Results tagged ‘ Astros ’

Draft picks signing quickly: the new norm?

Between third-round pick Brady Rodgers signing his contract with the Astros on Wednesday and reports that Carlos Correa, the first overall pick in the Draft, will sign by the end of the day Thursday, we might have to rename your hometown team the Houston Fastros.

Sure, Jeff Luhnow and Bobby Heck made it clear, on more than one occasion, that they expect to sign all of their top Draft picks. And there’s no reason not to believe them. It’s just that the process, at least for the top picks, usually takes longer than this. You have to wonder if the new Draft rules, which give a team a set amount of money it can spend on its top 10 (or 11) picks, is speeding up the process. The deadline to sign picks is a month earlier than it has been in the past, which might be a factor as well.

Whatever the reason, no one’s complaining. Having covered the deadline last year, which involved two of the Astros’ top three picks holding out until there were, quite literally, 2 1/2 minutes left on the clock, I can say this is  much more enjoyable. What would you rather have — players signing up and immediately shipping out to their Minor League teams, or a club having to explain why, because negotiations ran too long, there’s little to no time left for the player to actually, well, play?

Anyhoo, the 21-year-old Rodgers, a right-handed pitcher from Richmond, Texas and a product of Lamar Consolidated High School in Rosenberg, will spend the next few weeks working out at the Astros’ Gulf Coast League facility in Kissimmee, Fla. He will then fly to Troy, NY, to begin his professional career with the Short Season A Tri-City ValleyCats.

Rodgers played collegiately at Arizona State, where he was 10-3 with a 2.27 ERA in 2012. In his college career, he totaled 286 innings and posted a 2.39 ERA, the second-lowest in school history.

Soon after signing on the dotted line, Rodgers will head to Florida to begin his pro career.

Team president George Postolos, Rodgers, Luhnow

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Ring-a-bling-bling: As you probably remember, Luhnow was hired away from the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason to take over here as general manager. Soon after he was hired, he began plucking several of the brighter minds from his former organization and made them Astros.

The Cardinals are in town this week, and on Wednesday, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak presented World Series rings to four members of the Astros staff who were with St. Louis last year: Luhnow, Sig Mejdal (director of decision sciences), Mike Elias (special assistant to the GM) and bench coach Joe Pettini.

The impromptu ceremony took place in Luhnow’s GM booth just before first pitch, and they group was gracious enough to let the cameras in to capture the moment:

DeWitt, Mozeliak, Luhnow

Luhnow

Elias, Mejdal, Luhnow (Pettini was in the dugout)

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Astros top five Draft picks: scouting reports from the experts.

MLB.com provided thorough scouting reports on most of the top players who were expected to be selected in the Draft. Here is the rundown of the Astros’ top five picks:

On No. 1 pick Carlos Correa:
High school middle infielders who have the tools to stay at shortstop long term aren’t always easy to find. That’s a big reason why Correa is so high on Draft lists at this point. Defensively, Correa is above average across the board — range, arm and actions — leaving no question about his ability to stay at short. He can swing the bat, too, with the potential to be an above-average hitter with outstanding power. He’s a solid baserunner who is better underway and has off-the-charts work ethic and baseball instincts. Correa’s swing can get a little long at times and he will occasionally get out of his game plan at the plate. But that’s just nitpicking and the only thing that could keep Correa from being the highest draftee from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy is his commitment to Miami.

On supplemental round pick Lance McCullers:
Major League bloodlines are always a plus and the younger Lance McCullers has the chance to be much better than his father, who spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues. McCullers is pure power. His fastball can easily touch the upper 90s and it has above-average movement in on right-handed hitters. When he stays on top of his slider it’s an above-average, hard and tight breaking ball. He does have a changeup, but it’s behind the other two offerings. He’s got a feel for it, but doesn’t need to use it much at this level. McCullers is fearless on the mound, with a closer-type mentality (and the stuff to match it).McCullers does struggle with his command at times, which keeps hitters from being too comfortable at the plate. He will need to refine that, along with his offspeed stuff, to be an effective starter at the highest level. But there’s nothing to indicate he won’t be able to do just that with time and experience.

