Houston's woeful hitting of late followed them to Seattle Monday where James Paxton tossed seven innings of three-hit shutout ball and Nelson Cruz drove in the game's only runs with a sixth-inning two-out double off Gerrit Cole to post a 2-0 whitewash of the Astros that closed Houston's lead in the AL West to a scant three games.
Osuna or later, our new closer
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Paxton struck out eight and did not walk a batter. Alex Colome and Edwin Diaz worked the last two frames for the M's with Diaz picking up his 40th save. Now THAT, friends, is a closer which is what the Astros tried to add just before the trade deadline but GM Jeff Luhnow truly exchanged one high-risk reliever for another. More on that below.
Cole had a no-hitter through five innings before it unraveled in the sixth. It all happened with two outs. All-Star Jean Segura beat out a base hit to ersatz second baseman Yuli Gurriel. Denard Span followed with a clean single to center. Nelson Cruz then smacked a slider between J.D. Davis and the third base bag with enough backspin to kick off the left field stands and bounce back into fair grounds. Span scored all the way from first and just beat the high throw from Marwin Gonzalez for Seattle's second run.
Cole allowed four hits in 6-2/3rd innings while walking two and striking out eight. Ryan Pressly tossed the final four outs.
Next up, the Astros look to Charlie Morton (11-2) to snap their five-game losing skid as he faces off with Mike "Security" Leake (8-6) in a 9:10 pm Central beddy-bye time duel. Monday's contest at Safeco Field took a tidy 2:19 to complete so it finished well before Midnight, Houston-time, earlier than a few games at Minute Maid this season.
The big news, however, was made in the afternoon when the Astros acquired troubled closer Roberto Osuna, currently serving a 75-game suspension for domestic abuse, from the Toronto Blue Jays for former closer Ken Giles, pitcher David Paulino and minor leaguer Hector Perez.
The Astros swear up and down that the former All-Star is remorseful and has participated in all treatment programs and counseling since the suspension. In addition, Osuna says he suffers from anxiety and sought treatment after a slump last season.
Still, he is just 23 years old and has saved 103 games with a 2.87 in 3+ seasons in the majors. The native of Mexico strikes out on average 10 batters for every nine innings during his career and has lowered his walk rate every season. He will complete his suspension on August 5th so there's plenty of time to get playoff-ready.
Giles simply couldn't hold down the closer role while an Astro after Houston traded five guys to Philadelphia in December, 2015, to get him. He was noted for untimely meltdowns and a few displays of self-abuse (at least he only beat up himself). Paulino has appeared in nine games (seven starts) for the Astros with a 2-1 record and a 6.25 ERA. Paulino served an 80-game suspension last year for using a banned substance to enhance performance. Perez is the only guy in this deal who doesn't need a couch.
There's no question the media is going to pounce on Osuna for some time regarding his alleged assault of his girlfriend and Astros players, who were quick to unload on AA player Danry Vazquez after he was caught on tape beating a woman, are speaking in measured terms for now about their new teammate. Currently, there's no tape or conviction of Osuna and he plans to address his new teammates about it when he gets the opportunity. Expect local feminist groups to vent loudly about the trade.
While Giles was another meltdown waiting to happen, this kid might be too which is all the more reason Seattle has to feel good about their closer situation. That's one definite advantage they have currently over Houston.
The Mariners were busy, too, adding veteran lefty and former Astro Zach Duke and righthander Adam Warren in trades. In other deadline deals of note, Rangers closer Keone Kela was dealt to the Pirates, longtime nemesis Ian Kinsler was shipped to the Red Sox and former Astro Preston Tucker was traded from Atlanta to Cincinnati.
- Bob Hulsey