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Astros close home slate with impressive series win

Altuve receives ovation as Houston tops Wild Card-contending Seattle

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HOUSTON -- The Astros are saving their best for last. Especially at home.

The Astros rallied past the Mariners, 8-3, on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park in their final home game of the season. Much to the delight of the 31,466 in attendance, who gave Jose Altuve a brief standing ovation when he left the field with two outs in the top of the ninth inning with Houston comfortably ahead.

It was Houston's second straight win over the Mariners. Houston's series victory put a damper on Seattle's Wild Card hopes, but it has uplifted the Astros (69-87), who finished 38-43 at home, 14 more wins than a year ago.

"Good way to end the season at home," said Houston interim manager Tom Lawless. "Winning breeds confidence. Confidence breeds better at-bats.

"Up and down the lineup, the at-bats are really good and you're going to score some runs. It's a good feeling in that dugout to beat them two out of three."

Houston starter Collin McHugh (11-9) pitched six effective innings. But it was the offense that really got untracked for the second consecutive game.

In Houston's 10-1 win on Saturday, the club homered five times.

On Sunday, the Astros had 14 hits. Alex Presley had three hits, including a two-run go-ahead single in the fifth inning that chased Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma. For the second straight game, Jake Marisnick homered. His three-run homer in the seventh increased the lead to 7-3.

Marisnick, Gregorio Petit and Jonathan Villar -- the bottom third of the lineup -- each had two hits.

Oh, by the way, Altuve had his customary game. The fan favorite went 2-for-4 with two runs to increase his American League- and Major League-leading batting average to .345.

"When you're not in there every day, you want to make the most of the times you get in," said Presley. "We're just having fun watching Altuve get hits.

"We're going to feed off his hits. It's been a blast this homestand. As a team and watching him play. He's unreal, and he deserves all the praise he's been getting."

Altuve, who broke Craig Biggio's franchise-record of 210 hits in a single season earlier this month, is demolishing that mark. He has 220 hits with six games remaining. The Astros conclude their season with three games against the Rangers in Arlington, followed by three games in New York with the Mets.

In Houston's three-run fifth, Altuve's 219th hit was an RBI double that closed the gap to 3-2, He has the most hits by a second baseman since 1936, when Charlie Gehringer of the Tigers had 227. Altuve was intentionally walked in the sixth and added his 220th hit on an infield single in the eighth.

Altuve recorded his franchise-leading 68th multi-hit game, the most since Ichiro Suzuki had 69 for Seattle in 2010.

Lawless, Altuve's teammates and the fans in Houston are appreciating the record-setting numbers. That's why Lawless brought Altuve in from the field and to the dugout during the ninth. So the fans could show Altuve how much they've enjoyed watching and following him in 2014.

"We talked about it in the dugout, that it would be a nice tribute to him the way he's played here all year long," said Lawless. "The magical year that he's had. We decided to let the fans just appreciate him a little. That's why we took him out of the game.

"He's the catalyst of the ballclub. When he gets on, things happen. He has 220 hits. That's unheard of, for him to do it and continue to do it just about every game."

Altuve was warmed by the fans' ovation.

"I want to thank the fans for supporting the team," said Altuve.

The Astros are much improved from last season when they lost a franchise-worst 111 games, including their final 15.

"I think we're going to come back next year and do what we've been doing lately," said Altuve. "And if we play that way, we're going to be in the payoffs."

Altuve's play and leadership is a big factor for the Astros' improvement.

"He's a competitor, he's a baseball player, and he wants to win," said Lawless. "That's the character we are trying to change. We want baseball players that want to win. There's a lot of baseball players that don't want to win. Mr. Altuve is leading the pack on our team and we're going to follow him."

In addition to Altuve's contributions, the Astros have been receiving strong starting pitching of late. McHugh was no exception. In six innings, the right-hander allowed three runs and four hits with six strikeouts and one walk. He retired the side in order in three of his first four innings.

After Seattle had taken a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth on Michael Saunders' two-run home run off McHugh, McHugh struck out four straight and five of the next six.

"McHugh has pitched great all year and we seem to face him in every series," said Saunders.

Richard Dean is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Altuve has most hits by second baseman since '36

Astros All-Star passes Carew with RBI double for hit No. 219 of year

Altuve has most hits by second baseman since '36 play video for Altuve has most hits by second baseman since '36

HOUSTON -- The hits keep coming for Jose Altuve. As do the milestones for the Astros All-Star second baseman.

Altuve's RBI double in a three-run fifth inning of Sunday's 8-3 win over the Mariners was his 219th hit this season. That hit put him in elite company among second baseman in baseball history. With the double off Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, Altuve passed Rod Carew for most hits in a season by a second baseman since 1936. Charlie Gehringer of the Tigers had 227 hits that year.

Altuve later added an infield single for his 220th hit of the season. Earlier this month, Altuve broke Craig Biggio's franchise record of 210 hits in a season.

"He's the catalyst of the ballclub," interim manager Tom Lawless said. "When he gets on, things happen. He has 220 hits. That's unheard of, for him to do it and continue to do it just about every game."

Altuve leads the Majors with a .345 batting average.

"When you're not in there every day, you want to make the most of the times you get in," said teammate Alex Presley. "We're just having fun watching Altuve get hits.

"We're going to feed off his hits. It's been a blast this homestand. As a team and watching him play. He's unreal, and he deserves all the praise he's been getting."

Removed in the top of the ninth with the game well in hand, Altuve received an ovation from the fans at Minute Maid Park.

"I want to thank the fans for supporting the team," he said.

Richard Dean is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Prospects Phillips, Hader honored for achievements

Astros' Minor League Player, Pitcher of Year recognized in pregame ceremony

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HOUSTON -- Brett Phillips and Josh Hader, the Astros' Minor League Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, were at Minute Maid Park this weekend and honored Sunday during a brief pregame ceremony.

The 20-year-olds were enthusiastic and excited about meeting the players and thinking about their future with the Astros.

"Meeting all the guys and seeing the whole facility is nice," said Hader. "It gets you excited for what's next."

"It's an amazing feeling being here right now," said Phillips, an outfielder. "The highlight has been meeting these guys, talking to all the coaches.

"It's been awesome talking to the guys. They've been very humbling. They are easy to talk to. They'll sit down with us and basically see how we're doing."

Both players attended Saturday's 10-1 win over Seattle that featured five Houston home runs. For both Phillips and Hader, it was their first look at Minute Maid Park. It made quite an impression.

"[Saturday], it was a bit overwhelming," said Phillips. "I had never been in this park before. It's nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time, to know I could be on the same field with these guys some day in the future."

The left-handed Hader is ranked as the organization's No. 10 prospect by He had a 10-3 record and 3.28 ERA between Class A Advanced Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi with 136 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings.

"Our pitching and hitting [in the Minor Leagues] is unbelievable," said Hader. "To be named and be honored as the Pitcher of the Year is a great feeling. The whole Minor Leagues is stacked up. Everybody plays with their heart and gives 110 percent."

Drafted by the Orioles in the 19th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Hader was acquired from Baltimore in July 2013 as part of the trade of right-hander Bud Norris.

The left-handed-hitting Phillips hit .310 in 130 games between Class A Quad Cities and Lancaster. He had 29 doubles, 14 triples, 17 home runs, 68 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.

Phillips is just one of the talented position players in Houston's farm system. Phillips was selected by Houston in the sixth round of the '12 Draft.

"These guys in the Minor Leagues, we've proved in the last couple of years we know how to win," said Phillips. "That's the mentality and attitude that we're looking forward to bringing to the big league club.

