-A Corpus Christi first baseman Jon Singleton, who was named Texas League Player of the Week. He hit four homers in six games and finished the week with 12 hits in 24 at-bats with a double, eight runs scored and 12 RBIs.

Singleton had at least one hit in all six games he played, including four multi-hit games. For the season, he ranks first in the Texas League in runs scored with 35, third in RBI with 35, third in OBP at .418 and third in OPS at .981. He is tied for fourth in average at .317.

In 47 games this year, Singleton has nine homers, 10 doubles and a pair of triples.

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Mike Scott’s no-hitter in ’86 was one for the ages. But it wasn’t the only great playoff-clinching moment in Astros history.

One Sunday morning, several years ago, Brandon Backe sat at his locker doing what young players normally do in the hours before gametime. Hanging out. Saying very little. Doing nothing to draw attention to himself.

This was 2004, arguably the most significant (at that time) of Backe’s Major League career. He spent that season up and down between the minors to the big leagues, mostly as a reliever. Inconsistency and one bout of fatigue-related issues prevented him from gaining any real staying power in the rotation.

But Backe showed enough to merit multiple opportunities with the Astros that year. He had spunk. He had moxie. He had, quite frankly, an attitude. That type of demeanor, paired with hard work, usually buys a kid some extra time while he tries to put the pitching side of things together.

This particular Sunday in 2004 wasn’t like the other Sundays. No, this was the final Sunday of the season, the final game of the season, and the National League Wild Card was on the line. Win the game, go to the playoffs. It was that simple.

The team liked its chances, what, with Roger Clemens scheduled to start and the Astros having enjoyed a streak of 35 wins against 10 losses that catapulted them right into the thick of a hotly-contested Wild Card race.

An hour before gametime, however, things changed. Instead of suiting up for the game, Clemens was laying on a table in the training room, IVs inserted in his arm, trying to fast-forward through a stomach flu that left him sapped of his energy.

Clemens said the right things to the athletic trainers and doctors — “I’m fine, I can pitch” — but his body was saying quite the opposite. As the minutes passed, it was clear it would not be Clemens taking the mound at 1:05 for arguably the most important game of the season.

“Clemens is sick,” manager Phil Garner said to catcher Brad Ausmus, in passing, near the lunch room in the Astros’ clubhouse. “Backe’s pitching.”

Ausmus’ face fell, briefly. Then, perhaps realizing a reporter was watching this exchange, his expression changed. He simply nodded, and walked off.

Inside the locker room, pitching coach Jim Hickey walked up to Backe’s locker and told the 26-year-old righty that he was starting the game. Backe, likely dumbfounded and now with 60 minutes to prepare, nodded silently. Then he headed straight to the bathroom.

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Backe put forth a fabulous effort that day. He struck out six and held the Rockies to two runs five hits with two walks. And, he contributed the first two RBIs with a two-run bloop single in the second frame that put the Astros on the board for the first time. The Astros won by two runs, a sold-out Minute Maid Park erupted, and the party was on.

Brandon Backe didn’t spare any champagne after the Wild Card clincher in 2004.

The Astros have had many exciting playoff-clinching moments. Really, in recent history, the only ho-hum clincher was in 1998, only because the Astros were so good that it negated a true division race. They clinched it with about a week-and-a-half left in the season, creating as much drama and suspense as a rerun of “Laverne and Shirley.”

But other than that 102-win season, the Astros have had many, many nail-biting, down-to-the-wire clinchers that happened on the very last day of the season, or close to it.

They had around four days remaining in ’97 when they clinched, but that one was extra-special, because it was their first NL Central division title and their first division winner in 11 years. In 1999, they won the division title while playing the final regular-season game in the Dome, in front of a jam-packed crowd that included almost every former player who had meant anything to the franchise over three-plus decades of baseball in Houston.

Larry Dierker, the manager of the Astros at that time, called the win, and the celebration of history after, “Baseball heaven.”

The famous shot from the ’97 clincher: Hampton, Biggio, Bagwell. (photo courtesy of Karen Warren, Houston Chronicle)

The 2001 clincher was memorable as well, considering the team they were fighting for the division title was also the team they had to beat on the last day.

The Astros ended the regular season in St. Louis, a week later than originally scheduled because of the tragic events on Sept. 11. They had been in relative cruise control a couple of weeks earlier and looked to be on their way to easily winning the division, but then they spent the better part of one crucial week losing almost every day. So it came down to the last game, and in front of a hostile Busch Stadium crowd, the Astros beat Darryl Kile and the Cardinals, 9-2.

The 2005 Wild Card clincher, like ’04, happened on the final day. The Astros topped the Cubs to finally, and officially, brush away the pesky Phillies, their closest nemesis in the Wild Card race. That push to the finish was even more impressive than the Astros’ 36-10 run from the year before, because this group had to climb out of a 15-30 hole it dug itself into at the start of the season.

