The Astros are hesitant to trade Chad Qualls

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The Astros are a rebuilding team who is out of contention, so on the surface, they don’t have much need for a veteran closer. However, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that he’s unlikely to move Chad Qualls before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“I hesitate to use the word ‘untouchable,’ but he likes it here, he’s comfortable here and he’s pitching well,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “To have a guy who’s capable of pitching late in the game, in close games, we’re going to have opportunity going forward. This is a team that’s improving, and as the team improves, you have more save opportunities, more opportunities to pitch at the end of close games. We need more Chad Qualls. We don’t need less.”

Perhaps Luhnow is just posturing, but it’s easy to understand why he’s hesitant to deal him. Qualls is owed a little over $1 million for the rest of this season and $3 million in 2015 while his contract includes a $3.5 million club option for 2016 or a $250,000 buyout. The contract is an excellent value given the going rate of MLB closers, so the Astros would likely have to be overwhelmed to deal him.

Qualls has quietly enjoyed an excellent season with Houston, posting a 1.78 ERA and 31/4 K/BB ratio over 35 1/3 innings. He’s 11-for-13 in save chances.

José Ureña drills Ronald Acuña, Marlins’ and Braves’ benches clear

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Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña has been on a tear lately, homering in five consecutive games and in seven of his last eight. His last three games, all against the Marlins, have featured a leadoff home run.

Understandably, Marlins starter José Ureña was not eager to face Acuña leading off Wednesday night’s game. However, Ureña got around facing Acuña by drilling him in the left elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied. No punches were thrown, but there was a lot of yelling.

Braves manager Brian Snitker was thrown out after yelling at the umpires because Ureña was not immediately ejected. The umpires conferred and later decided to eject him before play resumed. They then issued warnings to both teams.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended by Major League Baseball. And he should be.