'Pen, defense shaky as Astros cede WC ground

'Pen, defense shaky as Astros cede WC ground

HOUSTON -- A double-digit strikeout day from Chris Archer and 15 hits from the Tampa Bay offense proved to be too much to overcome, as the Astros lost ground in the American League Wild Card race with a 10-4 loss to the Rays at Minute Maid Park on Sunday.

The Astros are now three games behind the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot.

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Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rasmus progressing; Gregerson dealing with ankle issue

Outfielder could return for A's series; reliever's timetable uncertain

Rasmus progressing; Gregerson dealing with ankle issue

HOUSTON -- As the Astros continue their push toward the postseason, two contributors from last year's playoff squad, outfielder Colby Rasmus and pitcher Luke Gregerson, are seeking to return from their injuries sooner rather than later.

Rasmus has been making a great deal of progress since undergoing surgery on his right ear Aug. 12 to remove a cyst -- a major part of why he's been in a 2-for-70 slump since July 1. The 30-year-old has been working out with the team since Friday.

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Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Springer's parents honored at LLWS

2016 Little League Parents of the Year given award before championship game

Springer's parents honored at LLWS

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- A simple but important philosophy sums up why George and Laura Springer were named the 2016 Little League Parents of the Year.

"Being a parent is not a spectator sport," said George Springer Jr., father of the Houston Astros' outfielder. "To be a successful parent, you need to be involved in your kids' lives and always balance what is right for them."

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Mike McCormick is an editorial director for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gurriel, Bregman help Astros gain in WC race

Gurriel, Bregman help Astros gain in WC race

HOUSTON -- The Astros rode a hot night from the bats and another quality outing from Dallas Keuchel to gain in the American League Wild Card race and secure their first series win over the Rays since 2008 with a 6-2 victory on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.

Houston had 12 hits, including a two-run homer by rookie sensation Alex Bregman and four doubles -- three of which produced runs -- while taking advantage of a bumpy night from Rays starter Blake Snell, who lasted only three-plus innings before leaving with a bruised lower left leg.

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Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bregman erases errors with big night at plate

Rookie homers, drives in three after two early miscues vs. Rays

Bregman erases errors with big night at plate

HOUSTON -- Alex Bregman got off to a shaky start in the Astros' 6-2 win over the Rays on Saturday, but he didn't let it bother him, delivering a two-run homer and RBI single in consecutive at-bats.

The rookie third baseman, who has emerged as one of the club's best defenders in his short career, made uncharacteristic fielding errors in each of the first two innings.

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Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Correa developing into Astros' RBI machine

Hitting behind MVP candidate Altuve helping 21-year-old

Correa developing into Astros' RBI machine

HOUSTON -- Carlos Correa may only be 21 years old, but his penchant for bringing in runs has transformed the young shortstop into the Astros' second-most valuable asset on offense, behind only American League MVP candidate Jose Altuve.

That skill for driving in runs was on full display once again Friday night, when Correa launched a ninth-inning solo shot over the right-field wall at Minute Maid Park, a crucial homer that allowed Houston to beat the Rays with Evan Gattis' walk-off homer nine pitches later.

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Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros sting Rays behind back-to-back jacks

Astros sting Rays behind back-to-back jacks

HOUSTON -- Talk about a power surge. Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis hit back-to-back homers in the ninth to give the Astros a 5-4 victory over the Rays on Friday night in the series opener. It was Houston's first win at Minute Maid Park in five games and its 10th walk-off win this season, which is the most in the Majors.

Rays right fielder Mikie Mahtook had belted a go-ahead homer in the top of the ninth off Ken Giles, but Correa, who has discovered a certain knack for coming through in the clutch this season, blasted a leadoff shot over the right-field wall in the bottom half to tie at 4. Gattis then fended off Alex Colome, who suffered his second blown save of the season, in a lengthy at-bat before smashing the game-winner on a pitch high in the zone.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com and covers the Rays.

Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston and covered the Astros on Friday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gattis demolishes outside pitch for home run

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Gattis demolishes outside pitch for home run

The Astros leapt out to an early lead during Friday's contest against the Rays, up 3-0 by the top of the third inning. But thanks to a few wild pitches from Mike Fiers and an RBI double from Corey Dickerson, the score was all knotted up by the end of the seventh. In the top of the ninth, Mikie Mahtook homered for the go-ahead run.

But hope was not lost. No, never fear when Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis are here. 

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Astros go Wild with emotional comeback win

Back-to-back homers in 9th help Houston keep pace in WC race

Astros go Wild with emotional comeback win

HOUSTON -- With the American League Wild Card race especially tight, the Astros can thank Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis for helping to pull off a 5-4 win over the Rays on Friday night.

Houston moved to three games back of Baltimore in the Wild Card standings.

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Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gurriel logs 1st hit at home in return vs. Rays

Gurriel logs 1st hit at home in return vs. Rays

HOUSTON -- Hampered by a hamstring injury during his first road trip as a Major Leaguer, Yulieski Gurriel returned to the Astros' lineup on Friday for his home debut against the Rays.

Gurriel went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter in the 5-4 walk-off win in only his second start since being called up on Sunday. After logging a single in the seventh inning for his first hit at Minute Maid Park, Gurriel was lifted for pinch-runner Tony Kemp. Gurriel had gone hitless since a notching a single in his MLB debut against the Orioles on Sunday.

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Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Martes among top prospect performers Friday

Indians' No. 7 outduels Blue Jays' No. 17 in impressive matchup

Martes among top prospect performers Friday

Fans in attendance for Friday's matchup between Class A Lake County and Lansing were treated to a pitchers' duel between starters Triston McKenzie and Ryan Borucki, who combined for 11 scoreless innings and 18 strikeouts. Ultimately, it was McKenzie, the Indians' No. 7 prospect, who recorded the win as the Captains shut out Lansing, 3-0.

Making his fifth start for Lake County, McKenzie surrendered just two hits and a walk over six scoreless innings. He struck out nine, throwing 57 of his 84 pitches for strikes.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros to call upon small contingent in September

Tucker, Stassi among those likely to return to Houston when roster expands

Astros to call upon small contingent in September

HOUSTON -- Many of the players the Astros would have typically called upon when rosters expand beyond 25 players are already with the big league club, thanks to an influx of rookies in the past couple of weeks. Guys like Tony Kemp, Teoscar Hernandez and Joe Musgrove hit Houston more quickly than the Astros could have imagined, and their promotions left fewer options at Triple-A Fresno.

Injuries to veteran outfielder Colby Rasmus (right ear surgery), pitcher Lance McCullers (right elbow) and infielder Luis Valbuena (right hamstring surgery) and the release of outfielder Carlos Gomez helped pave way for the youth invasion. Houston has eight rookies on its 25-man roster, including 32-year-old Cuban Yulieski Gurriel, who has started one game so far.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

How Altuve became an elite slugger

Astros star's .571 slugging percentage one of five best by a 2B in 70 years

How Altuve became an elite slugger

Jose Altuve is getting a lot of publicity these days for the .361 batting average that leads Major League Baseball, putting him on track to pace the American League in hits for the third year in a row. That's fine, to a certain extent; Altuve is a legitimate AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate, and he (with all due respect to Carlos Correa) has been indisputably Houston's best player.

But to focus on that best-in-baseball batting average doesn't fully do Altuve justice, because "getting hits" isn't really the story with him this year, and batting average fails to give sufficient credit for the quality of those hits. That's the real story -- how, in his sixth season, a player who will forever be described by his (lack of) height has become baseball's fourth-best slugger. Altuve is basically having the same season as Mike Trout, right down to the No. 27 on his back for an AL West team.

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Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros edge Bucs to cap strong road trip

Astros edge Bucs to cap strong road trip

PITTSBURGH -- Fighting to keep their spot in a crowded American League Wild Card picture, the Astros did exactly what they needed to during a seven-game swing through Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Coming off a series victory over the Orioles, the Astros claimed another over the Pirates with Wednesday's 5-4 win at PNC Park, their fifth win in six games.

