Chris Johnson powers Astros with two homers, six RBI

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Chris Johnson entered Wednesday without a homer in 86 at-bats, but he took Chris Schwinden deep in each of his first two plate appearances today to lead the Astros to an 8-1 win over the Mets.

Johnson drove in five runs with the two homers and later added a sixth RBI on a single on his way to a 4-for-4 day. He joined Ryan Braun in becoming the second player this season to collect at least four hits, two homers and six RBI in a game. No Astro had pulled off that feat since Lance Berkman on June 14, 2001.

Johnson appeared to be fading from Houston’s plans as last year went along, but he managed to  overtake Jimmy Paredes on the depth chart and regain his starting job at third base this spring.  At 27, this could well be his last chance to make it. Johnson is a below average defender at third base, and while he’s a career .277 hitter, that comes with a putrid 218/35 K/BB ratio in 831 career at-bats. Since he’ll likely always sport subpar OBPs, it’s a must that he starts hitting for more power, like he did today.

Skaggs Case: Federal Agents have interviewed at least six current or former Angels players

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The Los Angeles Times reports that federal agents have interviewed at least six current and former Angels players as part of their investigation into the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Among the players questioned: Andrew Heaney, Noé Ramirez, Trevor Cahill, and Matt Harvey. An industry source tells NBC Sports that the interviews by federal agents are part of simultaneous investigations into Skaggs’ death by United States Attorneys in both Texas and California.

There has been no suggestion that the players are under criminal scrutiny or are suspected of using opioids. Rather, they are witnesses to the ongoing investigation and their statements have been sought to shed light on drug use by Skaggs and the procurement of illegal drugs by him and others in and around the club.

Skaggs asphyxiated while under the influence of fentanyl, oxycodone, and alcohol in his Texas hotel room on July 1. This past weekend, ESPN reported that Eric Kay, the Los Angeles Angels’ Director of Communications, knew that Skaggs was an Oxycontin addict, is an addict himself, and purchased opioids for Skaggs and used them with him on multiple occasions. Kay has told DEA agents that, apart from Skaggs, at least five other Angels players are opioid users and that other Angels officials knew of Skaggs’ use. The Angels have denied Kay’s allegations.

In some ways this all resembles what happened in Pittsburgh in the 1980s, when multiple players were interviewed and subsequently called as witnesses in prosecutions that came to be known as the Pittsburgh Drug Trials. There, no baseball players were charged with crimes in connection with what was found to be a cocaine epidemic inside Major League clubhouses, but their presence as witnesses caused the prosecutions to be national news for weeks and months on end.