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.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.