Brandon Barnes hits for the cycle

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Astros outfielder Brandon Barnes doubled in the bottom of the eighth for his fourth hit in as many at-bats to complete the cycle. He homered in the second, tripled in the fourth, singled in the sixth, leaving himself a double short with one at-bat to go. The eighth-inning double also set up a rally as the Astros scored three runs in the inning (still in progress as of this writing), cutting the Mariners’ lead to 9-6.

The 27-year-old Barnes was only hitting .232 with a .623 OPS entering the night. The cycle is a bright spot on an otherwise bleak season for the 33-61 Astros, possessing MLB’s worst run differential at -143 entering the night.

Barnes becomes the eighth Astro to hit for the cycle. The last Astro to accomplish the feat was Luke Scott on July 28, 2006 against the Diamondbacks.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”