Astros Fire Brad Arnsberg, Name Doug Brocail Pitching Coach

SB Nation Houston's coverage of the Braves-Astros series from June 10th-13th, 2011

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Fallout Over Brad Arnsberg's Firing Trends Toward Negative

I know, it’s hard to be surprised when the worst team in the majors by record fires their pitching coach and the reaction is negative. Every reaction about this Astros team right now is trending toward the negative. But that’s what we’re working with right now. Here are some SB Nation takes on the story:

Rob Neyer:

Ed Wade cites “philosophical differences” as cause of the firing. This might mean that Arnsberger and management fundamentally disagreed about the answer to Heidegger’s “Question of Being,” or it might mean the general manager needed a scapegoat for all the losing and didn’t want to fire himself.

Ed knows it, we know it, everyone knows it. Well, unless Jim Crane doesn’t get to buy the Astros.

The Crawfish Boxes (1) and (2)

It’s especially galling that Arnsberg of all people was let go. Just last season, he was heralded as a miracle worker. He fixed Brett Myers and was a big reason Myers signed a contract extension with Houston. He got Wandy Rodriguez back on track and even helped Roy Oswalt. Now, in a season where both Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles are pitching better than expected, he’s no good?

No, he’s a fall guy for a bad team that doesn’t know what it’s doing. The way things are going, the Astros entire world is about to collapse, just as they’re about to move to the American League.

Maybe Doug Brocail comes in and does a better job than Arnsberg, maybe he doesn’t. What I do know is that the Astros lost a good man today, probably over something even simpler than Philosophy. When things are going great everyone’s happy, when they’re not the finger pointing begins and with a new owner on the horizon this screams of desperation.

They’re taking it real well over there, as you can see.

So what exactly were the circumstances of Arnsberg’s firing? Would you believe that having a row with your manager in front of the entire team isn’t always the best thing for your job security?

And It all came to a head in the dugout on Monday night when Arnsberg openly argued with Mills in front of the players. Behind closed doors, we might call that constructive conflict. In front of other employees, we call it insubordination.

The former is often productive; the latter gets you fired. Hence, yesterday’s announcement.

In another case of team-based media often being counter-productive to the truth, that was about the only tidbit that reached the page about the actual circumstances of Arnsberg’s firing. You can ask questions about it, but as Astros County learned, that doesn’t always get you somewhere.

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Astros Fire Pitching Coach Brad Arnsberg, Doug Brocail Will Be New Pitching Coach

In news broken by Astros.com social media guru Alyson Footer, Houston pitching coach Brad Arnsberg was fired today over “philosophical differences.” Doug Brocail will take over as the next pitching coach, and the Astros have set a press conference up for 4:10 PM CT to discuss the change.

Houston pitchers have a cumulative 4.69 ERA, good for second-to-last in the National League. Mostly because Brett Myers, J.A. Happ, and the entire bullpen have been flammable all season. Or, in layman’s terms, “things anyone could have seen coming besides Ed Wade.”

Brocail had retired after the 2010 season and was working in as a special assistant to Ed Wade. The move comes as a surprise because the management staff had seemed to be fairly reverent of Arnsberg’s abilities as a coach. Arnsberg was credited heavily for turning around Brett Myers last season, and with great praise comes the great responsibility of keeping that going. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards this year for Arnsberg.

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Wandy's Return Powers Astros Past Braves

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – A well-rested Hunter Pence brought life to a listless Astros lineup, going 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI as Houston avoided getting swept by the Braves behind an 8-3 victory in the finale of a four-game series.

Pence, fresh from sitting out on Sunday due to tightness in his back, extended his career-best hitting streak to 23 games while contributing to the Astros’ 14-hit attack.

Brett Wallace reached base four times on two doubles and two walks while scoring twice and knocking in a run for Houston, which won for just the second time in 10 games.

Wandy Rodriguez (4-3) halted Atlanta’s winning streak at six with six shutout innings in his return from the disabled list.

Derek Lowe (3-5) remained winless over his last seven starts after yielding five runs on eight hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings.

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Astros Try To Salvage Home Series Against Braves

(Sports Network) – As strikeout after strikeout piled up on Sunday, the Houston Astros had to wonder if there were holes in their bats.

The Astros aim to stop the Atlanta Braves’ six-game winning streak this evening and avoid getting swept in a four-game series at home by the club for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Houston struck out 17 times in Sunday’s 4-1 setback at Minute Maid Park, losing for the fourth straight time while falling to 1-8 in its last nine games. It marked the Astros’ highest single-game strikeout total since fanning 17 times against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 15, 2002.