"I'm going to continue to work hard and not get complacent, and hopefully be able to do the same things I'm doing in the Minor Leagues in the Major Leagues."

Richard Dean is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rookie Tropeano gets nod as Astros visit Rangers

Houston rookie Tropeano opposes Texas veteran Holland in opener

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The battle of interim managers begins Monday with the Astros in Arlington for a three-game series with the Rangers.

Tom Lawless has been managing the Astros since Bo Porter was dismissed at the end of August, while Tim Bogar has been running the Rangers since Ron Washington's unexpected resignation Sept. 5.

Both are considered candidates to manage their clubs next season, but general managers Jeff Luhnow of the Astros and Jon Daniels of the Rangers are conducting thorough searches for the right person.

Both teams are out of contention, but have been trying to play their best against contenders. This series allows both managers to experiment with their lineups and pitching without compromising the integrity of the pennant race.

"I think we can do some little things differently," Bogar said.

For example, Bogar wants to get rookie infielder Guilder Rodriguez a start in the same infield as Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor. Rodriguez, who was called up in September after 14 years in the Minor Leagues, was a mentor to Texas' young middle infielders during their time in the system.

The three did get to play two innings together Friday night late in the Rangers' 10-3 victory over the Angels. But Bogar said he would like to do it in a starting lineup.

"Just because these three have a special bond," Bogar said. "Guilder has been their mentor, they're really close and it would be special for Guilder to be out there at the same time with them."

Another example is Chris Carter playing first base for the Astros. He is Houston's primary designated hitter, but he could get time at first against the Rangers because the Astros end the season in New York against the Mets. The Astros want to give struggling first baseman Jon Singleton a mental break and help Carter in his quest to hit 40 home runs.

Carter has 37. Only three Astros have hit 40 home runs. Jeff Bagwell did it three times, Lance Berkman did it twice and Richard Hidalgo once. Bagwell holds the club record with 47 in 2000.

Jose Altuve will also continue his quest to be the first Astro to win a batting title. He has already broken the club record for hits in a season. Altuve is hitting .381 against the Rangers this season and he is hitting .422 against left-handers. The Rangers are going with left-hander Derek Holland in the first game.

Astros: Tropeano gets third start
Right-hander Nick Tropeano (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start Monday's opener in Arlington.

The 24-year-old Tropeano was the eighth Astro this year to make his Major League debut. In his last appearance Sept. 16 versus Cleveland, he took the loss in Houston's 4-2 defeat, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits over five innings, striking out four.

Tropeano will be making his third career start and his penultimate start of the season. The Astros want to give Tropeano a good look to see how he figures in the 2015 rotation. But Tropeano isn't looking at Monday's start as an audition.

"I wouldn't say it's important, but personally I just want to go deeper into games and give my team an opportunity to win every time I go out there," Tropeano said. "Nothing's really changed coming into this series, just go deep into the games and see how I contribute to the team."

Rangers: Beltre climbs among immortals
Adrian Beltre performed quite a feat Saturday night. He passed Ken Griffey Jr., Ted Williams and Dave Parker all in one game when it comes to most doubles in a career.

Beltre had three doubles in the game for only the second time in his career. That gave him 527, 40th all-time. Next in front of him are Hall of Famers Cap Anson and Frank Robinson with 528.

"I'm not going to make a big deal of it," Beltre said. "If you play long enough, you're going to pass people. I got enough stuff in my mind to think about that."

Beltre better get used to it. He is going to be passing many people in several categories as he approaches the final stages of his likely Hall of Fame career.

"We are all just lucky to be in the big leagues," Beltre said. "No doubt we wanted to do better as a team, but we still enjoy playing baseball at the highest level. I do get satisfaction out of that."

Worth noting
• The Astros have already captured the Silver Boot trophy, having won 11 of the first 16 games against the Rangers.

• Beltre is hitting .361 at home this season, which ranks second in the AL. The highest home batting average in Rangers history was .390 by Josh Hamilton in 2010.

• Adam Rosales batted second for Texas on Sunday. He has started in every spot in the order except leadoff and cleanup.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ruling stands after Astros challenge caught stealing call

Ruling stands after Astros challenge caught stealing call play video for Ruling stands after Astros challenge caught stealing call

HOUSTON -- The Astros lost a replay challenge in the sixth inning Sunday when Jose Altuve was called out attempting to steal second base for the third out, ending a Houston threat with a runner on third base.

After a review, the ruling stood. Mariners catcher Mike Zunino threw to second baseman Robinson Cano, who applied the tag on a sliding Altuve, who leads the American League in steals with 54.

The time of the review was one minute, 50 seconds.

If the play had been overturned, the Astros would have taken a 5-3 lead as Jonathan Villar, who was on third base, had broken for home.

Richard Dean is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Five homers propel Astros to blowout of Mariners

Keuchel allows one run over eight; Altuve sets Venezuelan hit mark

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HOUSTON -- For a team that hasn't been hitting home runs lately, the Astros came out bashing Saturday night.

Chris Carter and Alex Presley hit two-run home runs in the first inning off Seattle's Chris Young, propelling the Astros to a 10-1 blowout at Minute Maid Park with the roof open, a rarity in Houston in September.

And starter Dallas Keuchel reached a milestone, going eight innings, giving him exactly 200 innings this season. Keuchel (12-9) allowed only one run and seven hits as the Astros snapped a four-game losing streak.

"That was pretty easy," said Houston interim manager Tom Lawless. "Just watching Dallas go out there, and the offense scoring bunches of runs early in the game.

"All we had to do was sit back and watch and try to nurse him to give him his 200 innings."

There was plenty to watch from the standpoint of the Astros, who had seven extra-base hits among their 13 hits.

The slugfest didn't stop after the first inning for the Astros, who tied a season-high with five homers. Matt Dominguez opened the Houston fourth with his 16th home run. The next batter up was Carlos Corporan. And the next pitch Young threw was belted out by Corporan, giving the Astros a comfortable 7-1 lead. It was also the last pitch thrown by Young (12-9), who gave up four home runs among his eight hits allowed, in addition to two wild pitches.

Dominguez and Corporan became the fourth pair of Houston hitters to hit back-to-back home runs this season.

And for good measure, Jake Marisnick's three-run home run in the seventh gave the Astros a commanding 10-1 advantage.

"We came prepared to win and we did it," said Corporan. "Dallas was outstanding, we hit, we played defense. We pitched. We did everything right.

"Hitting is contagious. This is what's all about, everybody rooting for everybody, and everybody is playing for everybody."

Given a large cushion to work with, Keuchel took advantage. The left-hander allowed only one third-inning run. He struck out Chris Taylor three times among his eight strikeouts.

"I'm happy the roof was open," said Keuchel. "Kept me warm in the game because it was so humid."

Keuchel has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last seven starts.

"He pitched well," said Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon, who earlier this season said Keuchel had average stuff. "He had a good sinker. Listen, everybody was up in a huff last time about what I said. I wasn't trying to downplay the kid. He's got average stuff. He knows how to pitch. He doesn't have David Price-type of stuff.

"That's just a fact, not a knock on the kid. He's 88-90 [mph], but he pitched well. He sunk it, he did a nice job."

Carter's 37th home run, deep to left field, was his first since Sept. 5 at Oakland. The blast scored Robbie Grossman, who led off the first with a single, then stole second base. Presley's sixth home run, a drive to right field, scored Dexter Fowler, who doubled immediately after Carter's homer.

