Hello, folks. Just a quick note to say I have not fallen off the face of the earth (as the title and the mere fact of my posting would indicate), I have not entered an asylum as one of you who e-mailed me intimated might have happened (rather gleefully intimated, I might add), I’ve just had a stressful couple of weeks culminating in a trip home to Houston, a pressing of the emotional reset button and a chance to see some Astros/Cardinals baseball live and in person.
An enormous and heartfelt THANK YOU to my friends Crystal and James, who treated me to the game last night, and parking, and a beer, and their wonderful company. What a fun return to Minute Maid Park after almost a year away (July 28, 2005, to be precise, Astros vs. Mets, Astacio vs. Pedro Martinez, he-who-shall-not-be-named returned to MMP, Astros won 2-1 with a walkoff hit by Brad Ausmus, but who’s counting). Minute Maid, I missed you so.
Fear the Puma’s Paw: The highlights of last night’s well-pitched game had to be Lance Berkman’s TWO outfield assists. Playing in right field, Lance Berkman nailed Scott Rolen at third base in the second inning and got Jim Edmonds at second in the seventh. My least favorite Cardinal, the whiny Edmonds was trying to stretch a single into a double.
From astros.com: "My philosophy is just to get it on its way," Berkman said, "and
hopefully it’ll land somewhere in the vicinity of the base. It worked
out twice tonight." That second throw was even sweeter, because Berkman made it without a glance at Edmonds or second base. "It’s called the old no-look throw," Berkman said jokingly. "You’ve
heard of the no-look pass in basketball? That was the no-look throw."
On tap tonight: Wandy Rodriguez vs. Jason Marquis. See you there!
Phil Garner, on getting tossed from the game by the worthless CB Bucknor and throwing a chair onto the field: "I got thrown out, and that chair had been bothering me the whole game," Garner said. "And I finally had a chance to throw it out of the dugout."
The Astros and I aren’t on speaking terms this morning, after they spent the weekend persistently underachieving against the team with the worst record in baseball. Demerits all around. No gold stars. No Mighty Mouses to be handed out today. But that’s not why I won’t be blogging much this week: I’m out of town, at a conference in the majestic hills of upstate New York. So being in the middle of beautiful nowhere (see picture at left–pretty, yes?) I’ll have limited internet access, limited time, and no place to watch Astros games. Yes, I might be missing The Rocket’s start on Thursday. Argh. But such is life. After all, there’s more to life than baseball (yes, Mama and Daddy, it’s still your daughter writing this).
I missed Roy O’s start last night, due to a trip to the circus with a friend who wanted to go because she is writing a novel about a circus. Also she used to work for the circus. I haven’t been to the circus since I was a kid, and it’s funny–I felt exactly the same clown-related anxiety I used to feel when I was little. I used to worry that they were actually the saddest people in the room. And I had the same response last night, 20 years later. Anyway, enough about that. It looks like Roy’s first start off the DL went well, at least well enough to get the win, although he gave up a lot more hits than usual and only fanned two. So he wasn’t overly sharp. But sharp enough, and hopefully he’ll be able to build on this start and get stronger next time.
In a couple of hours, we’ve got Nieve vs. Zambrano. Nieve is coming off his best start of the season, and the last time Zambrano faced us at Minute Maid Park he almost no-hit us (which really ended up being a good thing in the long run, because that was Rock Bottom and they’ve turned it around since then and won 8 out of our last nine). So this should be an interesting one. Play hooky from work or school, and stay tuned…
…The Burkelet. Last week, Chris Burke subluxed his left shoulder (which means he dislocated it but it popped back in on its own) for the third time in the last twelve months (and the second time this season). Twenty-four hours later, after taking batting practice and fielding grounders, he declared himself available to pinch hit. Yes, this guy is tough. In Monday’s game against the Braves, he was drilled in the left elbow in the second inning by Horacio Ramirez, then stayed in the game until the fifth, leaving only after making a highlight reel catch on Tal’s Hill in deep centerfield at Minute Maid Park. Tonight, he launched a solo homer off Cubs rookie Sean Marshall in the first inning to put the Astros on the board, then proceeded to reach base in all four of his subsequent plate appearances; and each time he reached base, he came around to score, managing 5 runs on the evening. I’m afraid NL Rookie of the Year runner up Willy Taveras may have lost his starting job in centerfield, at least for the time being.
Andy Pettitte also looked great tonight, allowing just one run off five hits in seven innings and working himself out of some jams that were for the most part not of his own making.
Alright, off to bed, folks. On tap for tomorrow: Roy Oswalt, fresh off the 15-day DL says he’s feeling great and ready to go vs. Greg Maddux.
Since posting a tombstone on this blog and declaring the Astros Dead-Team-Walking they’ve won 5 of their last 6 games, taking back-to-back series (albeit against the Cubs and the Braves, both teams with losing records) for the first time since April. Coincidence? Or is it the For Love of the Astros Tombstone Mojo? I have my suspicions, but only time will tell😉 And for yesterday’s loss, I can only blame myself: I have a huge weakness for the Braves’ starting pitcher Tim Hudson and while of course I never root for him when he’s pitching against the Astros, well… those tattoos get me every time. Yum. Sorry, fellas. Regardless,their offensive onslaught today combined with an off day tomorrow bodes well for their brief road trip (a 3-game series at Wrigley) and their subsequent interleague homestand when they will host the KC Royals and the Minnesota Twins.