Brett Myers took the loss for the Astros on Sunday, allowing two-run homers to Dan Uggla and Brian McCann over his seven-inning outing. Michael Bourn went 0- for-4 to halt his 12-game hitting streak.

“No matter how many times you’ve been through it, it’s still tough to get through. Especially with us losing games over the past week or so, it’s frustrating,” Myers said about Houston’s recent struggles.

The Astros are likely to have outfielder Hunter Pence back in the lineup this evening after he got the day off on Sunday. Pence, who has been battling tightness in his back, is riding a career-high 22-game hitting streak, batting .391 over that span.

Houston could use his bat after Atlanta starter Tommy Hanson posted a career- high 14 strikeouts in seven innings of one-run ball on Sunday. Hanson scattered three hits over his outing to help Atlanta match its longest winning streak of the season.

“He was outstanding. He was borderline pitch count in the sixth but the seventh inning was probably the best inning he had. He was able to do what we wanted with the bullpen by him going seven innings,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said about Hanson.

Uggla homered in the first inning and McCann went deep in the sixth for the Braves, who have won seven in a row over the Astros and are 11-1 over the past 12 encounters with the club. They haven’t swept a four-game series in Houston since July 16-19, 1992.

McCann has been swinging a hot bat as of late for Atlanta, which is 7-2 on a 10-game road swing and sits two games back of Philadelphia for first place in the National League East. The catcher has three homers and seven RBI over a five-game hitting streak, but is 0-for-8 in his career against Houston pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, who comes off the disabled list in time to start this game.

The 32-year-old Rodriguez hasn’t pitched since beating the Blue Jays on May 22 due to left elbow joint effusion. He held Toronto to a pair of runs — both on solo homers — over six innings of a win and threw a four-inning rehab start with Double-A Corpus Christi on Wednesday, allowing one run.

The southpaw, who is 3-3 with a 3.41 earned run average in 10 starts this season, hurled eight shutout innings versus Atlanta in his previous start on May 17, but got a no-decision in the Braves’ 3-1 victory in 11 innings. Rodriguez is 2-2 with a 3.60 ERA in 10 career games against Atlanta, including nine starts.

Rodriguez faced Derek Lowe in his last outing versus Atlanta and will counter the veteran again tonight.

Lowe was also solid in a no-decision versus Houston, yielding one run over seven innings. In 11 career starts against the Astros, the 38-year-old is 5-3 with a 3.21 ERA.

Lowe’s start versus the Astros is part of a six-game winless drought that dates back to his last win on May 6. He is 0-1 over that span, though the Braves have won each of his no-decisions and are 7-1 in his past eight outings.

The right-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Wednesday versus the Marlins and allowed just two hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Atlanta, though, needed extra innings to best Florida.

“His ball was darting all over the place,” McCann said of Lowe. “His changeup was great and his location was where it needed to be. When he pitches in the zone and gets that kind of movement, you’re gonna get a lot of ground balls.”

In 14 starts this season, Lowe is 3-4 with a 3.73 ERA.

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Wandy Rodriguez Activated From DL, Jeff Fulchino Sent Down In Roster Shuffle

The Houston Astros, who are in definite need of a boost, will bring starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez off the disabled list to start against the Atlanta Braves today. Surviving the roster shuffle that occurred due to Rodriguez’s activation is young starter Jordan Lyles, possibly the only reason to watch Astros baseball at this point. Anuery Rodriguez, the Rule Five pick who started the year in the bullpen, will now shift back there after putting up a 5.80 ERA in eight starts.

The sacrificial lamb of the whole scenario was reliever Jeff Fulchino, who was sent down after Sunday’s game to make room for Rodriguez. Fulchino had a 4.88 ERA in 30 games this year, and has now been filler at best for the last year-and-a-third. Of course, that still makes him better than Brandon Lyon has been, but that didn’t seem to factor into the Astros decision despite a horrendous season so far.

Houston will take on Atlanta later today trying to break a string where they’ve lost eight of nine games.

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Astros Dominated In 4-1 Loss To Braves

Final Score: Atlanta 4, Houston 1

Houston, TX (Sports Network) - Tommy Hanson struck out a career-high 14 batters through seven innings of one-run ball to give Atlanta a 4-1 decision over Houston in the third of a four-game series.

Hanson (8-4) allowed just three hits and two walks in the Braves' sixth consecutive win.

