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.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.