Remember that Star Trek episode (original series) there are these 2 guys who look identical but one is from the positive energy universe and the other is his polar opposite from the negative energy universe? Well, whenever I watch Bud Norris pitch, I always think of that because he’s either freaking unhittable or he can’t find the plate/walks/down the middle getting slammed. I mean, he doesn’t get singled to death like Nelson Figueroa.
Youneverknow – either ace or waste.
Today is #2 day of Astros Fan Fest (for the remaining 20,000 Astros fans left) and I had wanted to head down early , but it didn’t quiiiite work out like that because #2 Son informed his brothers that Him and Mami was gonna go to the baseball game and theyyyyyyyyy wassssnnnn’t, ha ha ha HA HAAAAAAAAAAAA and #1 Son who had loftily informed me earlier that the Astros uck-say and baseball is dumb and the Rockets ROOL had an abrupt change in attitude and next thing I know, Da Bull (#3 Son) who had 1 minute earlier been jumping to go over to see his cousins (he likes to HIT baseballs, not WATCH baseball – think Manny Ramirez without the drugs) started crying because he wanted to go toooooooooooo. So between explaining/promising each son His Own Day with Mami at the Ballpark and FINALLY getting out the door then having a tough time finding parking because of the Rockets game going on too, we managed to get to our seats in time to see the We Are Your Astros video on the New Screen.
We saw lots of Berkman jerseys, more than a few Pettitte/Clemens t-shirts/jerseys, Pence jerseys, a few Backe t-shirts/jerseys, Bourn t-shirts/jerseys, but no Wandy shirts/jerseys (and no, there aren’t any in the main store again. Still haven’t seen any Myers t-shirts/jerseys, in spite of the team’s constant effort to pimp him. Anyway, the video showed a lot of Keppinger (strangely enough) as well as a LOT of Pence and Bourn and the ol WB – hardly any Wandy.
The roof, to my surprise, was closed and Husband would have been MORE than happy to be here tonight – it was absolutely freezing – first time I can remember Drayton actually turning the AC below 80 degrees. When Norris threw the first pitch, there were maybe 15-18K people in the seats. Maybe. And Bud’s first pitch was in there for a strike – he threw 12 pitches, 10 strikes for 3 outs and looked ace deluxe. The Astros took a 1 run lead in the bottom of the inning when Sanchez doubled just inside the LF line, then Pence hit a bomb to the LF bullpen for a RBI double. Clank grounded out to short – an easy out, but again, he RAN HARD. Yes, I really AM talking about Carlos Lee – you’d think this was a contract year, or something – but whatever, he is giving it everything he’s got on every play and every grounder, something I’ve never seen him do in EVERY game.
Second inning, Bud comes back out – only it’s the Bud from The Alternate Opposite Universe and he throws 8 straight pitches way outside the strike zone. #2 Son asks me – what’s wrong? and I have absolutely NO idea, but apparently Arnsberg does, and he trots out and has a long conversation with Bud and the rest of the team, and sure enough, next pitch is strike 1 to lefty Greg Dobbs who, naturally, was taking all the way. He fouls off 4 pitches before singling to right to load the bases as Pence hold the runner on 3rd with an accurate throw to the cutoff man. He goes to 3-2 on catcher John Buck (yes, the same guy who was the Astros AAA catcher traded for Carlos the jackal back in June 04) then gets him swinging. He gets Donnie Murphy, the utility guy playing short for the injured Hanley Ramirez, to groundout to Wallace, who bobbles the ball, but recovers in time to get the out at first – but the runner scores. Not sure if he could have gotten Stanton out at home had he fielded the ball cleanly as Stanton is fast, big as he is (and oh yeah, the brotha is FINE, in case all yall curious – waaaay too tall, but FINE just the same…)
Javier Vasquez (freed from the living he!! that was attempting to pitch for the Yankees) grounds out to end the 26 pitch inning and the score is tied and how Bud managed to get himself back together, or even why on earth he couldn’t get a pitch near the plate to start off I have NO idea, but I have a feeling he drives Mills/Arnsberg as crazy as he does us fans.
Bottom of the second, CJ grounds out – he’s been in a hitting/fielding slump this series, then Bill Hall, doing a LOT better in the 7-hole, smashes a hanging curve 400+ feet onto the Hill for a double. He HAS hit a lot of balls HARD which haven’t fallen in – when he wasn’t striking out, and sooner or later, some were bound to evade the outfielders. JR Towles, catching Bud Kd after going to a 3-2 count, and Bud decided to Do Something and hit a double to left, driving in Hall. Bud runs faster than Sanchez, Wallace or Carlos. Bourn draws a 3-2 walk, then Sanchez drives in Bud with a single up the middle. Pence grounds out.
End of the second, it’s already 1 hour gone. Little boy looks longingly at cotton candy guy, knows better than to say something. I kind of feel bad, but know if I get him that, I will be dribbling kid down the hall/off the walls for the rest of the night.
Astros 3 Marlins 1 Mamiguilt 1
3rd inning – Positive Bud is back except for a Logan Morrison double off the scoreboard. Astros go 1,2,3 and CJ is unfairly called out on an inside FB on a 3-2 count. When things are going bad, the ump won’t give you nothin.
4th inning – Ace Bud gets 3 outs on 7 pitches – popup to Towles and 2 groundouts to Sanchez. Little boy has been staring at the people in front of us, eating fried greasy something. I give in and buy him a hamburger – there’s almost nobody in line – we get it, pay for it, he picks it up, bites into it and says, surprised, Mami, it’s cold. I go back, ask if they can heat it up, server glares at me, pretends not to hear, and I again ask politely if they can maybe microwave it, heat it up – it’s not like we’re holding up some line. She says that they don’t have a microwave. I ask her if we can please have a hot one/fresh one – she says no. What a waste of money – I’m never doing that again. And I mean NEVER buying ballpark food.
Anyway, we miss the Astros going 1,2,3 and get back barely in time to see Bud go through the top of the 5th 1,2,3 with 12 pitches.
Bottom of the 5th, Bourn beats out an IF hit to short, Sanchez walks, Pence hits a single to right and Bourn scores easily standing – I mean, nobody was gonna throw him out – and I mean nobody. Carlos flies out to center, then Wallace grounds out to second and is called out at first – and he sure looked safe to me and to everyone else at the ballpark. LOUD boos. And actually – this was a very significant thing – but I’m getting ahead of myself…
Top of the 6th – Bud’s at 76 pitches and is cruising with a 3 run lead. I see guys getting loose in the bullpen – as I said – Wallace getting called out at first was NOT good - with THIS team, we need like 10 insurance runs, and the way Bud was going, I didn’t want him pulled for one of out absolutely useless pinch hitters, as Wandy was. And Bud starts off fine, getting a quick groundout. Then trouble starts. Bud throws 2 pitches way outside, then throws a good FB midplate and Morrison hits a single to right. Then Bud goes to 1-2 on Stanton, then throws 2 pitches way outside, and I think – oh nooooooo, either ball 4 or a good pitch to hit and sure enough – nice meaty 84 MPH hanging slider/changeup smackdab in the middle of the plate and Stanton sends it a GOOD 425′ onto the middle of the Hill (why was Michael playing so shallow for a power hitter?) where it goes for a RBI double.
I’m having that feeling that Negative Universe Bud has showed back up – this is NOT good, by the way and even though Gaby Sanchez gets himself out on a pitch up and in, Greg Dobbs is up and I have that BAD feeling. ESPECIALLY when Bud throws 2 good pitches both painting the black and getting called balls and I KNOW he’s gonna try to catch more of the plate and sure nuff, that is exactly what happens and the ball sails into the RF bullpen and the score is tied.
#2 Son looks at me, says, did we just lose? and I say, I think so. Next pitch is a good one – FB on the low outside corner, but Buck catches almost all of it and golfs it to the wall in right, where Pence just gets it.
I was already worried about holding a THREE run lead and now with a tie game and 3 innings to go, I have no confidence whatsoever in this crappy bullpen, that we will come back.
Bottom of the 6th, CJ flies out to deep right, Hall Ks, JR singles and pinch hitter Inglett stays ofer and strands him. Inglett and Michaels are still ofer, Downs has 1 hit and Bourgeois has 1 pinch hit (of 2 PH opportunities). We might as well leave the pitcher in – at least HE can hit.
Top of the 7th, in comes Fernando Abad. This REALLY surprises me, as he hasn’t pitched well AND he’s going to face a righty, then certainly a righty pinch hitter. I can’t believe that Mills is thinking about using him for more than 1 inning, seeing as how he’s had trouble with the few he has already pitched, both in ST and the regular season, but youneverknow. He gets Murphy out, then sure enough, gives up a double to righty PH Wes Helms, another double to lefty Coughlin – one of the Biggio special to the LF corner kinds, then an enormous double to the LF bullpen to righty Infante (and no one goes to the mound to settle him – not JR, not Arnsberg) then he throws 3 straight balls to Morrison, who swings at Ball 4 and pops up.
#2 Son asks me repeatedly why the manager doesn’t get him because he can’t get anyone out and now we’re going to lose. He’s asking ME????
NOW, after 2 runs are in, Mills pulls him for Wilton Lopez, who gets Stanton swinging. #2 son asks why the manager didn’t just put him in in the first place. I tell #2 Son – well, that’s what he did last night and Lopez did last night what Abad just did tonight. Silence. Then – how come they do that? He’s asking ME??????????
Maybe Lopez should be the guy who comes in to rescue pitchers with MOB, as he is good at that and lousy at 8th inning work and everyone else is terrible at stranding runners.
Marlins 6, Astros 4.
7th Inning Stretch – yeah, I took him out to the Ballpark, and with THIS team, I’m beginning to not care if I ever come back. And the stars tonight are dim and dull, deep in the hearrrrrt of Tejas….
Bourn, Sanchez and Pence go 1,2,3.
In comes Enerio Del Rosario to start the 8th. Gaby Sanchez shatters his bat – shards go flying everywhere and the ball heads to third where CJ picks it up, eyes still on flying shards, and drops the ball and Sanchez reaches. When it rains, it pours. Dobbs comes up (the home run guy, as my kid says) and smashes another pitch, this time to the LF bullpen where it goes for an RBI double – yeah, unearned, but a run is a run. He gets Buck and Murphy out on 3 pitches, then pinch hitter Cousins sends a long fly ball back to the LF bullpen, and Carlos runs HARD and HE CATCHES THE BALL!!! #2 son asks, incredulously, if that is still Carlos Lee (even HE knows all about El Perezoso – the sloth) and by GAWD, it was. I swear, he ran hard to every fly ball, ran hard to first every single time. And he has lost a GOOD 20 lbs since he showed up at ST with a spare tire.
In comes Clay Hensley, Houston boy. We picked him up as a 6 year minor league FA in 09, put him in AAA where he threw 10 terrible innings. We released him, the Marlins picked him up and he threw 119 excellent innings for THEIR AAA club. Doesn’t say real too much for our piching insitruction/evaluation, does it? And he threw 75 innings of 2.16 ERA ball for the Marlins last year. Peachy.
But he gives up a double to Carlos, which he hits to the LF bullpen and he runs HARD, out of the box and glides into second. yes, Carlos. Brett Wallace hits a single and Carlos is off with the crack of the bat, running HARD, rounding third and miraculously beats the throw which fortunately was offline because Carlos doesn’t slide and he would not have beaten a good throw – not that it ended up mattering, but I’m getting ahead again. CJ strikes out, Hall pops up and JR lines out hard to second.
Marlins 7 Astros 5
Top of the 9th, Del Rosario mopping up – Coughlin grounds out, then Infante singles to left, Carlos picks up the ball and throws him out at second!!! Not that Carlos can throw hard, but he got to the ball as fast as he could and released the ball as soon as he could and threw as hard as he could and this time, he got out a guy who kind of dogged it out of the box, thinking – hey, why run fast with Clank out there? Morrison grounded out.
Bottom of the 9th – Leo Nunez in for the save again. Jason Bourgeois gets a pinch hit infield single, Bourn Ks, Sanchez hits a grounder to short and Bourgeois breaks up the DP!!! but Pence grounds out to end it.
So CJ’s error didn’t end up mattering to the game, but I sure hope it doesn’t do a number on his confidence because we need the boy to pick it up.
Out of the ballpark, out to the car BEFORE people start leaving the Toyota Center, so traffic isn’t bad at all.
Tomorrow is J Happ. And the last day of fan fest, highlighted by Milo Senile Hamilton reading stories to kids in Union Station.
And I suppose I should be comforted by the fact that the Red Sox and Rays also only have 1 win each, but I’m not. Nor by the fact that the Braves bullpen imploded today. Nor by the fact that the Cards only have one more win than we do. But I’m not.
This is by FAR the worst bullpen we’ve had since 04 – and they look like The Nasty Boys in comparison to this one.
At least we haven’t been shut out – and the Rangers have…