Astros, Dallas Keuchel table extension talks until the off-season

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The Astros and ace Dallas Keuchel have tabled extension talks until the off-season, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. He notes that the Astros would like to sign him to at least a four-year deal, which would cover at least one of his free agency years.

Keuchel, 27, will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the season, and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season. He’s due a hefty raise over his 2015 salary of $524,500, as he currently leads the American League with 16 wins and a 2.24 ERA, along with a 173/42 K/BB ratio over 192 2/3 innings. The lefty finished with a 2.93 ERA last season as well.

The Astros enter play Friday with a 73-61 record, leading the AL West by two games over the Rangers. They stand a good chance at ending their post-season drought, which extends back to 2005, so it may not be until late October or November that the two sides will discuss a new contract.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.