Brad Peacock

Following four-game sweep, Astros send Brad Peacock to pen

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Forced to try something new with their starters putting way too much pressure on their bullpen, the Astros dropped Brad Peacock from the rotation on Monday.

No replacement was immediately announced by the team, which lost four straight in Boston this weekend to drop to 7-18.

Peacock, who was part of the Jed Lowrie-Chris Carter deal with the A’s in the offseason, had a 6.01 ERA in Triple-A last year, so his struggles don’t come as much of a surprise. He was 1-3 with an 8.44 ERA in five starts this season. He gave up five runs and walked five in 3 1/3 innings Saturday in a loss to the Red Sox.

Unfortunately for the Astros, that 8.44 ERA didn’t make Peacock the only obvious choice for demotion. While Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris have both been solid in posting ERAs in the low-4.00s, Erik Bedard is at 7.98 and Philip Humber is at 7.99.

In 25 games this season, the Astros have already had three starters pulled in the first inning. Starters were removed prior to completing five innings 12 times in all. In just six of the 25 games have their starters lastedsix innings.

Current relievers Dallas Kuechel and Paul Clemens appear to be the most likely choices to replace Peacock. Travis Blackley might also be a possibility, though he’s struggled some since coming off the DL. Top prospect Jarred Cosart figures to spend a bit more time on the farm before he gets a chance. Ideally, Jordan Lyles would be ready to contribute, but he’s posted a 5.32 ERA and struck out just 11 in 23 2/3 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Report: Phillies want a top-five prospect for Jeremy Hellickson

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 20: Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the second inning during a game against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on July 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Starter Jeremy Hellickson has become the Phillies’ most enticing trade chip as he’s put together a solid month of July. After shutting out the Marlins on one hit and one walk over six innings on Monday, the right-hander lowered his July ERA to 1.97 and his overall ERA to 3.65. As a result, the Phillies are telling teams they want a top-five prospect to part with Hellickson, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Obviously, a top-five prospect means something different if you’re the Marlins as opposed to the Rangers. And the Phillies’ price point for Hellickson isn’t likely to stay that high, but GM Matt Klentak is setting a lofty starting point so that the return might end up being higher than market value.

ESPN’s Buster Olney speculates that the Phillies could end up holding onto Hellickson and giving him a qualifying offer after the season. He notes that the Phillies have only $25 million tied up for the 2017 season, so they could afford to pay Hellickson in excess of $16 million if he were to accept.

Video: Matt Cain launches a three-run home run

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 26: Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants hits a three run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning at AT&T Park on July 26, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Madison Bumgarner isn’t the only Giants pitcher who can rake. Matt Cain crushed a three-run home run during Tuesday’s game against the Giants.

Cain stepped to the plate with runners on the corner and one out against Reds starter Cody Reed in the bottom of the second inning. Reed threw a 1-1 fastball down the middle and Cain hit it about 20 rows back in the left field seats.

It’s Cain’s first homer of the season, his first since 2012, and the seventh of his 12-year career. He still has some work to catch up to Bumgarner, who has two homers this year and 13 in his career.

On the pitching side of things, Cain got the win against the Reds on Tuesday night, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He currently holds an ugly 5.95 ERA.