On second-round pick Nolan Fontana:
Take each of Fontana’s tools individually and none of them may overwhelm you. Add them up and you’ll like what you see a lot more. Fontana can swing the bat a little bit, showing a solid approach and an ability to make adjustments. He even has a little power to the pull side and will turn on a mistake. Fontana’s instincts on the bases allow his average speed to play up and he does all of the little things offensively to help a team win. He’s the same way on the other side of the ball, always putting himself in the right position to make the plays, with a solid arm and range and very good hands. Fontana could be a very good second baseman, a decent shortstop or the kind of super utility man championship-caliber teams tend to have. Whatever the case, his abilities and instincts should allow him to help a big league club out quickly.

On third-round pick Brady Rodgers:
While he’s not a soft-tosser — his Major League average fastball will sit in the 90-91 mph range and he can reach back for a little more and maintain his velocity deep into starts — Rodgers is more about the art of pitching than anything else. He has three secondary pitches that should at least average. Rodgers’ slider is a sharp downer that can be a strikeout pitch and his changeup is very deceptive, with both looking like future above-average offerings. His curve isn’t quite as good, but with a 12-to-5 break, it’s more than just a show-me pitch. Rodgers throws all of those pitches for strikes and should have plus location down the line, showing outstanding knowledge of how to mix pitches. His ceiling might be the middle of a big league rotation, but it shouldn’t take him too long to reach that goal.

On fourth-round pick Rio Ruiz:
He’s from SoCal. He hits left-handed. It’s not a real shock Ruiz gets Eric Chavez comps. Unfortunately for Ruiz, he became even more similar to the oft-injured Chavez in March when he had to undergo a procedure to break up a blood clot near his clavicle by his right shoulder.Ruiz has the tools to be an everyday Major League third baseman. He has a terrific left-handed swing, a short stroke with good bat speed. He makes consistent hard contact and there’s more than enough loft and leverage for him to have good power at the next level. He’s a solid, instinctive defender at third, with good lateral movement and a strong arm. Ruiz doesn’t run well, but given his other skills, that doesn’t matter so much. He doesn’t need to run if he’s going to develop into a run-producing third baseman as a professional. That potential should put him in many beginning-of-the-Draft conversations.

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Astros think outside the box and pick Carlos Correa as their No. 1 Draft pick.

To the rest of the baseball world, it really came down to two players the Astros would decide between to be their No. 1 pick in the Draft: college pitcher Mark Appel, and high school outfielder Byron Buxton.

GM Jeff Luhnow and scouting director Bobby Heck and a roomful of execs and scouts watched MLB Network with amusement from the Draft room, knowing that the answer was actually c): neither.

As the analysts on Network speculated who the Astros would ultimately take, while surmising Luhnow was likely both nervous and excited to be running his first draft as a GM, Luhnow sat back in his chair looking about as jittery as he would if he was sitting on a lounge chair, on the beach in the Bahamas, holding an umbrella drink.

In other words, Luhnow, as has been the case since he took over as GM last November, was one cool cat throughout the process. Heck was as well, especially when he called the Astros representatives who were at the Network studios in Secaucus, NJ, to tell them who they picked.

Clearly, the Astros surprised some people by picking shortstop Carlos Correa, a 17-year-old high school kid who played amateur baseball at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in Gurabo, Puerto Rico.

This wasn’t an open and shut case for the Astros. They’ve spent weeks discussing, dissecting and analyzing all top prospects expected to go in the first round. Their ultimate decision didn’t arrive until just before they were, as Commissioner Bud Selig phrased it, “on the clock.”

“This afternoon,” Luhnow said, asked when he decided Correa was their guy. “We were working on it all day.”

Watch the behind-the-scenes video from the Draft room

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CARLOS CORREA
Position: Shortstop
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Height/Weight: 6-4/190
Age: 17
High School: Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R.

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Questions, Answers:
Will Correa stay at shortstop?
Heck:
“He’s 17 years old. He has a big frame, advanced feet, advanced hands. He can really throw. Even if he stays at shortstop, he will be a middle-of-the-order bat.”