The Statistical Aberration pitched decently today although in my opinion he wasn’t as sharp as in his previous outing against the Cubs (of course he didn’t need to be, as he was staked to a substantial lead early by the Astros’ unusually potent offense). He also helped himself by singling to right and then scoring from first on Craig Biggio’s 627th career double. After sitting out yesterday with a sore left abdomen, Bidge went 3-4 with an RBI and scoring two runs himself. He’s currently in persuit of Hall of Famer Honus Wagner (I love this picture of Wagner) on both the Career Doubles List (Wagner is in possession of the number 8 spot on the all-time list, with 640) and on the Career Runs List (Bidge has 1,733, and Wagner is number 20 on the all-time list with 1,736). Bidge is reaching career milestones almost every time he puts on the uniform these days. For daily updates, check out the Bidge Hall of Fame tracker on Astros Daily.
The brightest spot in the Astros lineup today was Jason Lane, who has been in one of the more horrendous slumps I’ve seen; today, he went 3-5 with 5 RBIs, smacking a 2-run double and a launching a 3-run homer. Garner calls him the "worry wart"; hopefully, this will help restore his confidence. I know he’s looked awful for the majority of this season, but I really feel like if he can get his head right, he will be very, very good. Astros backup catcher Eric Munson (Wandy Rodriguez’s regular catcher) also had a big day, going deep twice. He has been a nice surprise so far this season.
- Braves’ starting pitcher Horacio Ramirez took a Lance Berkman line drive off the face in the second inning of this afternoon’s game. It was a scary moment, as Thomas over at Stros Bro noted, but Ramirez escaped with only a "minor contusion" and, miraculously, expects to make his next start. Lance ran over to the mound as soon as the play was complete and called Ramirez in the visitors’ clubhouse after the game to see how he was doing.
- Congratulations are in order for Lance Berkman and his wife Cara!! Cara Berkman gave birth yesterday afternoon to the couple’s third daughter, Katie Mae Berkman, who weighs 7 pounds, 1 ounce.
- Morgan Ensberg was held out of the lineup for the second day in a row, nursing a sore shoulder. Garner expects him to return to the lineup on Tuesday.
- Chris Burke’s bad luck and injury woes continue. He was drilled in the left elbow by Ramirez in the second inning but he stayed in the game until the fifth, when he was replaced in center field by Willy Taveras. Burke made a spectacular catch on Tal’s Hill before exiting the game. He’s listed as day-to-day with a bruised elbow.
An off day tomorrow. I hate off days during winning streaks. Happy Mondays, everyone, and see y’all Tuesday when Andy Pettitte takes on Cubs rookie Sean Marshall!
Since I declared the Astros Dead Team Walking two days ago with a wink and a prayer, they’ve gone 2-0 (I know, two games–but they busted up a five game skid, and so two wins in a row feels like a pretty hefty winning streak) and gone back to the things they’ve done best in past: Excellent starting pitching (and pitching in general), acceptable hitting (comparatively, at least) and excellent defense.
Huge props go to Wandy Rodriguez, better known on this site as The Statistical Aberration, for rebounding from that abysmal previous start on short rest to pitch 7 innings of 5-hit shutout ball. Props and kudos and a tickertape parade to our latest member of The Kiddie Corps, Chris Sampson, who was initially called up from AAA Round Rock to replace a struggling Mike Gallo in the bullpen and was at least temporarily promoted to starter when Roy Oswalt was placed on the 15-day DL with a lower back strain. In his first major league start (yesterday), he pitched 7 scoreless innings of 3-hit ball against the Cubs. It was a high pressure situation, with the Astros desperately needing another win, and he was given no margin for error as the standard anemic Astros offense managed only one run against Cubs’ rookie Sean Marshall.
Brad Ausmus was responsible for the Astros’ one and only run, going deep for the first time this season. As Amy (from the oft-mentioned superfantastic discussion board) put it: Someone owes him a steak dinner. And the bullpen is looking more and more like the pen of 2005, with Dan Wheeler throwing a scoreless eighth and Brad Lidge dispatching the Cubs’ 3-4-5 hitters with the ruthless efficiency of one who has something to prove.
Andy Pettitte goes tonight against the Braves’ John Thompson. Let’s hope Thomas’ magic eight ball is correct in its prediction that tonight is Andy’s night to get it turned around and give us a W.
Could almost getting no-hit by Carlos Zambrano last night be the equivalent of the 2005 tombstone in the Houston Chronicle? Is this rock bottom? Or do the Houston Astros need to be officially declared Dead Team Walking before they come alive? Fine. I’ll do it. The season is over. Let’s have a rebuilding year. Break up the team, sell off the pieces. Last night was humilliating. As the administrator of my super-fantastic discussion board put it so eloquently during the game (and here I’m paraphrasing): It would have been more enjoyable to rub your skin with steel wool and then pour lemon juice all over yourself. We were reduced to wishing and hoping for a hit, just one, a bloop single, an infield hit, anything to break up the no hitter. And when it was broken up by Preston Wilson in the eighth inning, we felt like that was a victory in itself, never mind we were losing 8-0, that the opposing pitcher who was no-hitting us was responsible for half of the Cubs’ RBIs. It was humiliating. It was pathetic. After starting the season with the best record in Astros’ history (19-9), they have managed to tank in ways I never thought possible. They have raised tanking to an art form. And now our ace, our plug in the bottom of the leaking boat, is heading to the 15-day DL with a back strain. No way we can come back from this one. Not with the way our Kiddie Corps has been struggling (with the possible exception of Fernando Nieve). Not with the way Jason Lane and Adam Everett and Willy Taveras have been hitting (not hitting). Not with the streakiness of the amply talented but psychologically fragile Morgan Ensberg. Not with a struggling Dan Wheeler. It’ll be over before Roger Clemens joins the rotation June 22. His return will be reduced to nothing more than a fanfare-laden, tragically expensive joke. It’s over.
Is that what you guys need to light a fire under your a5ses? There. I’ve done it. Now go get ’em.