Brett Myers (2-6) took the loss, allowing four runs on five hits and a walk. He also struck out six as Houston was handed its fourth straight loss and its eighth defeat in nine games.

Atlanta jumped out to an early lead on Dan Uggla's two-run home run in the first inning.

Brian McCann added a two-run homer of his own in the sixth to extend the lead for the Braves.

Houston got on the board in their half of the sixth after Matt Downs walked with one out and scored on a Carlos Lee double down the left-field line. Lee was then stranded on second after Brett Wallace struck out and Jason Michaels grounded out to third to end the inning.

Jonny Venters pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his third save of the season.

Other than the sixth inning, the only other times Houston put men in scoring position was in the fourth and fifth innings. Each time was with one out, but Hanson was able to shut down Houston's offense and kept them hitless with runners in scoring position.

Game Notes

Hunter Pence was scratched from Sunday's lineup because of tightness in his back...Pence is riding a personal-best 22 game hit streak...Hanson is now 3-0 in his career against the Astros in five starts...Michael Bourn went 0-for-4 to end his 12 game hit streak...Bourn needs one stolen base for 200 in his career...McCann is the seventh catcher all-time to hit over 100 home runs and have over 500 RBI by the age of 27...The other catchers to manage this feat are Johnny Bench, Joe Torre, Yogi Berra, Ted Simmons, Gary Carter, and Ivan Rodriguez.

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Hunter Pence To Miss Sunday's Game With Back Stiffness

Hunter Pence will miss Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves with stiffness in his lower back. Jason Michaels will take his place in right field. Pence's backup, Jason Bourgeois will also sit due to a sprained left ankle.

Pence currently has a 22-game hitting streak, which will not be affected as long as he doesn't play Sunday. He could also come in and draw a walk and the streak would remain in tact. However, if you're resting a guy's back, what's the point of bringing him into a game to swing a baseball bat? That would be counterproductive, so naturally, it's sure to be on the table.

Hunter Pence is one of the few positive things the Astros have going for them in 2011. He's having a career year, and while I don't understand the need to "rest" baseball players who aren't injured or aren't in a terrible slump, the Astros should absolutely do everything they can to ensure Pence remains healthy. His hit streak could turn in to a ticket-seller, and the higher his trade value remains, the better.

Plus, Hunter's simply one of the best reasons to watch an Astros game. He's the closest thing they have to a current version of "Mr. Astro" right now.

It is not know if the Astros plan to sit Pence beyond Sunday's game.

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Brett Myers Will Try His Hand Against Surging Braves Sunday

(Sports Network) - Right-hander Tommy Hanson aims to keep the Atlanta Braves in red-hot mode today when they invade Minute Maid Park again for the third game of a four-game series with the Houston Astros.

The Braves won their fifth consecutive game on Saturday night in Houston, when Brian McCann belted a three-run homer during a four-run 10th inning en route to a 6-3 triumph.

Locked in a 2-1 hitter's count with runners at first and second, McCann belted a low slider from Brandon Lyon (3-3) deep into the first level behind right field to snap a 2-2 tie.

Chipper Jones followed with a double and scored on Eric Hinske's two-out RBI single off Fernando Rodriguez for a 6-2 lead.

The 10th-inning rally marked the first time either team had scored since Atlanta tied the game on Hinske's solo homer in the fourth.

Scott Linebrink (2-1) stranded runners at first and second in the ninth inning to pick up the win. Craig Kimbrel gave up a one-out run in the 10th for the final margin.

The scuffling Astros scored their other runs in the first inning on RBI doubles from Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee. They fell to 1-7 in their last eight games, and are 1-4 on their 10-game homestand.

Pence pushed his personal-best hitting streak to 22 games with a 2-for-5 showing, also doubling and scoring on Lee's two-base hit in the 10th inning.

It's the longest current streak in the majors and eight shy of Andre Ethier's season-high 30-game streak for the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, Hanson is 2-0 in his career against the Astros in four starts, including a 3-2 defeat of Houston on May 16 in Atlanta.

In that game, he allowed three hits and an earned run in seven innings while walking one and striking out 10.

He's won his last two starts as well, defeating San Diego on June 1 and Florida on June 7 while combining to give up five hits and two runs with 10 strikeouts across 12 innings as his earned run average has dropped from 2.80 to 2.59.

The Braves are 8-5 in his 13 starts.

For Houston, righty Brett Myers meets Atlanta for the 31st time in his 287th career big-league appearance.

Both a starter and a closer during his days with Philadelphia before heading to Houston last season, Myers is 4-10 with four saves and a 4.43 earned run average in 148 1/3 inning against the Braves.

