Seems Like Old Times; Rangers Slug Astros
Two Veterans Added In Trades

Gattis: After 20th bomb
(c) Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle
As the trade deadline nears, the Astros picked up two veteran pieces this week that are sure to solicit jeers and shrugs from the fans who have watched all the other contenders build their war chests for the stretch run.

First the Astros dealt minor league lefthander Patrick Sandoval to the Angels for catcher Martin Maldonado (.223, 5 HR, .626 OPS) who was a defensive Gold Glover last season. He's expected to replace Tim Federowicz (.229, 0 HR, .523 OPS) as the backup to Max Stassi but he'll be a better late-inning defensive replacement. Keep in mind the Astros had three catchers on their postseason roster last season so Maldonado will stay when Brian McCann returns from knee surgery. Maldonado did add a sacrifice fly in Friday's 11-2 loss to the Rangers.

The second deal was to add a righhanded bullpen arm, Ryan Pressly from the Minnesota Twins, for two minor leaguers - Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino. To make room, the Astros optioned Cuban lefty Cionel Perez back to the minors. Presley is 1-1 with a 3.40 ERA whose calling card is the strikeout, having whiffed 13 per nine innings this year.

Prior to the trade, the Astros bullpen spat up a hairball Friday in a thumping which seemed like it was played in a time warp. There was Yovani Gallardo, one of the great Astro-killers of all time - 17-5 in 27 career games against Houston. And there was Adrian Beltre, with one foot in Cooperstown, smashing three hits.

Robinson Chirinos (why didn't we ask about his trade availability?) smacked a two-run homer and scored three times while Beltre's understudy at third base, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, was 4-for-5 with a homer to pace the Arlington attack.

Dallas Keuchel's brilliant July came crashing down, allowing three runs on six hits over five innings. Brad Peacock allowed two runs and Perez one before the Rangers teed off on Chris Devenski for five runs without an out recorded. Devo is clearly out of sorts and needs to get some rest/coaching to come back to form - could he be tipping his pitches again as he did last season?

Evan Gattis parked his 20th homer of the season in the seventh which was the only bright spot for many in the 42,592 sellout crowd. Fortunately, the M's and the A's were saddled with Ls, so Houston lost no ground in the West Division race.

Saturday's 6:10 pm Central match features Justin Verlander (10-5) against righthander Ariel Jurado (0-1) who is getting a call-up from the minors for this start.

With no Carlos Correa (back) and no Jose Altuve (knee), the Astros' lineup looked like a big doughnut with a hole in it. Gallardo was only too eager to paint those doughnuts on the scoreboard next to the Astros' name.

- Bob Hulsey