Phil Garner and Craig Biggio walk off the field after the 2004 Wild Card clincher.

The most exciting clincher in Astros history, obviously, was Mike Scott’s no-hitter in 1986. The Astros were expected to do very little in the NL West that year, but heading to the final stretch, there they were, at the top of the standings. Two days before Scott’s game, Jim Deshaies threw a two-hitter. Nolan Ryan followed with a one-hitter over eight innings, after which Alan Ashby said to J.D., prophetically, “I have a feeling Scotty’s going to show both of you up tomorrow.”

Scott no-hit the Giants and the Astros clinched the division. To this day, when eye-witnesses reflect back to that game, their speech patterns speed up and their voices get a little screechy.

Manager Hal Lanier and Mike Scott after Scott’s no-no in ’86.

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Given the historic nature of Scott’s no-hitter, it would be silly to think any other playoff-clincher could possibly trump that one. Polling fans on this one would be just plain silly.

Too bad — we’re doing it anyway! But don’t just cast your vote. I want to know what you remember best from those clinching games. Perhaps you were at the 2004 Backe game. Or maybe you were watching from home, wearing your baseball cap positioned just so atop of your head, the same way you had worn it for all 36 games of the Astros’ 36-10 run that year. Or maybe you were just a kid when the Dome opened and found yourself back there, in person, when it closed down in ’99.

Whatever the memory, please share with us here. We’ve provided plenty of nostalgia for you as we celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary. Now it’s your turn to provide a walk down memory lane.

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Links we like:

First, Brett Myers was compared to Charles Dickens. Now, in his latest blog entry, Astros radio announcer Dave Raymond finds parallels between the Astros’ nearly four-hour game with the Dodgers Saturday night and the Chevy Chase classic, “Fletch.” (Personally, I’m skeptical. Chevy Chase makes me laugh, yet the only emotion I felt during the game Saturday was an overwhelming urge to gouge my eyes out).

Dave also gives us some cool Astros-by-the-numbers info. For those of you who haven’t figured it out by now, our affable radio announcer is also a bit of a stat nerd.

In The Crawfish Boxes “Mondays Three Astros Things,” David Coleman discusses why the Astros appear to have come out ahead on the Jobduan Morales-Justin Ruggiano trade. He also focuses on everyone’s favorite topic — Altuve, Altuve and Altuve.

Sure, Altuve is the leading candidate to be an All-Star, but there are others on this roster too, no?

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Astros lineup at Rockies, Game 1. First pitch 2:10 CT.

Astros lineup 5/27 at Dodgers. First pitch 3:10 p.m. CT.

Astros lineup 5/26 at Dodgers. First pitch 9:10 p.m. CT.

Astros lineup 5/25 at Dodgers. First pitch 9:10 p.m. CT.

On Lyon’s comeback, Social Media Night and your Astros creating a national buzz.

When Brandon Lyon stood at his locker in Arlington last June and explained the details of the surgery he faced the following week, I remember thinking, “it’s over.”

The issue wasn’t so much that Lyon had a rotator cuff that needed fixing or a labrum that was partly responsible for the cyst that delayed his start to the 2010 season. My skepticism came from the mere fact that the surgery he was to have, which involved moving a biceps tendon back to its proper slot, had never been performed on an active pitcher.

It wasn’t a new surgery by any stretch. But the success rate of a Major League pitcher returning to the mound after undergoing this particular procedure?

There wasn’t one, because no one had attempted it. Until Lyon.


Because Lyon is locked into a rather expensive contract and will be paid $5.5 million this season, the last one of his three-year contract, I knew the Astros would be very patient with him during Spring Training. But in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much.

We are now over the quarter-mark of the season, and I am more than willing to admit this about Brandon Lyon: I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

He’s allowed three runs, total, and none since April 23. He’s had seven appearances in May, all scoreless. Opponents are hitting .143 against him this month.

There was little question about Lyon’s role as closer heading into the season. Given the severity of the surgery he had, there was no way the Astros could possibly believe with 100 percent certainty Lyon would be able to resume the duties of arguably the most important piece of a bullpen.

The Astros did the right thing in giving that job to Brett Myers, who has done a good job as closer and provided stability to a young bullpen. But Lyon’s contributions should not go unnoticed. He appears to be on his way to a very solid comeback season.

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We’re just over a week away from our second Social Media Night, featuring third baseman Chris Johnson (@cjastros23). For those who aren’t familiar with these events, they take place on the Budweiser Patio and include a slew of perks: a game ticket, batting practice viewing, t-shirt, dinner, dessert and an opportunity to win signed baseballs during Twitter Trivia.

Johnson will be with the crowd in the Bud Patio from 5:10 to 5:25 p.m., in advance of the 6:15 start time against the Reds. He’ll hand out the prizes during Twitter Trivia and will pose for photos with the winners (which I will email to you directly).

