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News & Analysis

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros
Recap

Astros smack 3 HRs, win 11th straight in rout of Nationals

May 14, 2022, 2:06 AM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros belted three early home runs and rode a strong starting pitching from Framber Valdez to win their 11th game in a row by beating the host Washington Nationals 6-1 on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series.

Jose Altuve's solo shot and Yuli Gurriel's two-run blast came in a five-run first inning. Yordan Alvarez homered in the third.

By then, Valdez was on his way to a stellar performance in what became the Astros' fifth consecutive win by five or more runs -- the last four of those on the road.

Valdez (2-2) lasted 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run and seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts. He notched his first victory since Opening Day.

Washington lost for the fourth time in its last five games. The Nationals didn't score until the seventh inning on Alcides Escobar's fielder's choice grounder. That scoring chance stemmed from Keibert Ruiz's leadoff walk.

Nelson Cruz finished with two of Washington's eight singles and the team went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.

It was the first meeting between the teams since the Nationals won Game 7 of the 2019 World Series. Houston manager Dusty Baker faced Washington for the first time since his time as manager of the Nationals ended after the 2017 season.

Alvarez's blast went to center field, boosting the margin to 6-0 for his team-high 11th long ball of the season.

Washington starter Josiah Gray (4-3) made it through six innings, allowing all six runs on six hits. He struck out five and walked two.

Houston had only one hit after the third inning. Five of the team's hits came in the first frame.

It was all about timely hitting for the Astros, with Alvarez and Gurriel each having two hits among the team's seven. Houston left only three runners on base.

--Field Level Media

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros
Preview

2019 World Series a distant memory as Nationals meet Astros

May 13, 2022, 7:07 AM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The first matchup of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series will feature one person with a unique understanding of what that winner-take-all clash meant to both franchises.

However, only Houston manager Dusty Baker's current team will look anything like a World Series contender Friday, when the Astros visit the Nationals. It will be Baker's first game against Washington since his managerial tenure with the club ended following the 2017 season.

Astros left-hander Framber Valdez (1-2, 3.34 ERA) is slated to start against right-hander Josiah Gray (4-2, 3.45).

The Astros ran their winning streak to 10 games and moved into first place in the American League West by winning twice Thursday afternoon. After beating the host Minnesota Twins 11-3 in the completion of a game suspended due to thunderstorms Wednesday night, Houston earned a 5-0 win in the regularly scheduled contest.

The Nationals fell 4-1 to the visiting New York Mets on Thursday in the rubber game of a three-game series. Washington has dropped six of its past eight games.

Baker led the Nationals to back-to-back National League East crowns in 2016-17, but he wasn't offered a new contract after consecutive failures in the NL Division Series. He acknowledged Thursday he is still unsure why Washington didn't retain him.

"I really enjoyed my time in Washington," Baker said. "The two years I was there was probably some of the most enjoyable times that I've ever had in baseball, on the field and off the field."

After two years out of the game, Baker was hired in January 2020 by the Astros -- fresh off their World Series loss to the Nationals -- when A.J. Hinch was fired for his role in Houston's sign-stealing scandal throughout the 2017 World Series-winning season.

The Astros went 29-31 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season but pushed the Tampa Bay Rays to seven games in the AL Championship Series. Houston made the World Series again last year -- Baker's first appearance in the Fall Classic since he was with the San Francisco Giants in 2002 -- before falling to the Atlanta Braves in six games.

A 6-2 win over the Astros on Oct. 30, 2019 proved to be the closing of the championship window for the Nationals, who are 102-153 since then and appear on their way to a third straight last-place finish in the NL East.

Of the 12 players who appeared in the clincher, only superstar Juan Soto, fellow outfielder Victor Robles and pitcher Patrick Corbin remain with the Nationals.