Houston got the best of Pittsburgh right-hander Gerrit Cole, whose monthlong struggles continued with a disappointing five-inning start. Cole allowed five runs on seven hits, the biggest a two-run homer in the second by Astros catcher Evan Gattis. In five starts this month, Cole posted a 6.07 ERA. He was outdueled by Collin McHugh, who allowed seven hits but limited the Pirates to three runs in five innings.

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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Correa's dazzling diving grab helps seal win

Correa's dazzling diving grab helps seal win

PITTSBURGH -- Perhaps the biggest sigh of relief for Astros pitcher Ken Giles wasn't that the laser hit back up the middle by Matt Joyce in the ninth inning Wednesday didn't take his head off. It was that shortstop Carlos Correa was in just the right spot.

Correa, lined up on the right side of second base, made a diving grab behind the bag to snag the Joyce liner for the first out in the ninth inning. Giles struck out the next two batters to close out the Astros' 5-4 win over the Pirates at PNC Park.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gattis hits 20th HR, keeps raking at catcher

Gattis hits 20th HR, keeps raking at catcher

PITTSBURGH -- When Astros catcher Evan Gattis crushed a Gerrit Cole pitch and sent it sailing over the wall in center in the second inning of Wednesday's 5-4 win over the Pirates, he quietly reached 20 home runs for the fourth consecutive season.

Gattis, who began the year on the disabled list following hernia surgery, has hit at least 20 blasts in each of his first four big league seasons -- two with the Braves and two with the Astros. After clubbing a career-high 27 last year, he's hitting .241 with 20 homers and 51 RBIs in 2016, tying him with Jose Altuve for second on the club in homers and fourth on the team in RBIs.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Alvarez among top prospect performers Wednesday

Red Sox flamethrower notches 10 K's with career-high seven frames

Alvarez among top prospect performers Wednesday

Michael Kopech may be the hottest pitcher in all of Minor League Baseball these days as he continues to shut down opposing lineups with a plethora of strikeouts.

The 20-year-old was on fire once again Wednesday, leading Class A Advanced Salem to a 9-1 win over Potomac.

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William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Musgrove stunned by Bucs' barrage in 1st inning

Musgrove stunned by Bucs' barrage in 1st inning

PITTSBURGH -- Before rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove could catch his breath Tuesday night, the Pirates were well on their way to dealing the Astros a 7-1 defeat at PNC Park. They scored four times off Musgrove in the first inning and were never threatened, sending the rookie hurler to his second consecutive loss.

After allowing three earned runs in 14 innings in his first two big league starts, Musgrove has allowed 13 earned runs and 19 hits in 9 1/3 innings in his last two outings. The first six batters he faced Tuesday got base hits.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Valbuena to have season-ending hamstring surgery

Valbuena to have season-ending hamstring surgery

PITTSBURGH -- The Astros will be without veteran infielder Luis Valbuena for the remainder of the season, manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday. Valbuena is scheduled to undergo surgery in the next couple of days to repair a tendon in his right hamstring, an injury that kept him out since July 26.

"He tried to play through it and see if he could rehab it," Hinch said. "Turns out he couldn't. Surgery is the next consideration, and he'll miss the remainder of the season."

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros stifled by Nova as 4-game win streak ends

Astros stifled by Nova as 4-game win streak ends

PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco homered twice Tuesday night, leading a resurgent Pirates offense out of its brief funk. But Ivan Nova hardly needed the help, throwing a complete game in a 7-1 win over the Astros at PNC Park.

Nova put an end to Pittsburgh's four-game losing skid, breezing through Houston's lineup and ending the Astros' four-game winning streak. He also reversed both clubs' recent fortunes in the Wild Card standings. The Pirates pulled back within 2 1/2 games of the Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot, while the Astros fell 4 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the American League race.

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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros rookie Hernandez playing like veteran

Two-run homer in 5th paves way for series-opening win vs. Pirates

Astros rookie Hernandez playing like veteran

PITTSBURGH -- Teoscar Hernandez is giving Alex Bregman a run for his money in terms of which Astros rookie has been the most fun to watch.

