Tag: Tony Sipp

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis homers twice to send Astros’ winning streak to 10 games


Astros DH Evan Gattis homered twice on Sunday, including a game-deciding solo home run in the eighth inning, to help the Astros defeat the Mariners and extend their winning streak to 10 games.

Gattis’ first homer came in the first inning off of J.A. Happ, a three-run shut to stake the Astros to an early lead. The Astros led 6-2 after six innings, but starter Roberto Hernandez tired in the seventh allowing the first three batters to reach base before giving way to reliever Tony Sipp. Sipp allowed four runs to score, helping the Mariners tie the game at 6-6.

Here’s the line drive Gattis hit into the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park to send the Astros to victory:

The 18-7 Astros are currently 6.5 games ahead of the Angels, who are losing to the Giants at the moment. They’re eight games ahead of the third-place Mariners and eight games ahead of the Athletics, who are winning at the moment.

Video: George Springer robs Leonys Martin of a walk-off grand slam

George Springer

Expect to see Astros outfielder George Springer on the end-of-season highlight reels. The 25-year-old robbed Leonys Martin of a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning on Sunday against the Rangers.

With the score tied at 4-4, the Rangers loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the 10th inning on a single, a hit batsman, and a walk. Martin swung at a 0-2 Tony Sipp slider, sending a fly ball to deep right field. Springer ranged back and leaped to snag the ball just as it appears it would have gone over the fence for a walk-off grand slam. At the very least, it would have been a long walk-off single if Springer had not caught it.

The Astros took a 6-4 lead in the top of the 14th thanks to a two-run home run from Hank Conger. The Rangers again loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the 14th, but Rougned Odor lined out to — who else? — Springer in right field to end the game. Sam Deduno earned the first save of his career.

2015 Preview: Houston Astros

Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch Astros

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Houston Astros.

The Big Question: Are the Astros ready to contend?

This is Year 5 of the Astros’ scorched-earth rebuilding plan that has seen them lose 106, 107, 111, and 92 games while overhauling the front office, firing a pair of managers, ditching veterans, and stockpiling young talent. Last year’s 70-92 record was the fourth-worst in baseball and might suggest it’ll be another long season in 2015, but the Astros made big strides in the second half and added plenty of veteran help via trades and signings this offseason.

Clearly general manager Jeff Luhnow believes the Astros are ready to take a big step forward.

Houston went 34-38 over the final 72 games of the season, including 20-20 for the final six weeks. And then they started adding pieces. They traded for slugger Evan Gattis, remodeled the bullpen by signing Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson, picked up a starting shortstop by bringing Jed Lowrie back into the fold as a free agent, added Colby Rasmus to the outfield and Luis Valbuena to the infield, traded for a backup catcher in Hank Conger, and gave the rotation depth a boost with Dan Straily and Roberto Hernandez.

None of those are championship-making moves, certainly, but most of them were made with the short-term good of the team in mind and together they clearly signal a shift from full-on rebuilding mode to actually building something. Last season’s five best players–Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Chris Carter, Collin McHugh–are all still around and all 28 years old or younger. And stockpiling young talent in the minors has already started to show some dividends, with another wave of high-end prospects on the way soon led by back-to-back No. 1 picks Carlos Correa and Mark Appel.

Houston will be better in 2016 than in 2015 and better still in 2017, but the Astros have a chance to be a .500 team this season if a few things break right for them.

What else is going on?