A baserunning gaffe in the fourth inning Thursday underlined just how far the Nationals are from their World Series-winning moment. Soto got caught in a rundown between second and third on a grounder to third by Josh Bell, who went to second during the rundown but was thrown out after he tried to advance to third following an errant throw into right field by Mets pitcher Taijuan Walker.

"When we make errors like that, it hurts the whole team," Soto said.

Valdez didn't factor into the decision on Saturday, when he gave up two runs over six innings as the Astros beat the Detroit Tigers 3-2.

Gray earned a win on Saturday after surrendering three runs over 5 1/3 innings in the Nationals' 7-3 victory over the Angels.

Valdez has never faced the Nationals, and Gray has never opposed the Astros.

--Field Level Media

MLB: Chicago Cubs at San Diego Padres
News

Nationals claim RHP Cory Abbott off waivers from Giants

May 4, 2022, 8:38 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals moved left-hander Sean Doolittle to the 60-day injured list Wednesday and claimed right-hander Cory Abbott from the San Francisco Giants.

Doolittle, 35, has been in the 10-day IL since April 20 with a left elbow sprain and now will be out at least until June. He had given up just one hit over 5 1/3 scoreless innings over six appearances to start the season.

Doolittle is 26-24 with 11 saves and a 3.20 ERA in 463 career relief appearances over 11 seasons for four teams, including the Oakland Athletics for six seasons (2012-17) and five with the Nationals (2017-20, 2022).

Abbott, 26, made seven major league appearances (one start) with the Chicago Cubs last season, posting a 6.75 ERA without a decision. He had two appearances at Triple-A for the Cubs this season before he was purchased by the Giants on April 21.

All 74 of Abbott's minor league appearances since 2017 have been starts. He was a second-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2017.

--Field Level Media

MLB: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals
News

Astros DFA right-hander Pedro Baez

April 26, 2022, 9:55 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros designated right-hander Pedro Baez for assignment Tuesday, midway through a two-year, $12.5 million deal he signed in January 2021.

In fact, Baez pitched just 6 2/3 innings on the new contract and will earn $7.5 million -- $5.5 million for 2022 and a $2 million buyout for 2023.

In a corresponding move, the Astros recalled RHP Seth Martinez from Triple-A Sugar Land.

Baez, 34, was 0-0 with an 11.57 ERA in three appearances this season. He missed the majority of the 2021 season, pitching 4 1/3 innings in four appearances and sporting a 2.08 ERA.

Baez spent his first seven seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is 21-15 with a 3.08 ERA in 362 career appearances.

Martinez, 27, made his major league debut last September with the Astros. He appeared in three games without recording a decision with an ERA of 15.00.

--Field Level Media

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros
News

Astros put 2B Jose Altuve (hamstring) on IL

April 20, 2022, 8:59 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve landed on the 10-day injured list Wednesday with an injured left hamstring.

In two corresponding moves, the Astros selected the contract of J.J. Matijevic and moved fellow infielder Taylor Jones to the 60-day IL to make space on the 40-man roster.

Altuve suffered the injury in the eighth inning of Monday night's 8-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels. He legged out a ground ball to third and then collapsed past first base. He was replaced by pinch runner Aledmys Diaz.

He underwent an MRI on Tuesday and did not play in Tuesday night's game. Astros general manager James Click said the team expects Altuve will return after the minimal amount of days on the IL.

Altuve, 31, is off to a slow start, batting just .167 with a home run and three RBIs in 36 at bats over nine games.

The 2017 American League MVP is a career .307 hitter and has won three batting titles (2014, 2016 and 2017).

The first appearance for Matijevic would mark his major league debut. The 26-year-old was a second-round pick in the 2017 draft. He's batting .310/.420/.714 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 11 games at Triple A Sugar Land. Primarily a first baseman, Matijevic also plays left field.

--Field Level Media

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros
News

Astros 2B Jose Altuve having MRI on hamstring

April 19, 2022, 6:40 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday on his strained left hamstring.

MLB Network reported the MRI will provide a timetable for how long the seven-time All-Star might be sidelined.

