The Houston Astros are going for it.

With the trade deadline a week away, the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from Oakland on Thursday for a pair of minor leaguers. Houston (54-43), which is seeking its first playoff appearance since 2005, is just one game back of Los Angeles (54-41) in the AL West, even with the Angels winning 17 of their last 21 games.

Kazmir, 31, has had great year in Oakland: 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in 18 starts. Now the Houston native is heading home.

“He’s been pitching lights out and he’s coming back home,” Root Sports Houston Anchor Kevin Eschenfelder said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You never know how it’s all going to pan out. The Astros are right there. The Angles underachieved early. That was a 98-win team from a year ago, but they’re not going to play that kind of baseball the rest of the year. If the Astros can hang right in there, I like their chances.”

The Astros traded catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitcher Daniel Mengden to acquire Kazmir.

“The Scott Kazmir deal, I think, was an outstanding deal,” Eschenfelder said. “The Astros gave up a couple of Class-A players. And from what I understand, the catcher was one of their top catching prospects, and then they gave up a pitcher. But you to give up a little something. And Scott Kazmir, his career tells you he’s pitched with a lot of grit, a lot of determination.”

Kazmir, a quality starter for much of his career, was roughed up in 2009 and 2010 and spent most of 2011 and 2012 in the minors trying to rediscover himself and find answers. Eventually, he did. The three-time All-Star went 20-11 with 265 strikeouts in 50 starts for Oakland.

“He’s a Houston high school product, and I think he’s excited about (coming home),” Eschenfelder said. “That matters.”

Kazmir joins Dallas Keuchel (12-4, 2.12 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) and Collin McHugh (11-5, 4.25 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) in what is becoming a formidable rotation. Eschenfelder believes Keuchel “is pitching as well as anybody in the American League” and reminded listeners that McHugh has won more games than anybody since last August.

And that’s before we get to the bullpen, which Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson have on lockdown.

Not bad for a team that went 162-324 (.333) from 2011 to 2013.

“We both know pitching will take you a long way after that regular season, and it’ll do a lot to get you there as well,” Eschenfelder said. “I think they took a big step in the right direction.”

The Astros, who have won four straight, face the Royals in Kansas City this weekend. Houston is coming off a three-game sweep of the Red Sox.


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