He got a no-decision on May 16, allowing eight hits and two runs in six innings. Myers' last win was June 1 at Wrigley Field, where he beat the Chicago Cubs, 3-1, while surrendering three hits and a run in six innings.

Myers has pitched six or more innings in 43 of 46 starts in two seasons.

Atlanta swept a two-game set against Houston from May 16-17 and has won 10 of the last 11 encounters between the two ballclubs.

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McCann Hurts Astros Again With Late Game Heroics

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Brian McCann belted a three-run homer during a four-run 10th inning, as the Atlanta Braves caught fire to down the Houston Astros, 6-3, for their fifth straight win.

Locked in a 2-1 hitter’s count with runners at first and second, McCann belted a low slider from Brandon Lyon (3-3) deep into the first level behind right field to snap a 2-2 tie.

Chipper Jones followed with a double and scored on Eric Hinske’s two-out RBI single off Fernando Rodriguez for a 6-2 lead.

The 10th-inning rally marked the first time either team had scored since Atlanta tied the game on Hinske’s solo homer in the fourth.

Scott Linebrink (2-1) stranded runners at first and second in the ninth inning to pick up the win. Craig Kimbrel gave up a one-out run in the 10th for the final margin.

The scuffling Astros scored their other runs in the first inning on RBI doubles from Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee. They fell to 1-7 in their last eight games, and to 1-4 on their 10-game homestand.

Pence pushed his personal-best hitting streak to 22 games with a 2-for-5 showing, also doubling and scoring on Lee’s double in the 10th inning.

It’s the longest current streak in the majors and eight shy of Andre Ethier’s season-high 30-game streak for the Dodgers.

“He continues to hit,” said Astros manager Brad Mills. “It was a big day swinging the bat.”

Lost in the final score were two good outings by a pair of young pitchers.

Mike Minor, the 23-year-old Atlanta starter, yielded two runs on four hits and two walks in six innings, striking out four.

Jordan Lyles, 20, made his first start at Minute Maid Park and also gave up two runs in 6 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and two walks while fanning five.

The rookie righthander — currently the youngest player in the majors — was making just his third MLB start.

The Braves won the opener of this four-game series, 11-4, on Friday. But it was the Astros who jumped on top Saturday with a one-out rally in the first inning sparked by Michael Bourn’s triple. Pence and Lee followed with nearly identical back-to-back RBI doubles to left field to make it 2-0.

Lyles pitched out of trouble in the first and second innings, but the Braves got to him for a run in the third when Dan Uggla drew a one-out walk and scored on Jones’ two-out double to left-center field.

Hinske belted his eighth homer of the season with one down in the fourth, tying the game at 2-2 with a shot deep into the right field seats.

The Astros stranded runners at second and third in the seventh inning, the first time they moved a man past first base since their two-run rally in the first. They left runners at first and second in the bottom of the ninth when Jason Bourgeois lined out to left field.

The Braves stranded runners in scoring position in the fifth and seventh innings.

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After Friday Shellacking, Lyles Takes Hill For First Home Start

(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Braves aim to extend their win streak to five straight tonight when they visit Minute Maid Park for the second game of four against the Houston Astros.

Atlanta, which is second in the National League's East Division at two games behind Philadelphia, kept pace with the first-place Phillies on Friday when Freddie Freeman and Alex Gonzalez each had a home run and three RBI in an 11-4 victory.

Houston is last in the Central Division, 13 1/2 games behind St. Louis.

Tim Hudson (5-5) allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out four through six innings to earn the win, snapping an 0-3 streak over his past five starts.

Eric Hinske and Chipper Jones also homered for the Braves, who won for the sixth time in eight games.

Houston's Aneury Rodriguez (0-4) went four-plus innings, allowing six runs on six hits and a walk.

Michael Bourn tied his career high with four hits and was a home run short of the cycle in the Astros' sixth loss in seven games.

Braves hurler Mike Minor, the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft, reached the majors last season and was 3-2 in nine appearances with a 5.98 earned run average across 40 2/3 innings.

He debuted this season with a 5-4 loss in Milwaukee on April 6 and has since followed it up with a no-decision at Pittsburgh on May 25 and a 5-4 loss against San Diego on May 31.

He's been touched for 22 hits and nine runs in his initial 16 innings this season, walking nine batters and striking out 11 while foes have established a .338 average against him.

Batters hit .314 against Minor in 2010.

For Houston, right-hander Jordan Lyles makes the third start of his rookie season.