Dominguez hadn't homered since Aug. 14 at Boston. Before Saturday, the Astros had gone deep only once in their previous 13 games.

The Astros went ahead 5-0 in the second on Jose Altuve's 217th hit. Altuve's single scored Gregorio Petit, who had doubled. With his RBI single, Altuve set the mark for most hits in a season by a Venezuelan player, surpassing Magglio Ordonez's 2007 total.

"It means a lot," said Altuve, who went 2-for-4 to raise his American League-leading batting average to .344. "A lot of good players have 200 hits back in my country.

"It says a lot to be one of those. It's an honor for me, and at the same time you're getting a hit, which means you're helping the team."

Altuve is tied for the most hits by a second baseman in a single season since 1937.

Dexter Fowler had three hits and scored twice for the Astros, who led 4-0 after one inning and 7-1 after five innings.

Keuchel, who had only one fly-ball out, pitched out of a potential messy situation in the fourth, getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation with Houston leading, 5-1.

After Logan Morrison, Corey Hart and Mike Zunino each singled, Keuchel got a big strikeout in Taylor. Then Austin Jackson hit into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play. Jackson became the third out when it was ruled he ran inside the baseline. Corporan's throw from home plate had hit Jackson.

Richard Dean is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Ceremony for breaking Biggio's hit mark 'means a lot' to Altuve

Club recognizes All-Star, who eclipsed Biggio's '98 record with 211th hit

Ceremony for breaking Biggio's hit mark 'means a lot' to Altuve play video for Ceremony for breaking Biggio's hit mark 'means a lot' to Altuve

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve was honored Saturday in a ceremony before the Astros' 10-1 win over the Mariners at Minute Maid Park. The Houston second baseman was being recognized for setting the franchise's single-season mark for hits.

His 211th hit eclipsed Craig Biggio's standard of 210 set in 1998. Biggio also took part in the eight-minute ceremony, which began with a video showing all of Altuve's 211 hits en route to setting the franchise mark.

"This means a lot," Altuve said after the game. "The organization is doing everything for you.

"It makes me want to keep playing hard, and I want to thank all the front-office people, my coaches, my teammates what they did today."

Altuve entered Saturday with a Major League-high 216 hits and a Major League-best .343 batting average. He went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .344.

Biggio and Minute Maid Park representative Fred Arnold presented Altuve with a coupon for 211 bottles of Minute Maid orange juice.

"I'm going to drink it all, on 211 different days," said a jovial Altuve.

Altuve, who is attempting to become the first Astro to win a league batting title, is also leading the AL with 54 stolen bases. His 44 doubles are second-best in the AL.

"That's great for the organization," said Houston interim manager Tom Lawless. "Any time you can have something like that at the end of the year means someone on your team had a great year, and he's having a great year.

"All those achievements and goals he's got, he's being rewarded. It's a great thing."

Earlier this season, Altuve's cleats were sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He wore the cleats when he registered his fourth consecutive multi-steal game June 29 against Detroit.

Richard Dean is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Keuchel finds it 'rewarding' to reach goal of 200 innings

In likely his final start of '14, Astros ace hits mark with eight-frame gem

Keuchel finds it 'rewarding' to reach goal of 200 innings play video for Keuchel finds it 'rewarding' to reach goal of 200 innings

HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel achieved a personal milestone Saturday night.

In beating the Mariners, 10-1, at Minute Maid Park, the Houston left-hander reached the 200-inning mark for the first time.

"That's the only goal I had was 200 innings," said Keuchel. "I've never been a stat guy. All I ever wanted to do was pitch 200 innings and do my job effectively.

"I want the team to rely on me to get it done. To be able to do that was very rewarding."

Keuchel reached the mark in his final inning, retiring the side in order. In eight innings, Keuchel (12-9) allowed only one run and seven hits. He struck out eight and walked one. Eighty-seven of his 120 pitches were strikes.

Backed by five home runs, Keuchel had plenty of cushion with which to work and was determined to reach the 200-inning mark.

"A lot of joy," said Keuchel. "It took me longer than expected, 120 pitches."

The last Houston pitcher to reach 200 innings in a season was Brett Myers (216) in 2011. The last Houston left-hander to accomplish the feat was Wandy Rodriguez (205 2/3 in '09).

For Keuchel, it was essential for him to reach the mark in this start, likely his last of the season. Last season, he pitched 153 2/3 innings.

"It was important for him because he probably won't pitch any more," said Houston interim manager Tom Lawless. "He'll probably be shut down after 200 innings. That's way more than he had last year.

"I went down and asked him how he was doing after the seventh, he said, 'You're not taking me out.' I said,'You're at 108 pitches. I'll let you go a little more than 125.' But he's a great competitor and that's why he can go 200-plus innings. He battles, not giving in to hitters. He's going to be a pleasure to watch for a long time."

A ground-ball pitcher, Keuchel has the respect of his teammates. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last seven starts.

"Amazing," said second baseman Jose Altuve on Keuchel's performance Saturday. "A real good pitcher. He did what he's been doing all season long."

Richard Dean is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Downs likely done for year due to oblique strain

Fields day to day with soreness in right side

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HOUSTON -- Astros reliever Darin Downs is unlikely to pitch again this season, while reliever Josh Fields remains day to day with general soreness in his right side.

Downs is dealing with a right oblique strain. It's the same injury that landed the left-hander on the disabled list Aug. 15. He was activated from the 15-day DL on Sept. 2.

Downs pitched in Houston's 10-5 loss to Seattle on Friday at Minute Maid Park. He allowed a home run to Dustin Ackley in the eighth inning before leaving with discomfort in his right oblique.

"Downs goes out [Friday] night and aggravated his oblique again," said Houston interim manager Tom Lawless. "He's going to get treatment and we'll see what happens. Obliques are strange. Twisting and everything. Pitchers twist all over the place. That may be it for him."

The right-handed Fields hasn't pitched since Sept. 9 when he pitched a perfect ninth inning at Seattle.

"He tried to go the other day and it didn't work out very well," said Lawless. "We'll see how he goes."

Richard Dean is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Starts to be scarce for Singleton the rest of the way

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HOUSTON -- Rookie first baseman Jon Singleton figures to start only a few more games this season. He's mired in an 0-for-20 slump that has sunk his batting average to .169 entering Friday, when he was out of the lineup.

Interim manager Tom Lawless wants to give designated hitter Chris Carter some playing time at first base over the next couple of days so he'll be fresh when the Astros close the season with a three-game series in a National League park -- Citi Field, against the Mets.

Singleton has four hits in his last 52 at-bats, with 29 strikeouts during that span.

"He wants to play, but he's struggling so bad you don't want to beat him up so bad he's toast," Lawless said. "We'll give him a couple of days. We'll let Chris get out there, and it's going to help Chris. We'll use Singy as a pinch-hitter in New York, and he'll still get at-bats and still get playing time, but it's more important we get Chris out there, too, because he's trying to get to 40 home runs."

Singleton began the season as one of the club's top prospects. He was called up in early June and homered in his first game, but it's been tough sledding since. In 90 games he has 13 homers and 44 RBIs, with 130 strikeouts in 301 at-bats.

"He's a young kid at this level, and everybody expects so much out of him because of who he is and what he did in the Minor Leagues," Lawless said. "It's just tough up here. If you're not mentally strong and you let any outside things affect you, it affects the way you play. He didn't get off to a good start and couldn't get himself going, and it's just piled up on him.