Luhnow:
“Carlos has a chance to be a star. Anyone who saw him play recognizes that. He has the type of bat that can produce at the Major League level — a 20, 30-type home run (hitter) playing at a premium position, whether that is shortstop or maybe third base. He will hit in the middle of the order.”

Luhnow, on Correa’s background:
“He had a 4.0 (grade point average) in high school. We asked for the transcripts. He has gotten A’s in every class he’s taken. He’s an overachiever. He’s driven to be successful.”

Is there concern he’ll ultimately decide to attend the University of Miami, where he committed to play baseball?

Luhnow:
“I suspect Miami will not see him, unless he’s visiting friends.”

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Media coverage:

MLB.com

Houston Chronicle

MLB.com Scouting report:

“High school middle infielders who have the tools to stay at shortstop long term aren’t always easy to find. That’s a big reason why Correa is so high on Draft lists at this point. Defensively, Correa is above average across the board — range, arm and actions — leaving no question about his ability to stay at short. He can swing the bat, too, with the potential to be an above-average hitter with outstanding power. He’s a solid baserunner who is better underway and has off-the-charts work ethic and baseball instincts. Correa’s swing can get a little long at times and he will occasionally get out of his game plan at the plate. But that’s just nitpicking and the only thing that could keep Correa from being the highest draftee from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy is his commitment to Miami.”

Baseball America:
“Correa has plenty of tools. He is a quality defender at shortstop with soft hands and a well above-average arm. He’s an above-average runner and also has excellent potential with the bat, profiling to hit for average and power. Correa has drawn comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Zimmerman.

Photos from day one of the Draft:

Scouting director/Asst. GM Bobby Heck watches MLB Network as Draft coverage gets started.

One thing about the first round of the Draft — people are always on their phones. Understandably.

Bobby Heck takes Correa’s name off the board after picking him in the first round.

Happiness? Relief? Satisfaction? Looks like a combination of the three, post-pick.

 

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Astros players, staff gather for Wives Gala Underwriter cocktail reception

Soon after the Astros ended their eight-game losing streak on Sunday with a win over the Reds, they headed to the swanky “Up” restaurant in Highland Village for a cocktail reception designed to acknowledge the underwriters of the Wives Gala.

The Gala, which has been benefiting the Houston Area Women’s Center since 1990, will be held at Minute Maid Park on Thursday, Aug. 16 — an offday for the Astros, of course.

Around half the team attended the Underwriter’s party, a yearly gala precursor that honors the most charitable contributors to the annual soiree. Among the Astros players in the crowd: Jason Castro, Bud Norris, Chris Snyder, Wesley Wright, Fernando Rodriguez, Wandy Rodriguez, David Carpenter, Travis Buck, Brian Bogusevic, Jed Lowrie, J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and Justin Maxwell. Manager Brad Mills and first base coach Bobby Meacham also attended.

From the front office, prez George Postolos and top VP Kathleen Clark were present and accounted for, along with the emcee of the evening, Milo Hamilton.

For information and tickets to the Aug. 16 Gala, contact Judy Nichols at 713.781.0053 or  judynichols1@sbcglobal.net.

Photos from the Underwriter’s reception:

Maris Perlman, Jason Castro

Brooke Keene, David Carpenter

J.A. Happ

Jed Lowrie, Milessa Muchmore-Lowrie

Brandon, Sara Lyon

Loren, Justin Maxwell

Milo Hamilton, Gari Meacham

Aubree Gerardi, Bud Norris

Carla, Chris Snyder

Wesley, Sherell Wright

The entertainment. Milo asked for one of those outfits for his personal collection.

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Social Media Night, Blogger Night and the Draft: a busy few days at Minute Maid Park.

It’s not every day that you can have a front row seat to batting practice, meet an Astros player, stuff yourself with baby back ribs and Blue Bell Ice Cream, win a signed baseball AND find new and innovative ways to utilize mini-foam fingers.

But if you were at Social Media Night on the Budweiser Patio Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, it’s likely you participated in at least three of those activities. Maybe more.

Good times were had (I hope) by all during the nearly four-hour contest between the Reds and Astros. Sure, the Astros lost, but we’re confident the loads of goodies handed out throughout the night put everyone in enough of a food coma to forget the Astros came out on the short end of a slugfest.