Just 20 years old, Lyles was a supplemental draft pick of the Astros in 2008 and debuted at Wrigley Field when he allowed five hits and two runs while going seven innings against Chicago in a no-decision on May 31.

He dropped a 7-2 verdict on June 5 at San Diego in start No. 2, allowing five hits and four runs in four innings.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder began pitching in the minors at age 17 in 2008 and was 3-3 with a 4.23 earned run average in 15 starts with two teams.

He moved from Single-A to Triple-A between 2009 and 2010 and was 3-3 with a 3.20 ERA with Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League in 10 starts before getting called up to the majors.

Atlanta swept a two-game set against Houston from May 16-17 and has won nine of the last 10 encounters between the two ballclubs.

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Braves Continue Hot Play, Down Astros Behind Four Home Runs

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Freddie Freeman and Alex Gonzalez each had a home run and three RBI to lead Atlanta to an 11-4 victory over Houston in the first of a four-game series.

Tim Hudson (5-5) allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out four through six innings to earn the win, snapping an 0-3 streak over his past five starts.

Eric Hinske and Chipper Jones also homered for the Braves, who won their fourth straight game and sixth in their last eight tries.

Aneury Rodriguez (0-4) went four-plus innings, allowing six runs on six hits and a walk.

Michael Bourn tied his career high with four hits and was a home run short of the cycle in the Astros’ sixth loss in seven games.

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Braves Vs. Astros: Back In Familiar Worst Record In Baseball Territory, Houston Meets Atlanta

(Sports Network) - Atlanta Braves starter Tim Hudson hasn't tasted victory in more than a month and is hoping a showdown with the Houston Astros tonight in the opener of a four-game series will change that.

Hudson is 0-3 with a 6.66 earned run average in his last five assignments, but sports a solid career mark against the Astros, going 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in five starts. He last toed the rubber in Sunday's 6-4 loss at New York and allowed five runs on seven hits over four innings.

The right-hander, who hasn't won since a one-hit shutout versus Milwaukee on May 4, fell to 4-5 in 12 starts this season and unintentionally raised his ERA to 4.14. Hudson looks to even his 2-3 road mark tonight in his sixth start this season away from Turner Field.

Atlanta is coming off a three-game sweep of the Florida Marlins and improved to 4-2 on a 10-game road trip with Thursday's 3-2 win at Sun Life Stadium. Jair Jurrjens reached the eight-win mark (8-2) with seven innings of two-run ball, while Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters both tossed a scoreless inning of relief, with Venters tacking on his second save.

"He made pitches when he had to," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Jurrjens, who is one of six pitchers with eight victories.

Jurrjens and Alex Gonzalez both drove in a run for the Braves, who have won five of seven games overall. Braves outfielder/third baseman Martin Prado hasn't played since Tuesday with a knee bruise and could return to the lineup tonight. He's batting .277 with eight homers and 33 RBI this season.

Atlanta is seven games over .500 for the first time since ending the 2010 season with a 91-71 ledger. Braves catcher Brian McCann doubled in last night's win and has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 contests.

Houston dropped two of three matchups with St. Louis to kick off a 10-game homestand and lost for the fifth time in six tries with Thursday's 9-2 setback in the series finale.

Astros left-hander J.A. Happ was clobbered for six runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings to fall to 3-8, while Jeff Keppinger and Brett Wallace were each credited with an RBI for Houston, which will also host Pittsburgh for three games on the residency.

"Whatever my terrible record is or whatever my terrible ERA is it doesn't make sense. It's not the pitcher I am. I'm going to have to figure it out," Happ said.

Hunter Pence had two hits and scored a run to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 20 games. Pence is hitting .390 with three homers and 14 RBI during the run.

"It's fun," Pence said on Houston's website. "It's not that I don't know it's going on. I'm not superstitious. It's a hit streak, it's fun, and that's baseball. People like to follow those things. I want to keep it going as long as I can and enjoy the ride. It's not like I'm coming to the park to not get hits. I'm coming to hit."

Taking the mound for the Astros tonight will be rookie Aneury Rodriguez, who's struggled to an 0-3 mark and a 4.95 ERA in his last seven trips to the hill. The right-hander last pitched in a 6-3 loss at San Diego on Saturday and gave up three runs in six innings to fall to 0-3 in 16 games (7 starts).

Rodriguez is 0-2 in eight games (3 starts) at home and has never faced the Braves in his career.

Atlanta swept a two-game set against Houston from May 16-17 and has won eight of the previous nine encounters between the two ballclubs.

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