Altuve suffered the injury in the eighth inning of Monday night's 8-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels. He legged out a ground ball to third and then collapsed past first base. He was replaced by pinch runner Aledmys Diaz.

Altuve, 31, is off to a slow start, batting just .167 with a home run and three RBIs in 36 at bats over nine games.

The 2017 American League MVP is a career .307 hitter and has won three batting titles (2014, 2016 and 2017).

--Field Level Media

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals
News

White Sox-Guardians, Diamondbacks-Nats PPD due to weather

April 18, 2022, 5:17 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

A pair of Major League Baseball games were scratched Monday due to inclement weather.

The Cleveland Guardians postponed their series opener against the visiting Chicago White Sox, and the Washington Nationals did the same with their first game against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks and Nationals rescheduled the contest as part of a split doubleheader on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. ET.

The White Sox and Guardians will now play a split doubleheader on July 12 at 1:10 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. ET.

--Field Level Media

MLB: All Star Game-Workouts
News

Lerner family to explore selling Nationals

April 11, 2022, 6:11 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner said Monday that the family has hired an investment bank to explore the possibility of selling the MLB team.

Lerner made the statement to The Washington Post.

"This is an exploratory process, so there is no set timetable or expectation of a specific outcome," Lerner told the newspaper in a statement. "The organization is as committed as ever to their employees, players, fans, sponsors and partners and to putting a competitive product on the field."

Mark Lerner was named principal owner in June 2018, assuming the role from his father, real estate magnate Ted Lerner, who bought the Nationals from Major League Baseball in July 2006 for $450 million. Ted Lerner is 96 years old.

In March, Forbes put the value of the Nationals at $2 billion.

The family has hired investment bank Allen & Company to research potential investors and possibly buyers. A Nationals spokeswoman told the Post that a "full transfer of ownership is possible."

Mark Lerner is joined in the decision making with five others in the family, including his two sisters.

He told the Post in 2018 that the family "will never sell the Nationals."

"There's no intention of this family -- certainly while I'm alive and my sisters and brothers-in-law are alive -- nobody's going to sell this team," Mark Lerner said then.

--Field Level Media

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros
News

Nationals place RHP Anibal Sanchez (nerve) on IL

April 11, 2022, 4:59 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals placed right-handed pitcher Anibal Sanchez on the 10-day injured list with a cervical nerve impingement on Monday.

The move is retroactive to April 8.

In a corresponding move, the Nationals recalled left-handed pitcher Josh Rogers from Triple-A Rochester.

Sanchez, 38, spent the 2021 season out of baseball and re-signed with Nationals in March, hoping to make the roster. He was a starter on the 2019 Washington team that won the World Series and also spent 2020 with the team.

In 15 major league seasons with four teams, Sanchez is 112-113 with a 4.05 ERA in 350 games (327 starts). He has struck out 1,726 batters in 1,948 1/3 innings.

In two seasons with the Nationals, he posted a 15-13 record and 4.52 ERA in 41 starts.

Rogers, 27, was optioned to Rochester at the end of spring training. He went 2-2 with a 3.28 ERA in six games (all starts) with the Nationals in 2021.

--Field Level Media

MLB: World Series-Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros
News

Reports: Reliever Ryan Pressly, Astros agree to 2-year extension

April 6, 2022, 4:51 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Right-handed All-Star reliever Ryan Pressly and the Houston Astros agreed on a two-year, $30 million contract extension, multiple outlets reported.

The deal runs through the 2024 season but could be worth up to $42 million with a 2025 vesting option that kicks in if he appears in at least 50 games in 2023 and '24, MLB.com reported.

He would have been a free agent at the end of the 2022 season.

Pressly, 33, was 5-3 in 2021 with a career-low ERA of 2.25 and a career high in saves, converting 26 of 28 opportunities. In 64 innings, he allowed 49 hits and struck out 81.

