Astros fire their pitching coach

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The Astros have announced that they have fired pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. He is being replaced by an interim: Doug Brocail, who if you put a gun to my head I probably would have guessed was still pitching mopup duty for someone out west because I tend not to track guys like Doug Brocail very well.

The reason cited for his dismissal was “philosophical differences,” which given that Brad Mills is pretty secure in his job as manager — and should be, frankly — is likely true. It’s usually managers who are themselves on the firing line who use or allow their coaches to be used as scapegoats.

Still, it ain’t all philosophy. Houston has one of the worst pitching staffs in all of baseball. Overall, they give up more runs a game than every other team. On an ERA basis they’re second to last, ahead of only the Cubs. They have up a decent amount of runs to the Braves over the past four days, and that should be enough to have anyone fired, but I’m assuming there is more of a season-wide assessment at work.

As for the exact nature of the philosophical differences, I have an insider who tells me that it was really a grand thing about free will vs. determinism, and that Arnsberg was really fixated on all of that Pierre Simon Laplace stuff, which just drove Mills batty.

Mark Melancon is considering surgery

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Giants’ right-hander Mark Melancon is considering surgery for an undisclosed injury, the pitcher told reporters prior to Friday’s game against the Phillies. Melancon did not divulge the exact location of the injury, but revealed that it had been plaguing him off and on since the 2012 season and was a separate issue from the right pronator strain that kept him sidelined through much of July and August. Giants’ head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner called the injury day-to-day and has not revealed a timetable for the right-hander’s return, should surgery become necessary.

Melancon, 32, has struggled to replicate the sparkling pitching line he produced with the Pirates and Nationals in 2016. He’s toting a 3.80 ERA through 25 appearances with San Francisco, flanked by a 1.1 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 23 2/3 innings. His season has been significantly shortened after multiple trips to the disabled list for a right forearm strain, and while he looked to be in line to resume his closing duties this week, the Giants will likely play it safe with the veteran righty to keep him from compromising his health in 2018.

Although the injury doesn’t appear to be severe in nature, it’s clearly intensified over the last few months. Per MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Melancon said he’s “had discomfort every day this season,” though he hopes to continue pitching through the remainder of 2017. The Giants aren’t on the verge of contending by any stretch of the imagination, but a solid end to the 2017 season could help Melancon make some headway as he looks to reclaim his status as the team’s closer next spring.

Watch: Javier Baez snares a 106-MPH ground ball

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What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Just ask Javier Baez, who tracked down a sizzling 106-MPH ground ball from Jose Bautista on Friday afternoon. The defensive gem helped preserve the Cubs’ three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, paving the way for Wade Davis‘ 25th save of the season.

Baez also impressed at the plate, collecting an RBI single in the second inning before getting tagged out at home by Miguel Montero on a convoluted 9-6-3-6-2 putout. He returned in the eighth inning to pester Tim Mayza and cleared the left field hedge with a 409-foot, two-run blast for his 20th home run of the year. With the win, the Cubs improved to 64-57 and now hold a scant 1.5-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central.