"Now he's trying so hard that nothing works for him. He needs to just sit back [this offseason] and get away from it for a while -- two months of not even seeing nothing. Come do your work in December and be ready in January for Spring Training and be the player we all want to see."

Brian McTaggart is reporter for 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.

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Altuve keeps on hitting, but errors hurt Astros

Altuve keeps on hitting, but errors hurt Astros play video for Altuve keeps on hitting, but errors hurt Astros

HOUSTON -- The Astros had just squandered a terrific opportunity, coming up empty after loading the bases with no outs in the third, when a pair of defensive gaffes in the fourth inning opened the door and let the Mariners take control.

A throwing error by shortstop Jonathan Villar and a fielding error by first baseman Chris Carter to start the inning were followed by a three-run homer by Mike Zunino, and the Mariners erupted for seven runs and beat the Astros, 10-5, at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.

"Three-run homers are killers," interim manager Tom Lawless said. "If we make the plays, we have nobody on with two out, and we go from there. That's the importance of being able to play defense, and you've got to play solid defense up here to win ballgames."

Six of the runs the Mariners scored in the inning were unearned thanks to the defensive miscues. Starter Brad Peacock couldn't escape the mess, leaving after 3 1/3 innings. He allowed six hits and seven runs, though only two of the runs were earned.

"Errors happen," Peacock said. "I've still got to make pitches and do my job out there. It's a tough one."

Jose Altuve, making a rare start at designated hitter, shook off Thursday's 0-for-6 performance by going 3-for-3 to extend his Major League lead to 216 hits. In doing so he tied Magglio Ordonez for the most hits in a season by a Venezuelan-born player in Major League history.

"[Ordonez] was one of the best hitters to play from Venezuela, and I'm happy to tie him in hits in a season," Altuve said.

Altuve also set a franchise record with his 24th three-hit game of the season, surpassing the previous record of 23, set by Craig Biggio in 1998.

"I was 0-for-6 last night, and I knew I wasn't going to go 0-for-6 again," he said. "I tried to go out there and swing the bat and saw, like, three or four pitches. I was ready to swing."

Lawless removed Altuve from the blowout game after three at-bats in order to help him win the batting title. Altuve leads the American League with a .343 average with eight games remaining.

"He's got something special going," Lawless said. "To win the batting title is a very impressive thing, and if we do some things like that. ... If the game is 5-4, we won't do that. But to try to protect that for him, I'm going to try every way I can to do that for him."

Altuve doubled and scored on a Dexter Fowler single in the first inning, but Dustin Ackley tied the score with the first of his two homers, a solo shot into the Crawford Boxes in the third.

Mariners starter Taijuan Walker (2-2) walked Robbie Grossman to start the third, and Altuve followed with a hit and steal of second. Walker then walked Carter to load the bases, but he struck out Fowler and Jason Castro swinging and got Matt Dominguez to fly out to end the threat.

"We kind of let them off the hook there," Lawless said. "We had the bases loaded and four, five and six up, and to [Walker's] credit, he made pitches. If we can get a base hit there and another base hit or something, he might be out of the game right there. When you get those opportunities, you've got to take advantage."

The fourth was nothing short of a nightmare for the Astros, as the Mariners sent 12 batters to the plate. Zunino's homer made it 4-1, and Kyle Seager greeted reliever Jake Buchanan with a three-run homer that pushed the lead to seven runs.

Walker held the Astros to two runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings and earned his third career win, all of which have come against the Astros. Four of his seven Major League starts have been against Houston.

"I think eight runs helped him quite a bit," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "But he knows that club, he knows what they're capable of doing. More than anything, he executed pitches very well tonight. I can't tell you how pleased I was with his execution and his command of the strike zone."

Brian McTaggart is reporter for 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.

{"content":["replay" ] }

Mixed results for Mariners, Astros in challenges

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HOUSTON -- Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson gained a stolen base on Friday when replay officials overturned an out call at second base in the fourth inning of Seattle's 10-5 win over the Astros.

Jackson initially was called out on the throw from catcher Jason Castro as shortstop Jonathan Villar applied the tag, but manager Lloyd McClendon challenged the ruling, and officials in New York quickly overturned the decision.

Following a walk to Dustin Ackley, Jackson wound up scoring from second on a Robinson Cano single to give Seattle a four-run lead. It was Jackson's 19th stolen base of the season and 10th since he was acquired from the Tigers in a July 31 trade.

McClendon has challenged 31 plays this season and had 17 overturned.

The Astros were unsuccessful in a challenge of their own in the eighth inning. With one out and runners on second and third, Jake Marisnick hit a grounder to Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager, and Marisnick was called out on the close play.

Astros interim manager Tom Lawless challenged, but the call stood. Marisnick's groundout capped a 2-for-4 night for his second consecutive multihit game.

Greg Johns and Brian McTaggart are reporters for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["replay" ] }

Astros find 13th inning unlucky in loss to Tribe

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HOUSTON -- For much of Thursday's game, it appeared that interim manager Tom Lawless wasn't even going to have to touch the bullpen phone, as starter Scott Feldman roared through the Indians' lineup for eight scoreless innings.

Lawless, working with extra arms in the bullpen with an expanded September roster, wound up having to use five relievers before the Indians pushed across a run in the 13th inning to beat the Astros, 2-1, and split the four-game series at Minute Maid Park.

"That's what happens when the pitching is pretty good," Lawless said. "I kept trying to match up, and you want to make sure you're not short. [Indians manager Terry Francona] was thin, and we were getting thin, too."

Samuel Deduno, the Astros' sixth pitcher, was charged with the loss after giving up a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to Mike Aviles that scored Jose Ramirez, who sparked the Indians with a one-out double in the 13th.

"It stings for our pitchers to go out and throw that good and not be able to get them some run support and get out of there with a win," said right fielder Jake Marisnick, who went 2-for-4 with the team's only RBI.

It appeared as though Marisnick would have a play at the plate when he caught Aviles' fly ball in shallow right field, but his throw went well wide, allowing Ramirez to score rather easily.

"I think I had some time, and I just rushed it," Marisnick said. "It was pretty shallow, and I had a chance to make a good throw and get him, and I had to be around the plate with it. I ended up rushing it, didn't get into a good position to throw, flew open, and the ball sailed on me."

The Astros' struggling offense managed eight hits -- all singles -- while striking out 14 times. Jose Altuve went 0-for-6 for the first time in his career, and Jon Singleton (0-for-4, four strikeouts) and Matt Dominguez (0-for-5) remained in their slumps.

Indians pitchers amassed 50 strikeouts and allowed 28 hits and seven walks in 39 innings during the four-game series.

"It seems like every ball we hit was right at somebody, and you go through streaks like that," Lawless said. "Our swings have gotten a lot better and we're competing very well, but we need some of these balls to drop in, especially for confidence."

Feldman carried a shutout in the ninth and wound up allowing one run and four hits, setting a career high with his 19th quality start of the season. He's 2-2 with a 2.00 ERA in his last five starts.

Astros starters have a 2.05 ERA in their past 17 games.

"The starting pitching has been outstanding, there's no doubt about it," Lawless said. "[Feldman] went out there and shut them down for eight innings. I asked him going into the ninth, 'You're the guy. How are you doing?' I told him, 'If somebody gets on base, I'm coming to get you, but you go out and finish the game.' He just got a ball up."

Michael Bourn began the ninth with a double to left-center that was originally ruled an inside-the-park homer. The ball one-hopped the wall and disappeared for a moment behind some padding before emerging at the feet of center fielder Dexter Fowler, who had his hands in the air to signal he had lost the ball.