The Astros acquired Pressly in July 2018 for center fielder Gilberto Celestino and right-hander Jorge Alcala.

In nine seasons with the Twins (2013-18) and Astros, Pressly has a 26-25 record with a 3.23 ERA and 44 saves over 479 2/3 innings pitched in 449 relief appearances. He was an All-Star in 2019 and '21.

--Field Level Media

MLB: Winter Meetings
News

Carlos Beltran: Astros’ World Series title ‘stained’ by scandal

April 4, 2022, 4:23 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Former Houston player and new Yankees TV analyst Carlos Beltran conceded that the Astros' 2017 World Series title is "stained" by the sign-stealing scandal that roiled Major League Baseball.

Beltran made the comments in an interview with YES Network that airs Monday, coinciding with Beltran's first day on the job covering the New York Yankees for the network.

Beltran was a player on the Astros in 2017 -- his 20th and final major-league season -- and appeared in 129 games, hitting .231 with 14 home runs.

"Looking back now, yes, we did cross the line," Beltran told Michael Kay of YES in the interview.

Beltran responded affirmatively when asked by Kay if the Astros' title is stained.

"Yeah, there is because, you know what we did," Beltran said. "And we all have taken responsibility and at some point we all have shown remorse about what we did."

Beltran lost out on managing the New York Mets over the scandal. He was hired in November 2019 and let go in January 2020 when his part in the scandal was revealed in an MLB report. He was the only player named in the report because he was "a central figure in conceiving the scheme," The New York Times reported at the time.

"We all did what we did," Beltran said. "Looking back today, we were wrong. I wish I would've asked more questions about what we were doing. I wish the organization would've said to us, ‘Hey man, what you guys are doing, we need to stop this.'"

The Astros' defeated the Yankees in seven games in the American League Championship Series and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series -- also in seven games.

"Nobody said anything to us, you know, nobody said anything. I wish somebody would've said something," Beltran, 44, said. "A lot of people always ask me why you didn't stop it. And my answer is, ‘I didn't stop it the same way no one stopped it.' This is working for us. Why you gonna stop something that is working for you? So, if the organization would've said something to us, we would've stopped it for sure."

In 2,586 career games, Beltran hit 435 home runs, drove in 1,587 runs and won three Gold Gloves. His career stolen base success rate of 86.4 percent is the highest of any player in history with at least 300 steals.

--Field Level Media

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at St. Louis Cardinals
News

Astros won’t give Justin Verlander Opening Day nod

March 30, 2022, 12:09 AM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Two-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander is ramping up for the 2022 Major League Baseball season, but that won't include starting for the Houston Astros on Opening Day.

Verlander, 39 years old and returning from Tommy John surgery, has maintained a 0.00 ERA in three starts in spring training.

But neither Verlander nor manager Dusty Baker felt it was worth taking the risk just to get him on the mound slightly earlier than planned.

"With the shortened spring, we sat down and talked about it extensively," Verlander said. "We all agreed that trying to build up my pitch count and also (trying) to go on five days every single day just seemed like a lot of extra stress for no reason. So, yeah, we built in these starts where I had an extra blow, kind of like we would in season."

Baker said not using Verlander on April 7, when Houston opens its season at the Los Angeles Angels, will allow him to take advantage of three days off the Astros have in the first two weeks of their schedule.

Houston has not yet named its Opening Day starter. Verlander has pitched on Opening Day 12 times in his career, which is tied for eighth-most in baseball history.

"There's two ways to look at it," Verlander said. "It would be nice to be out there on Opening Day and kind of back out there in that atmosphere, but also with all the perspective I have over the last couple of years, I'm going to really enjoy this Opening Day and not having to pitch, enjoy watching the festivities, enjoying the atmosphere and just being part of the team and being in the dugout and hearing the crowd."

Verlander last pitched in an MLB game July 24, 2020 -- his only appearance of that season before being shut down. He missed the entire 2021 season.

