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.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.