Astros Complete 6-1 Swing
Catcher Leads Houston Draft Picks

Chirinos Homer happy trip
(c) Associated Press
Anytime you finish a road trip with a 6-1 record, it is cause for celebration but the Astros return home to start a weekend series against Baltimore with a tired club and a gassed bullpen. As stars Jose Altuve (knee/hamstring), George Springer (back/hamstring) and Carlos Correa (rib/rough masseuse) sat out the seven-game jaunt, hitters old and new picked up the slack as best they could.

They swept Oakland for three games then won the first two in Seattle, 4-2 and 11-5, but then lost an ugly 14-1 thrashing before outlasting the M's in the finale, 8-7, in 14 innings. The bullpen was responsible for most of the runs in the Wednesday massacre then couldn't hold a 5-1 lead in the sixth on Thursday in an exhausting contest where Seattle continued to battle back even when down to their last out.

Typically, a four-run lead for Justin Verlander is money in the bank but not with a tired pen. Give the Mariners credit for not giving up when they had their chances. Seattle plated five of their runs with two outs then had the bases loaded in the 14th when Chris Devenski coaxed a lazy fly from Shed Long on a 3-1 pitch that could have extended the game.

The 43-20 Astros have the best record in the league by percentage points and rebounded from an early road deficit to stand at 21-13 (.618) away from home. Michael Brantley got at least one hit in each game of the trip other than the one he sat out. Robinson Chirinos smoked his fourth homer of the trip to pace the Road Warriors.

The weary ballclub will lose two hours to time zones and then begin a three-game home series Friday night at 7:10 pm Central with the 19-43 Orioles who just took the number one overall pick this week and will probably need a few more overall top choices before they will be competitive again. Gerrit Cole (5-5) will need to go deep Friday to rest the bullpen. Righthander Gabriel Ynoa (0-2) is the scheduled starter for Baltimore although the O's may employ the same "opener" tactic that Seattle whiffed on.

Saturday's contest is slated for a 3:10 pm Central kickoff with Framber Valdez (2-2) moving into the rotation to face Andrew Cashner (6-2). The Sunday 1:10 pm Central finale features Wade Miley (5-3) against Dylan Bundy (3-6).

Corbin Martin had another quick hook in Seattle on Monday with Valdez tossing four shutout innings to collect the win. Reymin Guduan received the call-up to fill the bullpen spot but his two rough outings against Seattle may cause the front office to reconsider his promotion.

The Astros could not make a draft selection until the 32nd and final spot of the first round. They chose catcher Korey Lee from Cal whom they hope will help add depth at a weak organizational position. Garrett Stubbs' younger brother C.J. Stubbs was also selected later on.

With their second round pick, Houston took infielder Grae Kessinger, the grandson of Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger from the 1960s. The Astros also took Carlos Correa's brother, J.C. Correa, from Lamar University for the second year in a row.

These players will start taking physicals and receiving contract offers then many of them will be sent to Florida for Rookie League development.

Finally, pitcher Dallas Keuchel's long quest for a contract may be over. There are reports he is about to sign with the Atlanta Braves. The former Cy Young Award winner sat out long enough that the Astros could not collect a compensation draft choice for losing him.

- Bob Hulsey