Hernandez, making only his second career start in left field on Monday night, clubbed a two-run home run off Jameson Taillon in the fifth inning to send the Astros to a 3-1 win over the Pirates at PNC Park. Bregman added a solo blast to center in the ninth.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fister flusters Pirates as Astros roll in opener

Fister flusters Pirates as Astros roll in opener

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates rookie Jameson Taillon threw eight strong innings on Monday night, but it wasn't enough to stop his childhood-favorite team. The Astros stayed hot in their pursuit of an American League Wild Card spot, riding seven scoreless innings from Doug Fister to a 3-1 win in the series opener at PNC Park.

Houston won its fourth straight and remained 3 1/2 games back in the AL Wild Card race. Pittsburgh appears to be heading in the opposite direction after losing four in a row, a skid in which the Bucs have totaled nine runs. With the loss, the Pirates fell 3 1/2 games behind the idle Cardinals in the National League Wild Card chase.

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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Berman to join Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor

PITTSBURGH -- Mark Berman, the long-time sports director and bulldog television reporter at KRIV-TV in Houston, will be inducted into the Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor on Sept. 26. Berman is currently celebrating his 30th year at the station, having joined the FOX affiliate in 1986.

Each season, a current or former Houston media member is selected by his or her peers for induction into the Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor for significant and lasting contributions to the landscape of Houston baseball through their work in journalism or broadcasting.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ending of Astros-Pirates game intense for young fan

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Ending of Astros-Pirates game intense for young fan

Baseball is a game of intense emotions. Happy, sad, excited, frustrated, both fans and players alike ride the roller coaster on a daily basis. 

On Monday night, the Astros took the opener of a series from the Pirates, 3-1, at PNC Park. As seen atop this post, the final out of the game was especially eventful -- after a throwing error from Astros rookie Alex Bregman, a decision by Pirates' third baseman David Freese and a stellar throw from Houston first baseman Marwin Gonzalez.  

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Check out a young Jameson Taillon in full Astros gear

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Check out a young Jameson Taillon in full Astros gear

As Jameson Taillon pitched against the Astros on Monday night, he didn't have any conflicts on who he wants to win: It was the Pirates all the way. But if there were some sort of time-space continuum rift and a child-version of the pitcher was to arrive at the game, well, he might feel a little different. 

After all, Taillon hails from Woodlands, Texas, a town roughly 40 minutes outside of Houston. So growing up he naturally was a huge Astros fan. 

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MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Bregman on MLB Pipeline's Prospect Team of the Week

Bregman on MLB Pipeline's Prospect Team of the Week

MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Team of the Week honors the best performances from the previous seven days. Any player currently on an organization Top 30 Prospects list on our Prospect Watch is eligible, including big leaguers.

The Yankees have gotten both younger and better in the past month. They traded their best hitter (Carlos Beltran) and two best relievers (Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller), then installed three rookies in their lineup and two more in their rotation. After playing .500 ball through July, New York is in the midst of its best month (11-8) of the season and has climbed within four games of a Wild Card berth.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Delayed response: Astros take 3 of 4 from O's

Delayed response: Astros take 3 of 4 from O's

BALTIMORE -- The Astros are becoming road warriors when they need it most.

Houston used a solid start from Dallas Keuchel and capitalized on Baltimore's defensive woes in a three-run fifth to take their third straight win at Camden Yards, a 5-3 victory that clinched a series win for Houston in the four-game visit and a 6-1 record against the Orioles for the season series.

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Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Keuchel: Astros used delay as motivation

Keuchel: Astros used delay as motivation

BALTIMORE -- Astros ace Dallas Keuchel walked to the outfield to start his pregame warmup Sunday afternoon and managed only a few tosses before rain started to fall, chasing him and his teammates into the clubhouse -- where they stayed for the next four hours.

As the tarp at Camden Yards was pulled on and off a handful of times -- remaining on the field during a rather lengthy window in which no rain was falling -- Keuchel and his teammates killed timed. They napped, played video games and ate junk food, according to Carlos Correa, before being given 30 minutes' notice that they had to prepare for first pitch.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.