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.

Giancarlo Stanton dented the outfield wall in Marlins Park

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If we haven’t said it before, it bears repeating: When it comes to pure muscle mass and power, no major league player rivals the sheer force of Giancarlo Stanton. His record-setting 504-foot home run in 2016 has yet to be bested in the Statcast era (though it narrowly beat out Jake Arrieta‘s 503-foot blast in 2015, because baseball is weird), he broke the Dodgers’ outfield fence on an attempted catch at the wall last Sunday, and he carries 25 home runs that have each exceeded 460 feet.

It should come as little surprise, then, that when Stanton muscled his 12th home run of the season against the Angels on Friday night, it not only hit the batter’s eye, but left a visible dent in the wall:

Stanton’s mammoth shot put the Marlins on the board in the first inning, setting the stage for a four-run effort that gave the club an early lead. The home run measured a cool 462 feet, the slugger’s longest of the season. He still has a little ways to go to catch up to the 2017 season leader, Jake Lamb, whose 481-foot home run against the Rockies currently leads the pack.

The next item on Stanton’s bucket list? If we’re lucky, maybe something a little like this:

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.