Maybe MLB needs a draft lottery, too

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In case you missed it, the Astros, by virtue of losing their ninth straight game, clinched the first overall pick in 2014 MLB draft. Technically, they can still end up tied with the Marlins at 57-105 if they win the rest of their games and the Marlins lose out, but they’d own the tiebreaker by virtue of finishing with a worse record than the Marlins in 2012.

Which, of course they did. This will be their third straight year with the first overall pick.

Fortunately for the rest of the league, the Astros’ tanking hasn’t yet paid off as well as the Nationals’ back-to-back No. 1 overall picks when they landed Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. There are high hopes attached to shortstop Carlos Correa and right-hander Mark Appel, but neither was a slam-dunk No. 1 pick.

On the other hand, next year’s likely will be: N.C. State left-hander Carlos Rodon looks like the best draft prospect since Harper was picked in 2010.

And it hardly seems fair to the rest of the league that the Astros will get him as a reward for their efforts to assemble the game’s worst team. It’d be nice if some team that wasn’t necessarily trying to lose had a chance instead. That’s not a slam of the Astros — bottoming out was absolutely the right course for the organization. It’s just that MLB shouldn’t be so generous in rewarding them for it. A 10-team lottery in the NBA fashion (the worse teams get more ping-pong balls and such) seems like a better plan. Because even though the Astros’ run as the game’s worst team is just about over, teams bottoming out when they have little chance of contending is likely to become a more common occurrence.

Astros rally past Orioles to give Baker milestone 100th win

Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles
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BALTIMORE – Yuli Gurriel hit a two-run single to cap a ninth-inning uprising that carried the Houston Astros past the Baltimore Orioles 11-10 Saturday night, giving manager Dusty Baker his milestone 100th win of the season.

Houston trailed 9-7 before mounting a four-run rally against Orioles closer Felix Bautista (4-4). Kyle Tucker tied it with a two-out RBI double and Gurriel followed with a single, the pivotal salvo in this see-saw duel.

On the brink of making up ground in the playoff hunt, the Orioles dropped four games behind Seattle in the chase for the third and final AL wild card. Both teams have 11 games left.

“Every game that you lose right now hurts,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’ve got to rebound and try to win a series tomorrow.”

Anthony Santander hit two home runs for the Orioles, and Cedric Mullins and Rougned Odor also went deep. But Baltimore could not contain a Houston lineup that was coming off two straight shutout losses to the Orioles.

Baker joined Hall of Famers Sparky Anderson, Tony La Russa and Whitey Herzog as the only managers in major league history to have 100-win seasons in both leagues.

Now in his 25th season as a big league manager, Baker made his debut with the 1993 San Francisco Giants and won 103 games. He never reached triple digits again until this season, his third with Houston.

Anderson accomplished the feat with Cincinnati and Detroit, La Russa did it with Oakland and St. Louis, and Herzog turned the trick with Kansas City and the Cardinals.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Baker said. “It’s been a record-setting year in many ways, and we’ve got a couple more records to go.”

Bautista had converted 13 straight saves and entered with a 1.71 ERA, but on this night he got three outs and gave up four runs.

“He’s not going to be perfect all the time,” Hyde said. “That’s a hiccup.”

Houston trailed 7-6 in the eighth before Gurriel doubled in a run against Bautista. In the bottom half, Ryan Mountcastle singled off Rafael Montero (5-2) and Santander followed with a shot to deep center.

But it wasn’t enough in this wild slugfest. Ryan Pressly gave up a ninth-inning homer to Odor but earned his 31st save.

“They got some big hits, we got some big hits. They were celebrating, we were celebrating,” Baker said. “I’m just glad we won. That was a strange game.”

Astros starter Framber Valdez allowed seven runs, four earned, and 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings. It was the first time in 26 starts since April 19 that the left-hander failed to go at least six innings, and it was the most runs he’s given up since Sept. 6, 2020, against the Los Angeles Angels.

Valdez was pulled in the sixth after giving up a single, a walk and an RBI single to Mountcastle that put Baltimore ahead 7-6.

The lead would not hold up, but Santander turned a back-and-forth game in Baltimore’s direction two innings later.

MANCINI RESTED

Traded from the Orioles to Houston in August, Trey Mancini received a warm ovation from Baltimore fans upon returning Thursday night and was cheered again Friday night. But Mancini was benched Saturday after going 1 for 22 with six strikeouts over his past six games (dropping his batting average with Houston to .184). “We are going to give Mancini a couple of days (off) because I think he needs it,” Baker said.

THANKS, BROOKS

Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson was honored before the game on the 45th anniversary of his retirement. The former Oriole waved to fans as he was ushered around the field in a convertible, stopping briefly to chat with Baker and Astros third baseman Alex Bregman. The 85-year-old Robinson also threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: SS Jeremy Pena left in the sixth inning with a facial abrasion. Baker said Pena passed concussion protocol and was going to have a scheduled day off Sunday.

Orioles: INF Ramon Urias returned to the starting lineup after being sidelined with neck and back spasms. … LHP John Means worked out in the team weight room and remains on course to return next year after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery. “We’re really happy with the way it’s progressing,” Hyde said.

UP NEXT

Astros: Cristian Javier (10-9, 2.77 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday. In his last outing, the right-hander threw five shutout innings to beat Tampa Bay.

Orioles: Right-hander Austin Voth (5-3, 2.84 with Baltimore) makes his 17th start since being acquired on waivers from Washington in June.