Maldonado a key piece in no-hitter

Re-acquired this week, veteran catcher guides Astros to history

August 4th, 2019

HOUSTON -- As catcher returned to the Astros lineup after missing three games with a sore left shoulder, was given the day off for Sunday's series finale against the Mariners after catching Saturday’s combined no-hitter.

Maldonado, re-acquired by the Astros in a trade with the Cubs on Wednesday, guided Aaron Sanchez through six-no-hit innings in the starter's Astros debut before finishing off the club’s 12th no-hitter, with Will Harris, Joe Biagini and Chris Devenski each throwing an inning.

“He was everything,” Sanchez said of Maldonado. “To be able to establish everything out of the gate, throwing everything for strikes, and then after that it's just keeping guys off-balance. In between innings, he would give his two cents on what he saw and what he wanted and that goes a long way when you have someone behind him like that.”

Maldonado had never caught a no-hitter prior to Saturday.

“There were four guys out there competing pitch to pitch and just to have that no-hitter at the end, there are no words to describe it,” he said.

The Astros acquired Maldonado ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season from the Angels and he was their primary catcher in the postseason. Maldonado signed with the Royals before being traded to the Cubs in mid-July, though the Astros wanted him back.

“He just looks like he’s at home,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He’s a true catcher. He cares so much about what his pitcher is doing on the mound. I have great respect for that. Chirinos is the same way. I demand that of our catchers because that’s where we’re going to impact the game the most. We love hitting homers and getting base hits. I say every day we want him to catch a winner and get a base hit. That’s a good day for our catcher.”

Collecting history

Astros authentication manager and team historian Mike Acosta had quite a day on Saturday. He was the main mastermind behind the planning and execution of the inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which took place before the game, and then he was tasked with preserving a slice of Astros history after.

On a day when the Astros honored, among others, three pitchers who threw no-hitters during their time in a Houston uniform -- Larry Dierker, Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan -- Acosta, whose job it is to make sure everything used during the game is properly marked and authenticated, had his hands full -- literally -- after the historic win over Seattle.

Holding the gloves belonging to Sanchez, Harris, Biagini and Devenski, Acosta explained the process. They mark the gloves with a "covert mark," which makes them permanently official as the real ones used in the no-hitter. That way, the players can continue using them, and at the end of the year, the MLB hologram will be added to the items.

The players will have the option, of course, of keeping the gloves. Other scenarios include donating them to the Astros Hall of Fame, or the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

"Maybe they hold onto it, maybe it goes to the Hall of Fame," Acosta said.

The gloves were only a segment of the authentication process. Hats were gathered, as well as the game-used balls and jerseys.

"And dirt," Acosta said. "About 10 gallons of dirt."

Medical updates

• Astros pitching coach Brent Strom will be away from the team for a few days after undergoing gastrointestinal surgery overnight in Houston. Hinch said that Strom became ill during Saturday’s game and into the night. Bullpen coach Josh Miller will serve as pitching coach and bullpen catcher Michael Collins will serve as bullpen coach until Strom’s return.

• All-Star right-hander , on the injured list with a sore right knee, threw a bullpen session on the main mound at Minute Maid Park prior to Sunday’s game. He’s eligible to come off the injured list on Tuesday, but he might need another day or two.

“He looked a little rusty, like he hadn’t pitched in 10 days, but he looked healthy, which is a good sign,” Hinch said. “We’ll see how he recovers tomorrow. It was the first time in a while I felt like he was unrestricted on the mound and battling his command for reasons other than not being able to load his back side and pitch off the rubber. I’m encouraged by what I saw today, even though he wanted to be a little sharper.”

• Right-hander had trouble finding the strike zone but was otherwise healthy in his Minor League rehab start on Saturday for Triple-A Round Rock. Peacock (right shoulder soreness) allowed five earned runs, three hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings, throwing 33 pitches. He’ll pitch again Wednesday for Round Rock, and when he returns to Houston, he’ll be in the bullpen.

“He felt good physically,” Hinch said. “He just said he had no idea where the ball was going. Rough line by the look of it, but just getting him in the game and getting him to report he felt physically good is a good sign. He’ll have a few days off and he’ll pitch again on rehab next week.”