Diving into the depths: Houston Astros

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Houston Astros
Rotation
1. Roy Oswalt
2. Wandy Rodriguez
3. Brett Myers
4. Bud Norris
5. Brian Moehler
6. Felipe Paulino
7. Yorman Bazardo
8. Wesley Wright
9. Gustavo Chacin
10. Polin Trinidad
11. Chris Sampson
12. Josh Banks
Who knows just what Myers has left, but the Astros rotation sure looks nicer now than Moehler can be viewed as a fallback, if that’s the way manager Brad Mills wants to go. Given that GM Ed Wade just committed $3 million to Moehler, he’d probably like the veteran in the rotation. Paulino, though, needs to be given every chance to win the fifth spot. The Astros will have to catch some breaks in order to have any hope of contending, and a breakthrough season from Paulino would qualify as a big one.
Bullpen
1. Brandon Lyon
2. Matt Lindstrom
3. Alberto Arias
4. Tim Byrdak
5. Jeff Fulchino
6. Sammy Gervacio
7. Wesley Wright
8. Chris Sampson
9. Brian Moehler
10. Felipe Paulino
11. Roy Corcoran
12. Gary Majewski
The top five should be locks for spots. Gervacio might well prove to be better than any of them, but since he has options left, it’s possible he could be pushed back to Triple-A for the start of the year. It’d become a more likely scenario if Paulino wins a rotation spot, putting Moehler in the bullpen. That’s leave just one opening for Gervacio, Wright and Sampson. Sampson was a forgotten man in the second half of last year, but the Astros kept him in their plans when they decided against non-tendering him in December.


Catcher
1. J.R. Towles
2. Humberto Quintero
3. Jason Castro
4. Brian Esposito
First base
1. Lance Berkman
2. Geoff Blum
3. Chris Shelton
Second base
1. Kaz Matsui
2. Jeff Keppinger
3. Edwin Maysonet
Third base
1. Pedro Feliz
2. Geoff Blum
3. Jeff Keppinger
4. Chris Johnson
Shortstop
1. Tommy Manzella
2. Edwin Maysonet
3. Geoff Blum
4. Wladimir Sutil
Plenty of weak links here. The Astros aren’t likely to suddenly start trusting Towles, and Quintero isn’t even a good backup. Since Castro would benefit from another year in the minors, the team could use Rod Barajas or Yorvit Torrealba. They’re out of budget room now, but maybe they’ll be able to steal one of the two for $1 million.
The rest of the infield is set. At the end of last season, it sounded like Maysonet would have a utility job. However, since the Astros retained both Blum and Keppinger and brought in Feliz, there’s not going to be any room for him unless someone gets hurt. Manzella will be the shortstop and should do a decent Adam Everett impersonation.
Left field
1. Carlos Lee
2. Jason Michaels
3. Brian Bogusevic
4. Alex Romero
5. Yordany Ramirez
Center field
1. Michael Bourn
2. Jason Bourgeois
3. Jason Michaels
4. Brian Bogusevic
5. Yordany Ramirez
Right field
1. Hunter Pence
2. Jason Michaels
3. Alex Romero
4. Yordany Ramirez
5. Brian Bogusevic
Between Michaels, Blum, Keppinger and the backup catcher, four of the five bench spots are set. Bourgeois is still the in-house favorite for the one opening, even though he’s currently on waivers after being dropped from the 40-man roster. Ideally, the Astros would find a better backup center fielder. Michaels lacks range, and neither Bogusevic nor Ramirez figures to prove a capable replacement in the event that Bourn gets hurt.

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports