The Houston Astros are having a tough time in 2020. They’re disgraced by a cheating scandal, despised for getting off easy for it, and vilified for their lack of remorse over it. Furthermore, a barrage of injuries has their roster decimated, and they just fell into third place after being swept by their biggest competitive rival as their star-studded lineup continues to struggle.
Normally, we like to focus on the positives here at Athletics Nation, but in this case let’s take just a moment to indulge in some good-natured gloating*. After all, fans can’t show up to the stadium to boo the bad guys in person, so writing about it is all we’ve got. (Dear Jinx Gods, please have mercy, we’re just having some fun here and pointing out all of Your good work.)
* Except the injuries. That sucks and I don’t wish it on any team, and I hope they get back to full health so all of them can lose together.
Let’s begin with Friday’s opener. Even before the game started, the public made sure to remind the Astros what it thinks of their 2017 championship, as a local fan worked with the 2020 Astros Shame Tour to get a Houston Asterisks banner up in the air above the Coliseum.
Of course, there was also the Coliseum cardboard cutout of Astros mascot Orbit sitting in a trash can like Oscar the Grouch, but apparently that was removed before the series.
Once the game began, the universe made it pretty clear what it thought about the Astros. None other than Ramon Laureano, the former Houston prospect who blossomed into a surprise star in Oakland, got himself a triple on this whoopsie by Myles Straw. (Note: He’s ok and not hurt.)
We were also delivered the latest installment of players getting hit in the beans by a ball, this time self-inflicted by Carlos Correa. That’s an 80-grade Twitter caption from NBCS.
Fast forward to the end of Friday’s action, and Houston took a lead in the 13th inning. Through it all, maybe they’d at least scratch out a road victory! But no, the A’s responded in the bottom half with two of their own to steal the win away at the last moment.
Houston lost again on Saturday, and then got thoroughly defeated on Sunday, wrapping up a sweep and extending their losing streak to five games. They’re now below .500 at 6-9 (nice) and have fallen to third place in the division, behind their in-state rivals the Texas Rangers.
Sunday’s game brought another LOL moment. With two runners on and two outs in the 3rd inning, Matt Olson hit a popup to no-man’s land up the shallow left-field line. The ball swirled around and eventually dropped to the ground, but was called foul.
Replays clearly showed it kicking up chalk, meaning it hit the line and should have been fair for at least one RBI, but the A’s weren’t able to analyze it in time to commit to a challenge. A couple pitches after being robbed of a lucky RBI double, Olson instead launched a three-run homer. A fortunate hop for the Astros turned into an even more damaging do-over.
Even the identities of Oakland’s hitting heroes added icing to the cake, as two former Astros tortured their old team. Robbie Grossman, a light-hitting OBP specialist, hit two homers — one to tie Friday’s game and send it to extras, and another to open the scoring Sunday. Tony Kemp, who was part of that tainted 2017 Houston team but has been generally exonerated from wrongdoing, reached base in five of his 10 plate appearances out of the bottom spots in the lineup — including once in the fateful 13th on Friday, and again in front of Olson’s homer Sunday.
And then, of course, there was the brawl. With the Astros two innings away from being swept, reliever Humberto Castellanos pegged Laureano with a pitch. It was the second time Laureano had been hit in the game, the third time in the series, and the second time by Castellanos including once on Friday (the third HBP was by the pitcher he was traded for a couple years ago, middle reliever Brandon Bailey). It was also the fifth HBP by the Astros in the series, with none going the other way.
Whether it was intentional or not, Laureano was not happy, and he publicly humiliated Castellanos on the way to the mound. He spent the whole slow walk demonstratively teaching the rookie how to throw a slider, which is both objectively funny and also more mature than charging the mound for a fight. If we lived in a world where hitters ruthlessly mocked pitchers who drilled them instead of running out to physically fight them, I’d be happier.
However, once Laureano arrived at his base, the Astros dugout continued to jeer him, in particular their hitting coach Alex Cintron. Something inappropriate was allegedly said by Cintron, and Laureano finally snapped and charged the dugout. Read our full coverage for more details, and watch the rundown by Jomboy below.
Everyone pretty much agrees that Laureano was wrong to take the bait and make his charge, but there’s also a lot of understanding for him given the overwhelming context. The real villain in the eyes of the entire baseball world is Cintron, for clearly instigating the situation, for cowardly hiding behind his players when his bluff got called, and for doing all this as a coach who is supposed to be serving as a leader and role model for his club.
In 2020 more than ever, umpires, managers and coaches MUST be the adults in the room. Thus, unless there is a mitigating circumstances not shown in film clip, MLB should come down very hard on #Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron for the provocation in this altercation. https://t.co/7EwX2qNygc— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) August 9, 2020
All in all, it was a devastating weekend for the Astros, to the delight of 29 other fan bases. They got thoroughly and dramatically swept on the field, haunted by their former role players, mocked in the skies, they hit themselves in the nards, and they somehow managed to add another chapter to their lore as villains.
You hate to see it. But maybe just this once, we can enjoy it for a moment.