Twelve baseballs and one glove, all signed and handed out by Chris Johnson, were awarded to the winners of our Twitter Trivia contest. Everyone received a t-shirt, of course, and as a bonus, all patrons were rewarded with a handful of mini foam fingers, courtesy of our friends at MLB Network.

The next event is July 28. We will announce the guest in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the photos:

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Foam finger earrings…

…or this.

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We started a new tradition on Friday, hosting several local Astros bloggers at Minute Maid Park for a night of networking and blogging in one of the suites.

General manager Jeff Luhnow stopped by for a 30-minute chat with the group, and judging from the write-ups from the evening, the bloggers appeared to come away very appreciative of Luhnow’s frankness throughout the conversation.

The upcoming draft was obviously a big topic of conversation, and Luhnow acknowledged it was likely that his entire staff would not be in agreement about who they should select with the first pick. He also explained why roster moves can be a lot more complicated than simply sending a player to the Minor Leagues and replacing him with another.

Luhnow, deemed by one as the smartest guy in the room, was asked about Tal’s Hill and his level of autonomy to make deals.

He understandably had to be coy, and vague, at times, but what Luhnow could speak about, he did, at length. Once the first round of the draft is complete tomorrow night, more of the unanswered questions will finally have answers.

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The Draft officially begins on Monday at 6 p.m. (CT) and is scheduled to last three days. Coverage of this year’s draft will begin live on Monday at 5 CT on MLB Network and MLB.com from MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, NJ.

All 30 clubs will have representatives in attendance at the Draft. Former Astro Larry Dierker and current Astros scout Ed Fastaia will represent the ballclub at this year’s Draft. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig will announce each club’s first-round selection. The intervals between each first-round selection will be five minutes with one minute intervals during the compensation round.

The Astros have the first and 41st picks on Monday.

The Draft will resume on both Tuesday (rounds 2-15) and Wednesday (rounds 16-40) at 11 CT. The 2012 Draft will have 40 rounds.

Scouting director Bobby Heck, GM Jeff Luhnow

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Hot temps, hot dogs and baseball: Astros welcome the start of summer.

Temperatures start feeling summer-like in Houston in April, so for those of us who live in these parts, it helps to actually look at a calendar when reminding ourselves what season it is.

School being out helps as well, and a combination of that, plus the calendar flipping to June, makes it officially unofficial: it’s summertime in the Bayou City.

Sure, summer doesn’t really start until June 21. But why wait? The Astros will open a homestand on Friday with a host of carefree activities as they “Kick-off to Summer” with a party near the park.

The Astros play NL Central division foe Cincinnati on Friday, but in the hours leading up to game time, the action will be at the Plaza on Crawford St., in front of Minute Maid Park.

Water, soda and $1 hot dogs and popcorn will be available to purchase during the event and several of the Astros partners will be present with giveaways and activities as well.

The Kick-off to Summer Party starts at 4 p.m. CT and will feature interactive activities including:
* A Velcro Wall, Rock Climbing, Bungee Run and more
* Fun Music
* Player Appearances
* Video Games

On Saturday, the Astros will host their very first tailgating event from 3 to 6 p.m. in Parking Lot C.

With a valid pass to that lot, you can bring your grill, food and beverage and hang out in the lot before the game. The Astros will provide a large tent, tables and chairs and several Astros partners will be on hand for the fun. Water, soda and $1 hot dogs and popcorn will also be available for purchase during the event.


You must have an Astros Lot C Parking Pass in order to bring a vehicle and/or food & beverage into the lot. Tailgating is not permitted in any other Astros parking lot or in any privately owned lots around the ballpark.

Passes and tickets can be obtained here:

If indoor activity is more your preference, you can join us for our second Social Media Night, featuring Chris Johnson. The event includes batting practice viewing from behind the Astros dugout, a game ticket in the Budweiser Patio, dinner, dessert, a t-shirt and the opportunity to win prizes signed and presented by Chris Johnson (@cjastros23) through Twitter Trivia.

The only stipulation is you must be on Twitter in order to win the prizes. Liking Blue Bell ice cream helps as well.

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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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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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