  • Houston’s bullpen ranked dead last in baseball last season with a 4.80 ERA. Luhnow tried to address that problem in a huge way by making serious runs as big-ticket free agent relievers David Robertson and Andrew Miller. Those attempts fell short, but the Neshek-Gregerson duo is a damn good consolation prize. They combined to throw 140 innings with a 1.99 ERA and 127/24 K/BB ratio last season and both right-handers have a career ERA under 3.00. Toss in Chad Qualls and Josh Fields from the right side and Tony Sipp and Joe Thatcher from the left side and the Astros’ bullpen may actually be a strength.
  • Dallas Keuchel came out of nowhere last season to rank as one of the league’s best left-handers, throwing 200 innings with a 2.93 ERA and winning a Gold Glove award. He was the easy pick to start Opening Day and his ability to avoid turning back into a pumpkin is one of the biggest keys to the Astros’ season. Keuchel is a ground-ball machine and gets a decent number of strikeouts, which is always a winning combo, but prior to 2014 he had a 5.20 ERA in the majors and a 4.74 ERA at Triple-A through age 25.
  • Springer immediately lived up to the hype in his (injury-shortened) debut, but fellow top prospect Jon Singleton struggled mightily by hitting .168 with 134 strikeouts in 95 games during his first taste of the big leagues. Singleton cracked Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list four times and seems all but certain to hit for big-time power eventually, but his lowly .241 batting average at Triple-A combined with tons of strikeouts mean he still has a lot to prove as an all-around hitter.
  • Lots of power and lots of strikeouts is basically the story of the Astros’ entire lineup, even more so than last year when they led the AL in strikeouts and ranked third in homers. And the amazing thing is that Altuve had the most plate appearances on the team with 707–a hundred more than anyone else–and struck out just 53 times. It may not always be pretty and will lead to some extended slumps, but for the most part strikeouts are just a type of out rather than something to be avoided at all costs and Luhnow sacrificing contact in the name of adding elite power at a time when it’s particularly tough to find is an intriguing strategy. They could top 200 homers for the first time since 2001 and just the third time in franchise history.

Prediction: Another step forward to 75-plus wins, another avoidance of last place, and enough progress to convince everyone they’ll contend for the playoffs in 2016.

MLB unlikely to institute a pitch clock in 2015

Alarm Clock

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports is reporting that MLB is “highly unlikely” to adopt a pitch clock for the 2015 season. The pitch-clock rule was being tested in the Arizona Fall League, which stipulated a pitcher had 20 seconds between pitches to get the ball back, get his sign from the catcher, and begin his delivery. Morosi says that the rule has insufficient support among Major League Baseball and the Players Association.

The starting pitchers that would have been most affected by the implementation of such a rule, using “pace” data from FanGraphs:

  • David Price, Tigers: 26.6 seconds between pitches
  • Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies: 26.0
  • Clay Buchholz, Red Sox: 25.6

And relievers:

  • Joel Peralta, Rays: 32.1
  • Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox: 31.8
  • Tony Sipp, Astros: 30.3
  • Joaquin Benoit, Padres: 30.3

Some other rules will be up for consideration when MLB owners hold their quarterly meetings in Arizona, including a possible amendment to Rule 7.13, a rule stipulating that runners have to slide directly into second base in an attempt to break up double plays, and a one-foot-in-the-batter’s-box rule.

Video: Two controversial plays happen on the same play, challenge ensues

Gregorio Petit, Burke Badenhop

An interesting situation arose in the top of the eighth inning in Friday night’s game at Fenway Park between the Astros and the Red Sox. The Astros were trailing 3-2 in the eighth but were threatening with runners on first and second with two outs and Matt Dominguez at the plate against reliever Burke Badenhop.

Dominguez hit a weak line drive to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who fielded it on one hop and fed second baseman Dustin Pedroia an underhand toss. Dexter Fowler slid in about the same time the ball went into Pedroia’s glove, and second base umpire Pat Hoberg ruled Fowler safe. Pedroia then fired to catcher Christian Vazquez as pinch-runner Gregorio Petit was on his way home. Vazquez, for some reason, took the throw several steps in front of home plate before trying to run Petit down. Petit juked Vazquez and dashed home towards the back of the plate. Vazquez passed the ball to Badenhop covering home, and Petit juked him, too, reaching down and touching the plate with his right hand. Petit was ruled safe as well by home plate umpire Cory Blaser.

Red Sox manager John Farrell came out to challenge the call at second (which, if overturned, would invalidate the play at home plate as there would then be three outs), but after a lengthy review, the call at second was upheld and thus the call at home plate was as well.

The official scoring is a fielder’s choice with the run scoring on Vazquez’s error — no RBI for Dominguez.

The Astros eventually overcame the Red Sox, winning 5-3 in 10 innings. Marisnick knocked in a pair of runs with a double in the top of the 10th and Tony Sipp closed out the bottom half of the inning for the win.