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Kansas City Royals vs Houston Astros, 2015 American League Division Series

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Everystros Chapter XXXVI

Welcome to the 36th chapter of the Everystros Countdown.

Scott Kazmir
| Set Number: X160024 TK1

Everystros XXXVI

506. Roberto Hernández is a six-foot-four right-handed pitcher from Santo Domingo, DR. Born on August 30, 1980, he was formerly also known as Fausto Carmona. He reached the majors for the first time in 2006, then in his first two seasons was 1-10 and 19-8 respectively. The 20-win differential may be the greatest one-season swing for a pitcher ever. It’s the biggest I can remember seeing anyway.

Hernández pitched for seven seasons with the Tribe (53-69, 4.64, 949 IP, 2010 AL All-Star Team). He later played with the Tampa Bay Rays (6-13, 4.89, 151 IP), the Philadelphia Phillies (6-8, 3.87, 121 IP), and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2-3, 4.74, 43 23 IP). Before Spring Training in 2015, he signed a contract to join the Astros.

Hernández started the season as Houston’s number five starter, and remained so for 12 turns. On May 8, he finished with a season-high GS of 60, by giving up two runs over 7 23 innings, on seven hits and zero walks. He struck out three, but took the tough-luck, 2-0 loss against the Los Angeles Angels. After posting a 2-5 record and a 5.18 ERA, with nine home runs allowed and 20 walks to 31 strikeouts over 66 innings, he was relegated to the bullpen, and appeared only in long relief through the rest of his stint with Houston. On Jun 13, he struck out five over four shutout innings, walking zero in an 8-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

Overall, Hernández was 3-5 with a 4.36 ERA over 84 23 innings with 26 walks and 42 strikeouts. Hernández was released by Houston on August 8. He did later appear in the majors with the Atlanta Braves (1-1, 8.00, 9 IP).

505. Trevor Crowe is a five-foot-10 switch-hitting outfielder from Portland, OR. Born on November 17, 1983, he was a 20th-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2002 out of high school. He did not sign, and went to the University of Arizona instead. In 2005, he was rewarded for his faith in himself with a first-round selection by the Cleveland Indians, with the 14th overall selection.

Crowe reached the majors with the Tribe in 2009, and appeared in 205 games over three seasons, slashing .245/.295/.329 with three home runs, 55 RBI, and 29 stolen bases in 36 attempts. The Indians released Crowe on July 16, 2012, and he signed with the Los Angeles Angels the next day. He reached the majors with neither team, and signed with the Astros on November 30, 2012.

In 2013, Crowe appeared in 34 games between May 8 and June 20, starting 17 times in the outfield, and going 14-for-70 with five RBI. After a few more months in the minors, he appeared in 26 games for Houston in September. After not collecting a single multiple-hit game through his first run through, Crowe collected eight in Houston’s final month of the season. On September 4, he hit a walkoff RBI-single in a 6-5 win against the Minnesota Twins. On September 13, he hit three singles with two RBI in a 9-7 win against the Los Angeles Angels.

In 60 games overall, Crowe hit .218/.287/.291 with one home run and 13 RBI. He stole six bases in seven attempts, with 16 walks and 39 strikeouts. Defensively he played 141 13 innings in right field, with two errors for a .949 fielding percentage, 150 innings in left field with no errors, and 98 23 innings in centerfield, with a .976 fielding percentage. After the season, the Astros granted his free agency. He played some minor league ball in 2014 with the Detroit Tigers, but didn’t get back to the majors.

504. Dave Meads is a six-foot, left-handed pitcher from Montclair, NH. Born on January 7, 1964, he was Houston’s sixth-round pick in 1984 out of Middlesex County Community College. By 1986, he was starting and relieving in equal measure between the Double-A Columbus Astros, the Single-A Asheville Tourists, and the Single-A Osceola Astros, going 7-8 with a 3.52 ERA.

In 1987, Meads started pitching in the majors for Houston, and appeared exclusively as a reliever. On April 17, he struck out three over 1 13 shutout innings in a 9-8 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. On May 14, he earned his highest WPA of the season, relieving Aurelio Lopez in the seventh inning when a runner on third, one out, and a 4-4 score. He then struck out two to get through the innings with the score intact, then followed with two perfect innings to earn the victory over the New York Mets, 5-4.

Meads appeared in 45 games for the Astros through his first major league season, with 32 strikeouts in 16 walks in 48 23 innings pitched. He allowed 31 runs (30 earned) on 60 hits. He was 5-3 with a 5.55 ERA, and a 1.562 WHIP.

In his second season with the Astros, Meads was 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 22 games, starting two of them. One of those was a Quality Start, wherein he held the Cardinals scoreless over six innings, striking out four and allowing two hits and two walks in an eventual 1-0 win against St. Louis.

In a case of something I think would happen much more often, Meads’ three highest WPAs of the season were his three wins, and his lowest WPA of the season was his only loss, with 18 no-decisions between the two.

503. Carroll Sembera was a six-foot right-handed pitcher from Shiner, TX. Born on July 26, 1941, he reached the majors with Houston in 1965. In his first appearance on September 28, he pitched two perfect innings, collecting a strikeout in a 7-1 loss to the Milwaukee Braves. In his next appearance, he started in Houston’s final game of the season. He gave up three runs in 5 13 innings, striking out three in a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 1966, Sembera appeared in 24 games for the Astros, accruing a career-best 0.8 bWAR in the process. He struck out 21 in 33 innings, with a 3.92 FIP, a 116 ERA+, and a 3.00 ERA. On April 13, he earned a save by going 1 23 perfect innings in a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. On September 6, he entered the bottom of the sixth with one out and the bases loaded while leading the Cardinals, 2-1. He then induced a Charley Smith 5-2-3 double play ball to get out of the jam. The Astros eventually escaped with a 4-3 win against St. Louis.

Sembera reached career-highs with 45 games played and 59 23 innings pitched in 1967 for Houston. He collected 48 strikeouts versus only 19 walks, posting a 1.425 WHIP, a 4.83 ERA, and 7.2 K/9. On July 2, he pitched three shutout innings, striking out three and giving up a pair of meaningless singles to earn a 5-4 victory against the Dodgers. After spending the entire 1968 season in the minors, the Montreal Expos chose Sembera in the expansion draft.

Sembera pitched two seasons for the Expos (0-2, 6.13, 39 23 IP).

502. Nelson Figueroa is a six-foot-one right-handed pitcher from Brooklyn, NY. Born on May 18, 1974, he was a 30th-round pick of the New York Mets in 1995 out of Brandeis University. By the time he made the majors, he was a part of the Arizona Diamondbacks system.

After his time with the DBacks (0-1, 7.47, 15 23 IP), Figueroa played for the Philadelphia Phillies (4-5, 3.94, 89 IP), the Milwaukee Brewers (1-7, 5.03, 93 IP), the Pittsburgh Pirates (2-4, 4.38, 63 23 IP), the Mets (6-11, 4.28, 115 23 IP), and another tour with the Phillies (2-1, 3.46, 26 IP).

On July 21, 2010, the Astros claimed Figueroa off waivers. In a partial season with the Astros, he was 5-3 with a 3.22 ERA and 58 K’s in 67 innings. He had a 1.328 WHIP and was actually worth 1.2 bWAR for the season. He started in 10 of his 18 2010 appearances for Houston. On September 29, he struck out five over 6 23 shutout innings against the Reds, allowing six hits and three walks in a 2-0 win against Cincinnati.

In 2011, Figueroa remained on as part of Houston’s pitching staff, as a swing-starter/reliever. He pitched eight times, but got blown up to a 2.103 WHIP. In 29 innings he walked 16 and allowed 45 hits, with 17 strikeouts. It was his last major league action.