Bourn, who never stopped running, was sent back to second base after an umpires' review, but the Indians eventually tied the score on a Carlos Santana single off closer Chad Qualls.

"[Feldman] was good tonight," Bourn said. "He was hitting his spots and stuff, and I was trying to get a pitch up and get a good pitch to hit. He gave me one there, and I was able to get it up the middle."

Brian McTaggart is reporter for 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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Appel throws in Minute Maid Park bullpen

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HOUSTON -- Right-hander Mark Appel, one of the Astros' top prospects and the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, threw in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park on Thursday afternoon in front of Doug Brocail, the senior pitching advisor/special assistant to the general manager, as well as pitching coach Brent Strom.

The Astros wanted to get Appel, 23, in front of Brocail, who served as the interim pitching coach at Double-A Corpus Christi, before he heads out next week for the instructional league in Florida and, ultimately, the Arizona Fall League.

"He's still trying to get cleaned up," Brocail said. "Personally, I think there's a lot he needs to do. We've talked about it, and it's a matter of trying to clean him up as much as we can until he gets down to the instructional league and out of the [AFL]. I just want to make sure he's staying on the right path and doing the same things that led him to success at Double-A and he can keep marching up the ladder, versus taking one step back and two steps forward."

Appel overcame a sluggish start to his first full season in pro ball this year. He went 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in seven games (six starts) at Corpus Christi after beginning the season with a 2-5 record and 9.74 ERA in 12 games playing for hitter-friendly Lancaster in Class A.

"We got some really good work done in terms of trying to time some things up," Strom said. "His fastball was extremely explosive, good changeup. There's some work that needs to be done on the slider, which we did.

"He's very open to ideas, so it was an excellent session, and there's definitely thunder coming out of his arm, from what I saw in the bullpen. It was firm, and it was four-seam firm, with power. I was very excited for him, and he did a good job. I loved what I saw, to be honest with you."

When asked how close Appel is to reaching the Majors, Strom said, "I saw some fastballs today that could have played last night."

Brocail said that his theory, when he got Appel in July, was to prepare him to pitch in the big leagues, which meant cleaning up his rhythm and delivery and helping him hold runners better.

"We got him in a five-man rotation and moved forward and didn't look back," Brocail said. "Not taking anything away from the other coaches, I told him, 'Listen, everything that you think worked, keep it. And everything that didn't, get rid of it. Erase it completely off the slate.' And he responded very well. He's intelligent, he has the desire to win. I wish I would have had him longer."

Appel lives in Houston and was in the stands at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, even appearing on the Kiss Cam. Minor League catcher M.P. Cokinos, a native of Houston, caught Appel on Thursday. Bullpen coach Craig Bjornson was also present.

Brian McTaggart is reporter for 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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Trevino added to Wall of Honor

Trevino added to Wall of Honor

HOUSTON -- Spanish-language broadcaster Alex Trevino was added to the Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor in an on-field ceremony at Minute Maid Park prior to Thursday's game against the Indians.

Trevino, who played three seasons with the Astros, is in his 19th season as a broadcaster. He joined the booth in 1996 and has called more than 3,000 games, including six postseason appearances and the 2005 World Series run. His 19 seasons in the booth are the second-most in franchise history by a Spanish broadcaster.

"You don't have plans for it," Trevino said. "I'm one of the luckiest men -- I'm going to have to say it -- on the face of the earth."

Prior to joining the broadcast staff, Trevino spent 13 seasons in the Majors, primarily as a catcher, including the 1988-90 seasons with the Astros. He also spent time with the Mets, Reds, Braves, Giants and Dodgers. He finished his playing career in the Mexican League, playing three seasons (1993-95) in his hometown, Monterrey.

When Trevino's career came to an end, Astros director of broadcasting Jamie Hildreth asked him if he was interested in broadcasting games in Spanish. Trevino was intrigued, but told Hildreth he didn't have any experience behind a microphone.

"He said, 'You know what? You've got the knowledge, you've got the language, you've got the experience in the game. Just give it a try and have some fun,'" Trevino said. "That was 1996, and here we are."

Trevino's older brother, Carlos, was a member of the Monterrey team that won the Little League World Series in 1957-58, so he's from a baseball background.

"I'm the result of a culture in my family, and the city because Monterrey is very rich in baseball, especially Little League and youth organizations," Trevino said. "All of a sudden, I play international baseball as a Little Leaguer, I sign out of high school as a pro and I get to the big leagues at a pretty young age. I don't know anything but baseball. When you're lucky enough after your playing career and you're still involved in baseball, you have to be grateful."

Trevino was a member of the 1972 Pony League World Series championship team, which hailed from Monterrey. He would become one of seven Mexican-born players to play for the Astros, and he was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2003.

He was joined on the field on Thursday by his wife, Martiza; daughters Brianna Fox and Marielle Sarrazala; and two grandchildren.

Brian McTaggart is reporter for 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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Astros moving Triple-A affiliate to Fresno

HOUSTON -- Admitting that the Dodgers' swooping into Oklahoma City to buy a stake of the Triple-A RedHawks -- sending the Astros looking for a new affiliate -- was a surprise, president of business operations Reid Ryan said on Thursday that the club has found a suitable landing spot in Fresno, Calif.

The Astros have signed a two-year player-development contract with the Fresno Grizzlies, who previously had a 17-year relationship with the San Francisco Giants. Houston will move its Triple-A operations beginning next year, with the contract expiring following the 2016 season.

"Folks know we have a really good system, so we know we have a lot of interest, and at the end of the day, Fresno was a pretty good fit," Ryan said.

Fresno, which plays in the Pacific Coast League's Northern division with Reno, Sacramento and Tacoma, replaces Oklahoma City, which had served as the Astros' Triple-A affiliate the previous four years. The Dodgers' purchase of Oklahoma City started a seismic shift that saw six PCL clubs switch affiliates.

Fresno becomes the ninth Triple-A affiliate in Astros history, joining Oklahoma City (1962-72, 2011-14), Round Rock (2005-10), New Orleans (1997-2004), Tucson (1980-96), Charleston (1977-79), Memphis (1976), Iowa (1975) and Denver (1973-74).

"We are very pleased to bring the Houston Astros' Triple-A affiliate to Downtown Fresno," Chris Cummings, the Grizzlies' managing general partner, said in a statement. "Our efforts have brought an organization holding the most talented farm system in all of baseball, ensuring that fans will be seeing incredible talent at Chukchansi Park that is one step away from playing in the Majors."

Tony DeFrancesco, who's spent the last 11 years managing in the PCL, including seven in Sacramento (2003-10) and the last four in Oklahoma City, is pleased.

"It's good," DeFrancesco said. "The ballpark's really nice. The weather is going to be nice. It's going to be warm in the middle of the summer, but it's a good place for travel and getting around the league."

The affiliation shuffle happened quickly and ultimately left the Astros choosing between Fresno and Colorado Springs after other teams had filled spots. There were concerns about the weather and high altitude at Colorado Springs, which helped drive the Astros farther west.

The Astros figure to have a wealth of young arms coming through Triple-A the next few years, and Colorado Springs wasn't deemed a suitable pitching environment. Houston's Class A affiliate in Lancaster is already known as a hitter's haven.

"We wanted to have our place that was really a fair park and was a good indicator of what these guys were going to be doing when they come up," Ryan said. "We have so much pitching in the system right now, and we felt like having a stadium that was more like Fresno, where the weather was a little more consistent and it wasn't cold at the start of the season and it wasn't at altitude. That was a better fit for us.

