HOUSTON — J.R. Richard, a huge, flame-throwing right-hander who spent 10 years with the Houston Astros before his career was cut short by a stroke, has died. He was 71.

The team announced his death on Thursday but did not provide any further details.

“Today is a sad day for the Houston Astros as we mourn the loss of one of our franchise icons, J.R. Richard,” the Astros said in a statement. “J.R. will forever be remembered as an intimidating figure on the mound and as one of the greatest pitchers in club history. He stood shoulder to shoulder with club icons Larry Dierker, Joe Niekro and Nolan Ryan, to form a few of the best rotations in club history.”

The 6-foot-8 Richard intimidated hitters with an effectively wild delivery, a fastball that often touched 100 mph and an almost unhittable breaking ball.

He was selected by the Astros with the second overall pick in the 1969 draft and struck out 15 batters in a complete-game win over the Giants in his major league debut on Sept. 5, 1971.

He pitched for Houston from 1971-80, going 107-71 with a 3.15 ERA and 76 complete games. Richard won a career-best 20 games in 1976, the first of four straight seasons with at least 18 wins.

In 1978 he became the first Astro to strike out 300 batters in a season when he led the majors with 303. The next year, he led the National League with a 2.71 ERA and fanned 313 to again lead the majors.

Richard was having a great season in 1980, posting a 10-4 record with a 1.96 ERA in the first half of the season and starting for the NL in the All-Star Game in July. Less than a month later, Richard suffered a major stroke that ended his career.

Richard, who was just 30 at the time, attempted a comeback, but was never able to make it back to the majors and was released by the Astros in 1984.

Enos Cabell, who played with Richard for six seasons, raved about his teammate and longtime friend.

“He was one of the greatest pitchers we ever had and probably would have been in the Hall of Fame if his career was not cut short,” he said. “On the mound, he was devastating and intimidating. Nobody wanted to face him. Guys on the other team would say that they were sick to avoid facing him. This is very sad news. He will be missed.”

Richard left his mark on the Astros’ record books and is tied for second in career ERA (3.15), third in strikeouts (1,493), fourth in complete games (76) and fifth in wins (107) and shutouts (19). He was inducted into the team’s inaugural Hall of Fame in 2019.

Richard fell on hard times after his career ended. A series of bad investments, failed businesses and a divorce left him penniless, and he was briefly homeless in the mid-90s.

He eventually got his life back on track and worked as a minister in his later years.

INDIANS: Soon to be known as Guardians, the Indians aren’t leaving home anytime soon.

Ending rampant speculation they would be relocating, the Indians agreed to a 15-year lease extension at Progressive Field, keeping them at their downtown ballpark through 2036 and perhaps longer.

The agreement, which still needs legislative approval, includes two additional five-year options that could make it a 25-year deal through 2046.

Also, the Indians are partnering with the city, Cuyahoga County and state to spend $435 million for renovations on the ballpark, which opened as Jacobs Field in 1994 but is now one of Major League Baseball’s oldest facilities.

YANKEES: Catcher Gary Sanchez became the latest Yankees player to test positive for the coronavirus after starting pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Gerrit Cole were sidelined by COVID-19 earlier in the week.

Manager Aaron Boone said the positive result for Sanchez came from a rapid test and the Yankees were awaiting the results of a PCR test.

After Monday’s game against Baltimore, Cole tested positive and was scratched from his scheduled start on the next day. Montgomery tested positive on Tuesday.

The three positive results occurred after the Yankees returned from playing six games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins in Florida, where COVID-19 cases are surging.

To replace Sanchez, Rob Brantly was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre.


YANKEES 5, MARINERS 3: Joey Gallo hit his first homer as a Yankee, a go-ahead, three-run blast in the seventh inning as New York beat visiting Seattle.

Gallo, who entered 2 for 23 in six games since the Yankees acquired him from the Texas Rangers, lofted a 1-0 slider from Paul Sewald (6-3) just over the short porch in right field. He watched it stay inside the foul pole before completing his trot around the bases.

Gallo, who also doubled twice, waved from the dugout to the adoring crowd, which continued to chant his name as he jogged out to left field for the eighth.

Gallo’s 26th homer this season helped the Yankees win for the sixth time in seven games and move a season-high 10 games over .500. New York and Seattle are chasing the AL wild-card spots currently held by Boston and Oakland.

Chad Green (5-5) worked two innings in relief of starter Nestor Cortes. Zack Britton pitched the eighth and Aroldis Chapman allowed two baserunners in the ninth before retiring Mitch Haniger on a flyball to the warning track in left field for his 23rd save in 27 opportunities.

BLUE JAYS 3, INDIANS 0: Bo Bichette homered and drove in all three runs, Ross Stripling pitched six sharp innings to win his second consecutive start and Toronto won at home.

Toronto (57-49) won for the sixth time in seven games since returning north of the border last week and moved a season-best eight games above .500.

Bichette hit a two-run homer in the fourth, his 20th, and added an RBI single in the sixth.

MARLINS 4, METS 2: Jorge Alfaro hit a tie-breaking RBI single in the eighth inning as Miami won at home.

New York has lost 6 of 8 overall and is 2-4 since its big trade-deadline acquisition, Javier Baez, made his debut. Baez went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts and is hitting .160 (4 for 25) with the Mets.

ANGELS 5, RANGERS 0: Dylan Bundy pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning in his second appearance since returning from a demotion to the bullpen, and visiting Los Angeles beat Texas.

Adam Eaton homered, and Jose Iglesias added a two-run single as the Angels took the four-game series from last-place Texas after losing the opener.

Bundy (2-8), who had a 6.78 ERA when he was sent to the bullpen in late June, retired 13 consecutive batters after allowing Nathaniel Lowe’s single and walking Adolis Garcia with one out in the first.

ROCKIES 6, CUBS 5: Trevor Story hit two home runs, including a go-ahead two-run drive in the fifth inning, and Colorado hung on to beat visiting Chicago.

Sam Hilliard and Connor Joe also homered and Brendan Rodgers extended his hitting streak to 12 games with two singles for the Rockies, who took 2 of 3 from the Cubs.

GIANTS 5, DIAMONDBACKS 4: LaMonte Wade Jr. tied it with a two-out single in a four-run ninth inning and Kris Bryant doubled in the winning run in the 10th as San Francisco won at Phoenix.

The Giants moved four games ahead of the idle Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. They’re 12-2 against Arizona, a major league-worst 34-76.

PHILLIES 7, NATIONALS 6: J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins each hit a two-run double in the ninth inning, and visiting Philadelphia rallied to complete a four-game sweep.

The Phillies have won five straight overall and moved within one-half game of the NL East-leading New York Mets, who travel to Philadelphia for a three-game series beginning Friday. Philadelphia is three games over .500 for the first time since May 14.

Realmuto tied the game with his double to the right-center field gap against closer Kyle Finnegan (4-3). Two batters later, Hoskins doubled to left-center to score two more.

REDS 7, PIRATES 4: Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto hit three-run homers in a six-run second inning at Cincinnati beat visiting Pittsburgh.

Jonathan India also went deep and pitcher Sonny Gray (4-6) helped himself with two hits as second-place Cincinnati gained a half-game on idle NL Central-leader Milwaukee and a full game on San Diego, which has a three-game lead over the Reds for the second wild-card slot. The Brewers lead Cincinnati by seven games.

Comments are not available on this story.