501. Carlos Gómez is a six-foot-three right-handed centerfielder from Santiago, DR. Born on December 4, 1985, he reached the majors for the first time in 2007. He played 58 games for the New York Mets that year, hitting .232/.288/.304 with two home runs and 12 RBI. He followed that with two seasons for the Minnesota Twins (290 games, .248/.293/.352, 10 home runs, 87 RBI) and six for the Milwaukee Brewers (697 games, .267/.325/.452, 87 home runs, 288 RBI, 2013 Gold Glove, two All-Star selections).

On July 39, 2015, the Brewers sent Gómez with Mike Fiers (264) and cash to Houston for Josh Hader, Adrian Houser, Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana (824). in 41 games, Gómez slashed .242/.288/.383, with four home runs and 13 RBI. On August 1, he hit a double and a pair of singles, in a 9-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. On August 25, he hit a double and a home run with four RBI in a 15-1 victory against the New York Yankees.

In 2016, Gómez hit .210/.272/.322 in 85 games for the Astros, with five home runs and 29 RBI. He stole 23 bases in 28 attempts while a part of the nascent (yet still in progress today) dynasty. He had 15 multiple-base hits, including three three-hit games. On July 6, he hit a two-run double in the first, added an RBI-triple in the third, then singled and scored in the sixth in a 9-8 win against the Seattle Mariners. Houston released Gómez on August 18.

Gómez went on to play with the Texas Rangers (138 games, .262/.345/.481, 25 HR, 75 RBI), the Tampa Bay Rays (118 games, .208/.298/.337, nine HR, 32 RBI), and a second tour with the Mets (34 games, .198/.278/.337 three home runs, 10 RBI).

500. Blas Minor is a six-foot-three right-handed pitcher from Merced, CA. Born on March 20, 1966, Minor was originally drafted in the 11th round of the January 1985 draft by the Kansas City Royals. Later that year, he was taken in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1986, the Phillies spent another first-round selection. In none of those drafts did Minor sign. In 1988, the Pittsburgh Pirates took him in the sixth round of the draft out of Arizona State University.

Minor reached the majors with the Pirates in 1992 and spent three years in the bigs (8-7, three saves, 4.76, 115 13 IP) with the team. He later also played with the New York Mets (4-2, 3.61, one save, 72 13 IP) and the Seattle Mariners (0-1, 4.97, 25 13 IP). After the 1996 season, Minor signed a contract with the Astros through free agency.

Minor appeared in 11 games for Houston, all in relief. He struck out six in 12 innings, and gave up seven runs (six earned) on 13 hits and five walks.

499. Ken Oberkfell is a six-foot second and third baseman from Highland, IL. Born on May 4, 1956, he originally reached the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1977. After eight seasons with the Birds (724 games, .292/.364/.381, 11 home runs, 210 RBI), he played with the Atlanta Braves (590 games, .271/.346/.357, 15 home runs, 181 RBI), the Pittsburgh Pirates (34 games, .181 /.235/.213, four RBI) and the San Francisco Giants (83 games, .319/.367/.431, two home runs, 15 RBI).

After the 1989 season, Oberkfell signed with the Astros through free agency. He hit .207/.281/.280 in 77 games for the Astros. Defensively, he played 24 games at third base (142 IP, .935), 11 games at first base (64 23 IP, .987), and 11 at second base (36 13 IP, 1.000). On April 21, Oberkfell hit a ninth-inning RBI-double to tie the Dodgers at five, in a 6-5 win against Los Angeles. On August 3, he hit a single and a triple with two RBI in a 3-0 win against the Atlanta Braves.

Oberkfell remained with the Astros in 1991, going 16-for-70 in 53 appearances through the season, with 14 RBI. He had a perfect fielding percentage in 68 23 innings at first base, and made two errors in 36 13 innings at the hot corner. He played another season in the majors, with the California Angels in 1992, hitting .264/.317/.275 with 10 RBI.

498. Scott Kazmir is a six-foot left-handed pitcher from Houston, the best city in Texas. Born on January 24, 1984, he was a first-round choice of the New York Mets in 2002, with the 15th overall selection out of Cypress Falls HS.