"When you looked at the fact that we could send [Minor League] rovers, we could send guys to California, they could pick up Lancaster, they could pick up Fresno and sort of get a two-for-one with our scouting and player development, that was a win. Also, the fact we're now in the AL West, and if you need somebody when you're out there with Seattle, the A's or the Angels, it's real easy to move guys in and out. When we looked at kind of what other cities were available, we felt it was the perfect fit for us."

The Grizzlies have finished in the top half of the PCL in attendance for the last 10 seasons, bringing in more than 460,000 fans to Chukchansi Park, which is located downtown. The park opened in 2002 and seats 12,500. It features a semi-irregular field shape, with dimensions measuring 324 feet down the left-field line, 385 in left-center, 400 in center and 335 feet to the right-field foul pole.

The Astros' Triple-A operations could eventually wind up back in Round Rock, which is owned by the Ryan family and Houston businessman Don Sanders. But Ryan-Sanders Baseball signed an extension with the Rangers through 2018 just before Nolan Ryan left Arlington for Houston.

"It's no great secret I would love to work with my family," Reid Ryan said. "We have a very close relationship. When you start playing that game, it's a bad game to play. As we talked to people, it was a concern with everybody that was out there.

"What I like about Fresno is, they said, 'You guys have a great system and we have a tradition of baseball here. We want a winner, and we know your system has a lot of players. We really want you guys.' They made a hard push for us and made us feel really good."

The Astros have discussed putting a Triple-A team in the northern suburbs of Houston, but that would be years down the road, if it happens. They would have to get a municipally funded stadium built, and buy and relocate a current Triple-A club.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

Altuve provides only offense for Astros in loss

Second baseman records pair of hits as Houston shut out by Tribe

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HOUSTON -- Astros second baseman Jose Altuve treated the fans at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday when he passed Craig Biggio's club record for most hits in a season. Altuve performed another impressive feat Wednesday by keeping the Astros from being no-hit.

Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco threw a dazzling two-hit shutout, allowing just a pair of infield hits to Altuve -- his 212th and 213th hits of the season -- in the fourth and ninth innings and striking out a career-high 12 batters in a 2-0 win over the Astros.

"He's one of the top pitchers in the league and one of the hottest pitchers in the league," Astros interim manager Tom Lawless said. "He made a lot of good pitches today. We had two hits -- Altuve had both of them -- and we didn't have many chances to score runs today."

Carrasco (8-5) is the second pitcher in Major League history to strike out 12 batters on 98 pitches or fewer in a shutout, joining Sandy Koufax (1964). He's the first Indians pitcher to have at least 12 strikeouts in a shutout since Bartolo Colon struck out 13 in a one-hitter against the Yankees in 2000.

"Oh my God," Altuve said. "Every pitch -- split, fastball, slider, curveball. I knew, personally, that I was in trouble with him since my first at-bat because he threw fastballs in the middle and I couldn't hit it. I said, 'Man, if you can't hit a fastball against one guy, you're in trouble.'"

Altuve beat out an infield single in the fourth inning and legged out another with two outs in the ninth to extend his club record for multihit games to 65. He's the first Astros player with seven consecutive multihit games since Lance Berkman in 2008.

"I didn't hit the ball past the infield today," he said. "I had one to shortstop [a lineout], a strikeout and two ground balls. If you're able to get two hits, you feel good. This is not about getting hits. It's about winning games. It was a tough game. We have to give the credit to Carrasco. Unbelievable."

Carrasco retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced and 17 in a row in between Altuve's two hits.

"He was so good, just pounded the strike zone and he had a bunch of at-bats of three pitches or less," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He was commanding everything, so they started to try to get aggressive and he got first-pitch outs because of it."

Astros starter Brett Oberholtzer (5-12) pitched well in defeat, holding the Indians to two runs and seven hits in 7 2/3 innings without issuing a walk. Astros starters have a 2.45 ERA in their last six games and have walked just 17 batters in 117 1/3 innings since Aug. 28.

"Obie was working fast and nobody was really doing anything for both teams for a while," Lawless said. "They just got a hit with a guy in scoring position and two outs, and good teams do that. They take advantage of the opportunities, and we didn't have many opportunities to score."

Catcher Yan Gomes, who hit a two-run homer Tuesday, drove in both of the Indians' runs against Oberholtzer with a two-out single in the fourth inning and a two-out triple in the sixth. The triple came about when Astros right fielder Jake Marisnick came up short on a diving attempt on a sinking line drive and allowed the ball to roll to the wall.

Lawless pulled Marisnick aside in between innings to talk about the play, calling it on-the-job training.

"He's learning up here just as well as a lot of the other guys, and when that situation comes up again later in your career, I said, 'What are you going to do? You're going to step back and catch it on one hop and give the guy the single and have first and second with two outs, and we'll play on and we'll try to get the next guy out,'" Lawless said. "Later in the ballgame, or a tie game, you try to make that play. But in that situation and that part of the game, he knew it was not the right play."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Astros to recognize prospects Hader, Phillips

Duo named organization's Minor League Pitcher, Player of Year, respectively

Astros to recognize prospects Hader, Phillips play video for Astros to recognize prospects Hader, Phillips

HOUSTON -- The Astros on Wednesday named left-handed pitcher Josh Hader their Minor League Pitcher of the Year and outfielder Brett Phillips their Minor League Player of the Year.

Hader and Phillips will be honored prior to Sunday's Astros game against the Mariners, the final regular-season game of the year at Minute Maid Park. Both players are also scheduled to sign autographs on the main concourse before the ceremony.

The 20-year-old Hader -- Houston's No. 10 prospect, according to -- posted a 10-3 record and a 3.28 ERA this season in 27 appearances (19 starts) between Class A Advanced Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi, with 136 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings. The left-hander allowed just 92 hits on the season.

"It's a big honor, especially because we have such good players in the Minor Leagues," he said.

Hader, who was acquired from the Orioles last July as part of the Bud Norris trade, earned California League Pitcher of the Year honors at Lancaster, where he was 9-2 in 22 appearances (15 starts) with a league-best 2.70 ERA. Hader was named to the California League Postseason All-Star team.

"I didn't pitch any different," he said, on succeeding at hitter-friendly Lancaster. "I focused on pitching down more. I used my fastball as often as I could in Lancaster, so it helped me out a lot. It wasn't really a secret. I did what I had to do, just get outs and win ballgames and give my team a chance to win games."

The 6-foot-3 Hader said he plans to work out this winter in an effort to gain about 10 pounds to get stronger and more durable. He wants to reach about 185 pounds.

"I'm glad with the pace I'm moving at and I have to do what I have to do in the offseason to get bigger and work on my mechanics a little bit," he said. "I'm working on putting on some weight on, and right around Thanksgiving start throwing and stuff like that. Just focus on putting on weight and muscle. That's the big thing I think will help me a lot next year."

Phillips, 20, hit .310 in 130 games between Class A Quad Cities and Lancaster, with 29 doubles, 14 triples, 17 home runs, 68 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. The left-handed hitter posted a .529 slugging percentage and a .905 on-base plus slugging percentage. After starting the season with Quad Cities, Phillips was promoted to Lancaster, where he played a key role in the JetHawks' championship season, hitting .339 and posting a .980 OPS in 27 games, accumulating four home runs and 10 RBIs.

