Astros Sunday Roundup: Hunter Pence 34 Games From Joe DiMaggio's Record

There's nowhere to hide in the major leagues Bud. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Hunter Pence has put together a nifty hitting streak as the Astros sink further and further below .500.

In a season so characterized by failure, how ironic would it be if right fielder Hunter Pence could make a meaningful run at one of the most enduring records in all of sports. There is next to no chance that Pence will equal or even pass Joe DiMaggio's iconic 56-game hitting streak, but at 22 games, an extended run would be exactly the sort of panacea this team needs after another brutal loss last night.

I can already see the outraged faces of Yankees fans as Pence passes their number five. Circle July 22nd in your calenders folks, I'm calling it right now. If Willy Taveras can get a hit in 30 straight games then Pence can at least make it to 40. 

Pence doubled in Michael Bourn in the first inning  to extend his streak last night and Jordan Lyles had a solid outing in his first start at Minute Maid Park, but in his return Brandon Lyon imploded in the 10th, and Brian McCann beat the Astros in extra innings for the second time this season. 

Lyon's performance make Brad Mills' comments even dumber, as if easing Lyon back into the closer's role made any sense at all

"Mark's done a good job for us all year," Mills said. "He's going to continue to do a good job for us because he's got good stuff and he's a good pitcher. But we want to be able to do things the right way. Doing them the right way is being able to have a veteran guy at the end of the game who has had success in doing that in the past."

Now, there is only one way this might make sense, and that would be if Ed Wade wanted Lyon to rebuild his value so he  could ship him out of Houston before the July 31st deadline. This also might have been the case for Bill Hall, but Wade decided to release him outright and the Giants picked him up less than a week later, after Freddy Sanchez landed on the DL. 

As Al Yellon writes of Hall:

"He's just 31 years old, so he might have a chance to return to his better performing days, as he had with Milwaukee."

To summarize: Hall has been god-awful, but there is a chance he might be good. I tell you now Giants fans, give it a week and you will be begging for Jeff Keppinger

Something seems to have snapped with Ed Wade, whose candid comments suggest that the Astros will be actively selling this summer. Depending on how bad Bartolo Colon's injury is, the Yankees may take a look at either Brett Myers or Wandy Rodriguez. However I'm pretty sure flogging Lyon and Lee for nothing but their salaries is far beyond Ed Wade's skill-set as a GM. Who would want to trade Lee anyway? He's got a .974 OPS in June and has rediscovered the art of walking (just to point out that this is tongue in cheek for my less alert readers). 

This week saw the Astros lose seven games in eight attempts, the solitary win coming against the Cardinals with Bud Norris starting. Norris, who may be leading this staff in six weeks time depending on how things pan out, now has a 2.45 ERA in 9 starts against the Redbirds and 6 wins. He leads all Astros pitchers in innings pitched with 81. 

Lance Berkman continued to pound his old team and Milo Hamilton could just not keep his opinions to himself. I'm fine with Milo voicing his opinions, but not when the national media start treating his comments as indicative of the rest of the fanbase as Jon Heyman did. Hamilton said something like "If Berkman makes the All-Star Game, I hope he brings his trainer," which some have characterized as sour grapes, which it most likely is. Just leave it alone and move on already. 

Still, the big thing about this week was the Astros nabbing University of Connecticut outfielder George Springer with the 11th overall selection of the 2011 amateur draft. The most telling point of Monday night was when the Padres pick of Cory Spangenberg was announced the Astros war room went nuts. They knew they had got their guy in Springer. There are some things in his swing that might need adjusting, but fans should be jacked about the pick. 

In the four days since the draft wrapped up on Wednesday the franchise has gone on a crazy pick signing tear, but I find it hard to evaluate their overall performance in the draft, because there are so many arms who could go one way or the other. Will they be the next Dallas Keuchel or Tanner Bushue, or the next Ross Seaton?

Now that they have Adrian Houser signed apart from Springer, the next big target is third rounder Jack Armstrong Jr. Vanderbilt beat Oregon State in the Super Regionals, and he might head to Cape Cod League so like Springer, a signing will have to wait.

Thanks to Bobby Heck and his staff, the minor league system now resembles a pipeline of talent, even if the end product isn't exactly gushing out. Of all the high school players drafted ahead of Lyles in 2008, only the Royals' Eric Hosmer made the major leagues faster, and guys like Keuchel and J.D. Martinez might debut next year. The year after, if not before, we might see Jose Altuve, Jimmy Paredes and Jonathan Villar.

The only level without young pitching talent is AAA, where the Redhawks are running out Ryan Rowland Smith, Gustavo Chacin, Nelson Figueroa, Sergio Perez and Andy Van Hekken

For now, that is what you have to look forward to. In the years to come, when guys like Altuve, Springer and Foltynewicz start knocking on the door, then you can say that business is about to pick up. In the meantime, endure. 

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