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased here. Hope to see you there!

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Cool links:

One of the many qualities about Astros radio announcer Dave Raymond that makes him so unique is his ability to take two items that seemingly have absolutely nothing in common and find a parallel.

Exhibit A can be found in his new blog, Everybody Reads Raymond. Ninety-nine times out of 100, you’d be hard pressed to draw comparisons between Charles Dickens and Myers. But our man Raymond finds a way.

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If you’ve been watching the Astros closely this season, you’ve probably noticed most of their games — regardless of whether they won or lost — have been, as I like to say, highly entertaining.

The games have, for the most part, been close and even in losing situations, they’ve been winnable in the later innings. In layman’s terms, that means this team is a fun one to watch.

Scott Miller of CBS Sports, among others, has taken note. Hence, “Astros draw buzz by being competitive.”  Check out the photo they picked to illustrate. No surprise there.

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“Look at the Lens!” The Regulators make video debut.

While perhaps it’s true the Regulators haven’t quite reached rock star status, they’ve carved out quite a niche for themselves here in Houston, and more specifically, at Minute Maid Park.

“Regulators” is the nickname for the Astros bullpen. Brett Myers came up with it a while back and began referencing the name in his tweets,  and just like that, the name caught on.

The Regulators, all eight of them — Brett Myers, Wilton Lopez, Wesley Wright, Brandon Lyon, Fernando Rodriguez, Enerio Del Rosario, Rhiner Cruz, Fernando Abad — took part in the video shoot that will run during the television broadcasts on FS Houston.

Producer Wave Robinson coordinated the session in a room near the Astros’ clubhouse and in the process of receiving 100 percent participation, captured the pitchers having quite a bit of fun. They followed directions pretty well, all things considered, even if they had to be reminded more than a couple of times to “LOOK AT THE LENS.”

In this video, you will notice Myers accessorized his Astros uniform with snake-skin boots. That’s almost as entertaining as watching Abad and Lopez react to seeing themselves on the TV monitor. (You know the fans who sit behind home plate on their cell phones and wave to whomever is watching at home? Kind of like that).

Enjoy the behind-the-scenes view of today’s video shoot:

Part of the shoot included the pitchers looking down at the floor…

…and slowly lifting up to look straight into the camera.

Myers added some spice to his uniform with snake-skin boots.

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Astros lineup 5/23 vs. Cubs. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT. Roof closed

Guest blog: MLB’s Honorary Bat Girl and Buses for Baseball

By Brittany Lamas

Monday afternoon I met Kim Goodwin, and she quickly became a hero of mine. This year’s Honorary Bat Girl of the MLB, Goodwin is a breast cancer survivor, and an amazing person.

Diagnosed in 2009, Goodwin, a dance teacher, continued to teach her classes during her treatment at MD Anderson, even through chemo therapy and radiation.

Goodwin’s father was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer a few years ago as well, so when she was diagnosed she said her first thought was, “There’s a reason.”

After beating the disease, she decided to return to MD Anderson as a volunteer who engages with patients as they begin their treatment.

“I meet them on their very first day,” Goodwin said. “I talk to them about the process and how I continued to work and live during my time here.”

Goodwin and her family have been huge Astros fans her entire life, she even has an Astros Breast Cancer Awareness hat she wore to every single day of radiation and chemo she did.

As for winning the “Honorary Bat Girl” contest? Goodwin said she didn’t realize it was a contest at first.

“I follow a lot of Astros media,” she said. “I stumbled upon the entry form and it just said ‘Tell your story’ so I wrote it all up and submitted it. It wasn’t until later I realized that people were going to vote on it to win.”

Here is Goodwin and Co. down on the field for batting practice. She also threw out a first pitch.

MLB Honorary Bat Girl Kim Goodwin enjoys batting practice from the field. Goodwin is a breast cancer survivor and volunteer at MD Anderson.

Third Baseman Chris Johnson signs Goodwin’s Official “Bat Girl” shirt during batting practice before the Cubs game.

Goodwin and family watch batting practice from the field. Die hard Astros fans, the family goes to spring training every year.

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Also on Monday I sat in on the Buses for Baseball, sponsored by the Player’s Trust. The event designates a bus to bring under privileged children to a game as personal guests of the players.

On Monday, Minute Maid welcomed 50 students from Treasure Forest Elementary. The students enjoyed a special meet and greet with several Astros, seats behind the bull pen, and $10 loaded on their ticket to spend in the ball park.

Photos:

Students exit the bus at Minute Maid headed to a player meet and greet sponsored by Buses for Baseball and the Player’s Trust.

Wesley Wright sign autographs at the Buses for Baseball meet and greet.

Jed Lowrie and other Astros players sign baseball hats at the Buses for Baseball event.

Brittany Lamas is a junior at the University of Texas majoring in Journalism. 

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