"It's great," Phillips said. "It's just been a blessed year overall, from Spring Training all the way up until the end. I just made it a priority to do my best the whole year and take each day step by step and not try to do too much. I maybe pressed the past couple seasons, and this season has been a blessed year this year and I'm glad we could finish out on top with the championship."

Batting leadoff, Phillips was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs in Monday night's 10-2, title-clinching win over Visalia. While at Quad Cities, Phillips was the youngest starter for the Western Division squad in the Midwest League All-Star Game. Phillips was selected by the Astros in the sixth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Altuve passes Biggio with club-record 211th hit

Second baseman vaults Astros great for Houston's single-season mark

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HOUSTON -- The first thing Jose Altuve did when he reached second base following his record-tying 210th hit of the season in the fifth inning Tuesday was pay some respect to the man whose name was now alongside his atop the Astros' single-season hit chart.

Altuve tipped his batting helmet in the direction of Craig Biggio, and two innings later moved past him and alone into first place on the club's single-season hits chart with his 211th of the year -- a single to center in the seventh inning. It was the culmination of an improbable and amazing season for the pint-sized second baseman who has a knack for putting the bat on the ball.

"I have to go out there and play and finish the season strong," Altuve said. "We need to win a couple of more games to put ourselves in a good position, so it was good to get the 211th so people can stop talking about that and let's go out there and play."

Altuve became the first Astros player to record multiple hits in six consecutive games since Hunter Pence in 2011 by going 2-for-5 to raise his batting average to .343 and move closer to becoming the first player in franchise history to win a batting title.

"It's special for everybody, and for me because I've known Jose for a long time and I saw him start at the beginning," said interim manager Tom Lawless, a former Minor League instructor with the Astros. "For me to witness that tonight is very special. I won't forget the night tonight. And I know he won't forget it. You may be in the game for the next 20 years and not see this again. That's how special it is."

The 5-foot-6 second baseman leads the Majors in hits and batting average, and leads the American League in stolen bases. He has 64 multi-hit games, which is a franchise record, and is only one of four players in history to have at least 211 hits, 43 doubles and 52 steals in a season since 1900.

"I know people are kind of surprised for my season, and I am, too," Altuve said. "I prepared myself every day and am working really hard. I'm not trying to overdo something, just do what I know to do. I don't want to waste any at-bats and fight every single at-bat, and that's been the key this year."

Altuve went 0-for-2 in his first two at-bats against Indians pitcher Corey Kluber before tying Biggio in the fifth inning with a double to left field. While Altuve saluted Biggio, the crowd and his teammates gave him a standing ovation.

"That's the best feeling in my life, when you see your teammates supporting you that way," Altuve said. "That made me feel complete. I'm going outside and playing 100 percent to give them everything I have to try to do everything to win the game. When I get the hits and they react like that -- the teammates, the coaches and fans -- that made me feel complete and really happy."

Altuve didn't stop there.

The crowd rose to its feet when he came to the plate in the seventh, and roared when he smacked the first pitch up the middle for hit No. 211. Another standing ovation followed, even with some of the Indians getting into the act.

Kluber backed off the mound after the record breaker.

"That's a big accomplishment for him to have more hits than anybody in the history of that franchise," Kluber said. "You let him enjoy that."

"It's fun to be a part," Astros catcher Jason Castro said. "There was a pretty good chance it was going to happen. I think it was pretty fitting the way it happened tonight, another multi-hit game. Everyone was excited for him and pulling for him the dugout, not only to tie it but to beat it. And obviously he didn't disappoint."

Biggio later pulled Altuve aside and extended his congratulations in person.

"He said 'Congratulations, keep swinging,'" Altuve said. "That means a lot coming from him. That means he was watching the game. He came early to BP and said, 'Hey, two more. Let's go get it.' He was encouraging me to get it, and that made my day. It was really fun."

Now that he's on the cusp of a batting title, Altuve's focus hasn't changed from what he was focused on this offseason.

"I went to the offseason with a mindset to work hard to try to put myself in 100-percent shape to come into the season and help my team," he said. "We're having a good season, everyone is playing hard. This is the first time I didn't play winter ball.

"This is Sept. [16] and I feel at least 98 percent of my abilities. It's good I didn't take that time off to waste the time. I took it to work hard and I'm going to do the same this offseason because I know we can be in the playoffs, and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.


DeFrancesco hopes to interview for manager job

DeFrancesco hopes to interview for manager job

HOUSTON --- Triple-A manager Tony DeFrancesco, who served as interim manager of the Astros for the final 41 games of the 2012 season, said Wednesday he hopes to get an opportunity to interview for the Major League managerial position once again.

DeFrancesco, who led the Astros to a 16-25 record after Brad Mills was dismissed in 2012, was among the pool of candidates to interview with general manager Jeff Luhnow two years ago. The job eventually went to Bo Porter, who was dismissed Sept. 1.

"I talked to Jeff and I hope I have the opportunity," DeFrancesco said. "That was one of the best times in my career [managing the Astros]. I hope to get another opportunity to do it again."

DeFrancesco just finished his 20th season as a Minor League manager and fourth with Oklahoma City, which next year becomes the Triple-A affiliate of the Dodgers. He missed the first six weeks of the season while undergoing cancer treatments. Oklahoma City went 74-70 this year and finished in second place in the American Northern division of the Pacific Coast League.

Last season, DeFrancesco guided the RedHawks to a Pacific Coast League-leading 82-62 record and an American Southern division title.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.


Altuve's record night not enough for Astros

Houston fans 17 times vs. Kluber, Tribe bullpen

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HOUSTON -- Astros second baseman Jose Altuve would have undoubtedly traded a hitless night for a win.

Altuve set a franchise record for most hits in a season by coming up with his 211th hit of the year in the seventh inning, surpassing the previous record of 210 set by Craig Biggio in 1998, in the Astros' 4-2 loss to the Indians on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

Indians starter Corey Kluber was dominant, striking out a career-high 14 batters in seven innings. The only Astros batter he didn't strike out was Altuve, who went 2-for-5 for his sixth consecutive multi-hit game. Kluber is the first Indians pitcher to strike out 14 since Bartolo Colon in 1998.

"Like I told some of the coaches in there, it was probably one of the better games I've ever seen pitched," Astros interim manager Tom Lawless said of Kluber's start. "He was pretty good. He was real good. You tip your hat to him. He's a Major League pitcher, he's one of the best. We battled with him a long time. We were in the game and had an opportunity in the [third] inning to put a couple of runs across, but he made pitches there that he needed to make."

After going 0-for-2 in his first two at-bats, Altuve tied Biggio by hitting a double to left field in the fifth inning off Kluber for hit No. 210. With the crowd on its feet in the seventh, he rolled a single up the middle for his 211th hit.

"I want to thank all the fans at the field supporting me and supporting the team," Altuve said. "We're having a good season. We're playing good and if I can keep getting hits and getting on base and helping my team to win, I'm going to feel really happy."

Kluber pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, striking out Alex Presley and Gregorio Petit to end the inning. The Astros tied a season high by striking out 17 times, with even Altuve striking out in his final at-bat against reliever Cody Allen.

"He [Kluber] definitely wasn't going to give in to us," Presley said. "The pitches I swung at that I struck out on were balls in that at-bat. He worked off the fastball in and the cutter, slider thing or whatever that is he has, it's hard. He did a good job of that, keeping you guessing. He makes you feel uncomfortable with the fastball."

Astros rookie Nick Tropeano, making his second career start, worked five innings and held the Indians to two runs (one earned) and four hits in five innings.