By the time Kazmir got to the majors, he was with the Tampa Bay organization, and remained so for six seasons (55-44, 3.92, 834 IP, two All-Star selections, AL-leading 239 strikeouts in 2007), and later played with the Los Angeles Angels (11-17, 5.31, 188 IP), the Cleveland Indians (10-9, 4.04, 158 IP), and the Oakland Athletics (20-14, 3.12, 300 IP, one All-Star appearance). On July 23, 2015, Kazmir was traded from Oakland to the Astros for Daniel Mengden and Jacob Nottingham.

Through the post-trade part of that season, Kazmir started 13 games in Houston’s rotation, five of them of the Quality Start variety. He was 2-6 with a 4.17 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 73 13 innings. He had a 1.391 WHIP. On July 24, in his first start with the team, he pitched seven shutout three-hit innings, striking out three in a 4-0 win against the Kansas City Royals. In his next start, he lasted 7 23 shutout innings, striking out five and limiting the Angels to three walks and three hits in a 3-0 victory over Los Angeles. After the season, he was granted free agency.

Kazmir went on to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers (10-6, 4.56, 136 13 IP) and the San Francisco Giants (0-1, 6.35, 11 13 IP).

497. Rhiner Cruz is a six-foot-two right-handed pitcher from Santo Domingo, DR. Born on November 1, 1986, he made his debut in the majors with the Astros in 2012. He ranked fourth on the team with 52 appearances, all in relief. He was 1-1 with a 6.05 ERA in 55 innings, striking out 46 versus 29 walks.

On April 14, Cruz earned his only victory of the season when he pitched two shutout innings in a 5-4 win against the Miami Marlins. On July 6, Cruz struck out three and allowed one walk and no hits over two innings of shutout ball in a 7-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Cruz remained in the Houston system in 2013, appearing in 14 games in April and another six in September. An extremely low-leverage reliever, he pitched at an average 0.22 aLi, which resulted in a season high WPA of just 0.049 (on September 29, he stranded an inherited runner by pitching 13 of an inning in a 5-1 loss to the New York Yankees). He walked 10 and struck out 11 in 21 13 innings, with a 1.688 WHIP and a 5.16 FIP. The Astros released him from the organization in mid-2014.

Cruz next reached the majors in 2018 with the Toronto Blue Jays, pitching 3 13 innings over two games.

496. J.R. Towles is a six-foot-two right-handed catcher from Crosby, TX. Born on February 11, 1984, he was a 32nd-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2002, a 23rd-round pick of the A’s in 2003, then a 20th-round choice of Houston in 2004 out of North Central College.

Towles made his debut in 2007 with Houston, appearing in 14 games and going 15-for-40 from the plate. On September 20, in the sixth game of his MLB career, he led Houston’s offense with a two-run double in the second, a two-run single in the fourth, a one-run double in the sixth, an RBI-walk in the eighth, and topped it off with a two-run homer in the ninth, an incredible eight RBI in an 18-1 win against the St. Louis Cardinals. Defensively, he caught 95 innings behind the plate without an error, and caught 50 percent of runners trying to steal (CS+ of 200).

Towles threw out seven-of-20 runners in 2008 (130 CS+), catching 408 23 innings with a .994 fielding percentage as he spent his rookie-status. Unfortunately, his weakest offensive season (of five, eventually) occured in the season where he had the most plate appearances. He slashed .137/.250/.253 in 54 games, drawing 16 walks and striking out 40 times. He hit a career-best four home runs and 16 RBI.

Towles played another three seasons with Houston, totaling 87 games and hitting .186/.251/.310 with six RBI and 22 RBI, collectively. Defensively, he had a .986 fielding percentage in 596 13 innings of backstopping, He threw out 12 runners in 68 chances, a 17.6 percent CS rate that works out to a 61 CS+. On September 30, 2009, he hit two solo home runs in a 10-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. On April 17, 2010, he hit two singles and a home run with two RBI in a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs. On May 25, 2011, he hit two singles and an RBI-double in a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Houston granted Towles his free agency after the 2011 season.

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