In the midst of a major rebuilding project, the Houston Astros are now looking for a new manager. A day after Brad Mills and two coaches were fired, the woeful Astros return to the field Sunday as they try to prevent a season series sweep by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Houston (39-82) has by far the worst record in the majors and is on pace to surpass last season's team-record 106 losses after dropping 39 of its last 46. Following Saturday night's 12-4 defeat to Arizona, the Astros fired Mills, hitting coach Mike Barnett and first base coach Bobby Meacham. The players weren't told about the moves before leaving the ballpark.
It wasn't until Sunday morning that Tony DeFrancesco was named Mills' replacement on an interim basis. DeFrancesco had been manager of Houston's Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. Dan Radison will take over in the interim as first base coach and Ty Van Burkleo will be the hitting coach. The Astros' struggles are hardly surprising given their young roster, which has a payroll of just $21.3 million following several midseason trades. The Diamondbacks (61-59) have taken full advantage, outscoring Houston 48-18 while taking the first five meetings of the season after winning their final three against the Astros last year.
They used a nine-run fifth inning to win Saturday's game, remaining within five games of the NL West lead and moving within five games of the league's second wild-card spot. Houston native Chris Young led the way as Arizona won its third straight overall, going 4 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs. His average has hovered in the low .200s most of the summer, but he's 6 for 13 with two homers, two doubles and five RBIs in his last three games. Young is batting .419 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 15 career games in his hometown.
Ian Kennedy (10-10, 4.35 ERA) hopes facing Houston will help him avoid losing a third straight start. After winning four straight outings behind a 2.54 ERA, the right-hander has been roughed up in his last two, giving up 11 runs - eight earned - and four homers over 10 innings. He has had an up-and-down season after going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA last year. Armando Galarraga (0-3, 5.75) is scheduled to pitch for the Astros. He was 3-4 with a 5.91 ERA in eight starts for the Diamondbacks in 2011 before being designated for assignment. The right-hander joined the Astros after being released earlier this year by Baltimore, and he has allowed 15 runs and 16 walks over 20 1-3 innings since being called up from the minors July 28.
Another reasonable price this afternoon for a series that has seen Arizona dominate, however you can't factor out the rally around the new skipper approach Houston may take to salvage what's left of another disastrous season. The Snakes have trimmed the GIants lead to 5 games and are also right in the thick of wildcard contention. This mismatch of a series has helped the DBacks to improve their collective average to .260 and have now slugged 128 HR led by Jason Kubel (.275 25 77) who expects to return to the lineup today after missing a few games due to a stiff neck. Paul Goldschmidt (.297 18 65) has had quite a successful all around season as has Aaron Hill (.294 15 52) who has been essential in the infield as well. There is tremendous balance in this lineup with Chris Johnson (.275 13 59) and Miguel Montero (.287 14 70) picking up some clutch hits all season. While it has been a relatively down season for Justin Upton (.268 9 47) he has survived the trading deadline and can only hope to contribute with hopes in qualifying for the postseason. WHile Galaragga will have no easy taskk looking for his first win, he's goign to need all the run support he could get. Hitting about .265 the first half of the season, Houston is now hitting only .240 overall given the rebuilding intentions. Jed Lowrie (.253 14 36) has been on the DL since mid-July and the 'Stros just optioned JD Martinez (.235 11 54) to AAA Oklahoma City last week. This team is young and can only look to acquire some prospects in the offseason, but one of the few bright spotis Jose Altuve (.306 5 31) leading the club in hitting. Tyler Greene (.238 6 23) has shwon some signs over the past week since being traded from St. Louis, and at least they have Justin Maxwell (.236 12 37) awho has battled through slumps and injuries but has also looked sharp at times. Kennedy should breeze through this lineup but may give up a few renegade runs if Arizona plans another blowout. Best of luck however you play!