"I think he worked way too many deep counts tonight," Lawless said. "He was in a lot of deep counts, 3-0, 3-1 counts. It's hard to do that. That's what he told me when I told him he was done after five, was 'Just way too many deep counts.' I said, 'Yes.' Up here it's hard to pitch like that."

Tropeano gave up a bloop single to Michael Bourn to start the game, and he scored on a groundout by Carlos Santana. The Indians took the lead in the fourth when Lonnie Chisenhall scored from first base on a single by Yan Gomes that was misplayed in left field by Robbie Grossman for an unearned run.

Gomes lined a 1-1 pitch into the Crawford Boxes in the sixth inning off Darin Downs for a two-run homer that put the Indians ahead, 4-1. That was more than enough breathing room for Kluber.

"I think he understands the game really well and pitching to the scoreboard," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "There were times tonight we needed strikeouts, not just outs."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Springer shut down for rest of season

Springer shut down for rest of season play video for Springer shut down for rest of season

HOUSTON -- With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season and his strained left quad not 100 percent healthy, the Astros announced on Tuesday that rookie outfielder George Springer would sit out the remainder of the regular season.

The decision certainly comes as no surprise, considering Springer hasn't played for the Astros since July 19 against the White Sox in Chicago. He went on a Minor League rehab assignment in August, but he suffered a setback and hasn't been able to completely heal the injury.

"It's tough, but at this point the goal is to just get through the year healthy and get to 2015 and just be as healthy as I can," said Springer, who would have pushed for American League Rookie of the Year honors if he had stayed healthy.

Astros interim manager Tom Lawless said general manager Jeff Luhnow and the team trainers sat down with Springer on Monday to map out his future, and the decision was made with Springer's blessing.

"We felt the best thing for the organization is that George doesn't play anymore the rest of the year," Lawless said. "In reality, it would have to be a rehab stint when you play him and get an at-bat here and at-bat there. Will eight, nine at-bats make a difference as opposed to the other alternative when he goes out there and tweaks it again, and now we're set back again?

"We're going to shut him down and he's going to take batting practice and rehab when the season's over, and he's going to leave here healthy. And when he comes to Spring Training, he's going to be ready to go."

Springer's competitive nature made it that much more difficult for him to miss so much time.

"It's brutal," Springer said. "The goal is to play, and it's tough for me to sit here every day and to know that I can't play."

Springer, the Astros' Minor League Most Valuable Player a year ago, made his much-anticipated Major League debut in April and appeared in 78 games, hitting .231 with 20 homers and 51 RBIs and showing the flash and potential that has the Astros believing he'll be a cornerstone player for years to come.

The 24-year-old was named the American League Rookie of the Month for May, hitting .294 (30-for-102) with four doubles, one triple, 10 homers, 25 RBIs, 22 runs scored and 13 walks in 26 games to claim his first monthly award. He was the first Astros player to win Rookie of the Month honors since Hunter Pence in May 2007, when the club was still competing in the National League.

"It's been a great experience so far, and [I] obviously have a lot more to learn and obviously think I could have done better overall," he said. "In my 300 at-bats, I've learned and I've grown and I go off of that into 2015."

Springer has been working out with the club for the past month in an effort to get healthy, but the team wasn't going to take any chances if he wasn't 100 percent.

"He wanted to play, and really we left the decision a lot up to him and what is the best for George Springer," Lawless said. "We're looking at it as an organization in the long run, and the importance of eight or 10 at-bats in the big picture doesn't make any sense taking that chance. That's what he decided, and everyone was on board with that."

Springer said the bigger picture is more important.

"The goal is for me to play 162 games, and for me it's tough," he said. "Being a player and a competitor, I want to play, but at the same time you have to protect yourself and sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do."

Taken by the Astros with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Connecticut, Springer shot quickly through the Minor Leagues and last year combined to hit 37 homers and steal 45 bases combined between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.

{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Castro named Astros' Clemente Award nominee

Castro named Astros' Clemente Award nominee play video for Castro named Astros' Clemente Award nominee

HOUSTON -- Houston catcher Jason Castro is the Astros' 2014 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

Each club nominated one player for the award in an effort to pay tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who understand the value of helping others.

"Obviously, it's a huge honor for me and my wife as well, to be just nominated for this award," Castro said. "You see a lot of the other nominees and all the great things they've done in their communities, and to find guys that are equally passionate about the things that they choose to get involved in, it's great to see a lot of guys are giving back and making a difference when they can."

Castro and his wife, Maris, both graduates of Stanford University, launched their multifaceted initiative, "Castro's Kids" program in 2013, which provides incentives to encourage students to embrace literacy. The couple donates its time to make school library visits, plays host to school children at the ballpark and holds book drives collecting new and gently used books for school libraries in the Houston Independent School District.

Castro also supports the Astros Foundation's cornerstone programs -- the Community Leaders program, Astros Urban Youth Academy and the Astros RBI Program. Earlier this season, Castro also supported the Astros Minute Maid Grand Slam for Youth Baseball Scholarship Program by recording a PSA that was featured in high schools in the Houston area.

There were more than 1.3 million fan votes last year, and fans can start voting again on Wednesday at, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media. Voting ends on Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to next month's World Series.

The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel of dignitaries, which includes Commissioner Bud Selig; MLB chief operating officer and Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred; Vera Clemente; Hall of Fame Broadcaster and the Spanish Voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers Jaime Jarrin; MLB Network analysts and former Clemente Award winners Al Leiter, Harold Reynolds (also of FOX Sports) and John Smoltz (also of FOX Sports); Hall of Famer, ESPN analyst and former Clemente Award winner Barry Larkin; ESPN analyst and former Clemente Award winner Rick Sutcliffe; FOX broadcaster Joe Buck; Hall of Famer and TBS analyst Dennis Eckersley; TBS analyst Ron Darling (also of MLB Network); senior correspondent Hal Bodley; a representative from Chevrolet and others.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.

{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Renovations coming to Minute Maid Park in 2015

Renovations coming to Minute Maid Park in 2015

HOUSTON -- The Astros announced Tuesday that renovations will be coming next season to the club level and upper deck areas of Minute Maid Park in a continuing effort to improve the fan experience. The improvements made to both areas seek to elevate the quality of concessions and food service available in the ballpark, as well as bring the game to the fans.

The entire club level will receive a floor-to-ceiling makeover, including new flooring and paint. The food and beverage stands will be repositioned to allow fans a clear view of the field from various points on the concourse, and the general infrastructure of many of the new concession stands will be renovated to allow for fresher, higher quality food and beverage products.

What was formerly the ticket sales office on the third-base side of the club level will become a high-end eating venue providing views from Texas Avenue to the field, and smoking areas will be consolidated to avoid close proximity to any areas designated for children, such as the Minute Maid Park Squeeze Play.

"We are very excited to take another step in our ongoing effort to make the fan experience at Minute Maid Park one of the best in baseball," said Astros senior vice president of business operations Marcel Braithwaite. "In 2012, we completely reconstructed the diamond club, followed by a major renovation of the main concourse's concessions and retail locations in 2013. This next phase will bring a unified look to our ballpark as a whole and hopefully make every fan feel like he or she has the best seat in the house."

The renovations will begin this fall, starting on the third-base side and continuing on to the first-base side during the winter months. Minute Maid Park will be open and available for events during the renovation process.

Braithwaite and team president of business operations Reid Ryan have combined to tour more than 20 ballparks this summer to get ideas to redefine and reshape the areas beyond the outfield walls with hopes of adding even more fan-friendly amenities prior to the 2016 season.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for 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.