Now the Astros are embarrassing themselves

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It’s one thing to play bad baseball. The Astros have had plenty of practice at that. They’ve just never done it with so little class before.

As you may remember from last week’s Athletics-Astros series in Oakland, Astros reliever Paul Clemens threw at (and missed) Jed Lowrie in retaliation for him bunting against the shift in a 7-0 game in the first inning. Lowrie took issue after flying out, and Astros manager Bo Porter came out of the dugout to chastise him.

That was stupid enough, but it almost certainly seemed to be the end of things. Clemens had other ideas, though.

With Lowrie up in the seventh inning in Thursday’s series opener in Houston, Clemens aimed his first pitch at his backside, hitting him this time (Video). Home-plate umpire Toby Basner did the smart thing and immediately ejected Clemens. Lowrie, for his part, raised surprisingly little fuss, though things might have gone differently if not for the ejection.

Clemens, at that point, was probably winding down his evening anyway. Fortunately for the Astros, he didn’t do it the first time he faced Lowrie in the fifth. With starter Brett Oberholtzer done after 3 2/3 innings and two relievers unavailable, the Astros needed a long man. They could still use a fresh arm for Friday, and it’d be fitting if Clemens, who hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory when he’s not trying to drill opposing shortstops, is sent down to make room after his display.

The incident came with the Astros down 8-1. Josh Donaldson immediately followed it with a two-run homer, and the A’s ended up winning 10-1 on a night in which the Astros committed five errors.

Afterwards, Clemens, of course, denied throwing at Lowrie, just as he did last week. Manager Bo Porter rehashed his very same quote from last week. “I think the game of baseball takes care of itself,” he said. “George Springer got hit tonight, and it’s part of the game.”

It’d sure be interesting to know just how much support Clemens had from Porter for his actions. Porter didn’t have anything negative to say about his right-hander afterwards. He didn’t even go the same route as Clemens and say it was an accident.

If Porter really thinks what Lowrie did was worth further retaliation, well, that just makes him a sore loser. Lowrie did nothing wrong in the first place, and even if the warped code of baseball suggests that throwing at him once was OK, going the same route again a week later was nothing short of pathetic.

The Astros, though, have nothing to lose in situations such as this. They’re not competing for anything this year. The A’s, on the other hand, can hardly get involved in beanball wars with last-place clubs as they attempt to win another division crown.

Hopefully, Houston’s front office takes a stand after this one and tells Porter to cut it out. Even if Clemens was completely on his own here, Porter certainly could have done better with his postgame comments. His tough guy act is wearing thin.

Orioles acquire Jeremy Hellickson from Phillies

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In their second trade on Friday, the Phillies dealt right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to the Orioles for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, minor league lefty Garrett Cleavinger and international signing bonus slots. The Orioles will also receive cash considerations from the Phillies.

Hellickson will bolster a pitching staff that, while not well-positioned to contend for a division title, still stands a slim chance of reaching the postseason this year. The Orioles have not yet revealed where he’ll land in the rotation, though MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli speculates that the right-hander could supplant either Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez.

The 30-year-old righty went 6-5 in 20 starts with the Phillies, racking up a 4.75 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 5.2 SO/9 through 112 1/3 innings in 2017. It’s a bit of a comedown from his performance in 2016, during which he maintained a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time since 2012. While Hellickson’s numbers haven’t been outstanding, he’s been relatively healthy and hasn’t sustained anything more serious than a mild knee sprain and back tightness over the last year. His presence should bring some consistency to an ailing Orioles rotation that currently ranks third-worst in the league with a cumulative 5.90 ERA and 2.2 fWAR.

The Phillies will receive some outfield depth in 29-year-old left fielder Hyun Soo Kim, who carries an underwhelming .232/.305/.288 batting line with five extra bases and 10 RBI through his first 142 PA in 2017. He made just 33 starts in left field this season and could step into a similarly limited role in Philadelphia’s outfield after the club traded Howie Kendrick to the Nationals on Friday.

Cleavinger, 23, has seen mixed results in his first Double-A stint this season. The left-hander dragged a 6.28 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through 38 2/3 innings with Double-A Bowie and has struggled to improve both his control and velocity during three seasons in the Orioles’ farm system.

Although the deal netted Baltimore some much-needed pitching depth, they still have a long way to go before they can give the AL’s top teams a run for their money. Per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, it doesn’t look like they’re done adding at the deadline just yet:

Mets acquire AJ Ramos from Marlins

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The Mets acquired closer AJ Ramos from the Marlins, the team reported Friday. The Marlins will receive two prospects in the deal, right-hander Merandy Gonzalez and outfielder Ricardo Cespedes.

The trade comes as some surprise given the Mets’ current status as non-contenders in the NL East, though MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo points out that they could position themselves for the division title again in 2018. They also have a proven closer in right-hander Addison Reed and will presumably continue to field offers for him before he hits free agency following the 2017 season.

Ramos, 30, is coming off of his first All-Star campaign with the Marlins in 2016. He racked up 20 saves in 40 appearances and compiled a 3.63 ERA, 5.0 BB/9 and 10.7 SO/9 over 39 2/3 innings in 2017. He’s due $6.55 million this season and will remain under team control through 2019.

The Marlins, meanwhile, will receive the Mets’ No. 9 and No. 22 prospects. Gonzalez, 21, began the season in rookie ball and advanced to High-A St. Lucie in June, pitching to a cumulative 1.78 ERA, 1.7 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 through 106 innings. He was ranked No. 5 among the Mets’ pitching prospects and No. 9 in their system, and has found some success in the lowest rungs of New York’s farm system despite some command issues and trouble defining his breaking balls.

Cespedes, 19, progressed to Short-Season A Brooklyn in 2017 after several stints in rookie ball. In 81 PA with Brooklyn, the center fielder slashed .240/.278/.280 with a double and 12 RBI before getting sidelined with an undisclosed injury.