--Field Level Media

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros
News

Juan Soto, Nationals agree to $17.1M deal for 2022

March 23, 2022, 12:40 AM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals star outfielder Juan Soto agreed to a one-year, $17.1 million deal on Tuesday to avoid arbitration.

Soto's deal sets up the 23-year-old for a bigger payday somewhere down the line. Washington was reportedly rebuffed after it offered a 13-year, $350 million extension during the offseason.

Soto isn't slated to become a free agent until after the 2024 season.

Soto was runner-up for National League MVP honors when he batted .313 with 29 homers and 95 RBIs in 151 games. He led the majors with 145 walks and a .465 on-base percentage.

One year earlier, Soto led the NL with a .351 batting average during the shortened 2020 season.

Overall, Soto has 98 homers and 312 RBIs in 464 career games. He has a career slash line of .301/.432./550.

The Nationals also agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with first baseman Josh Bell. The 29-year-old batted .261 with 27 homers and 88 RBIs in 144 games last season.

Washington also agreed to deals with right-handers Joe Ross ($2.4 million), Erick Fedde ($2.15 million), Austin Voth ($850,000) and Tanner Rainey (unknown).

--Field Level Media

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves
News

Nationals retiring Ryan Zimmerman's No. 11 on June 18

March 22, 2022, 3:48 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals will retire longtime first baseman Ryan Zimmerman's uniform No. 11 on June 18.

Zimmerman, 37, announced his retirement last month after 16 seasons with the club.

The two-time All-Star's number is the first to be retired since the franchise relocated from Montreal after the 2004 season.

The Nationals announced plans on Monday for Ryan Zimmerman weekend on June 17-18, when the Philadelphia Phillies are scheduled to visit the nation's capital.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">No other player in Washington Nationals history will wear No. 11.<br><br>It belongs to Mr. National, Ryan Zimmerman. <a href="https://t.co/7fBdtrsDoZ">pic.twitter.com/7fBdtrsDoZ</a></p>&mdash; Washington Nationals (@Nationals) <a href="https://twitter.com/Nationals/status/1506036607937359873?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 21, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The Nationals' first-ever draft pick in 2005, Zimmerman won a World Series with Washington in 2019 and is the club's all-time leader in games (1,799), runs (963), hits (1,846), doubles (417), homers (284) and RBIs (1,061).

--Field Level Media

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
News

Nationals, DH Nelson Cruz agree to deal

March 14, 2022, 3:02 AM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Designated hitter Nelson Cruz jumped to the National League and the Washington Nationals on Sunday, agreeing to a one-year deal with an option for 2023, according to multiple reports.

The contract is pending a physical.

At least three other NL teams, preparing to adapt to the new DH rules, were in the bidding for Cruz, according to reports.

Cruz, a 17-year veteran who will turn 42 on July 1, is a seven-time All-Star, including last season, when he had 32 homers, 86 RBIs and a .265 batting average in 140 games in a split season with the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays acquired him in July.

Cruz led the American League in home runs with 40 in 2014 while playing for the Baltimore Orioles. He posted a league-high 119 RBIs in 2017 for the Seattle Mariners.

Cruz was selected as the Roberto Clemente Award winner for 2021. The award is given annually to the player who "best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field."

Cruz has worked to improve lives in his hometown, Las Matas de Santa Cruz, in a remote area of the Dominican Republic.

His career hasn't been without controversy, however. In 2013, as a member of the Texas Rangers, Cruz was among 12 players suspended by Major League Baseball for violating the league's steroid policy. Cruz served a 50-game suspension.

For his career, Cruz has 449 home runs -- tied for 40th on baseball's all-time list -- along with 1,238 RBIs, a .277 batting average, a .346 on-base percentage and a .527 slugging percentage.

Cruz has played for the Milwaukee Brewers (2005), Texas (2006-13), Baltimore (2014), the Seattle Mariners (2015-18), Minnesota (2019-21) and Tampa Bay last season.

--Field Level Media