Well, last night, Husband took me out on a date. Date night with your own Husband is great as long as you FIRST tell your kids that they GET to go play with their cousins at Nana’s.
The ballpark was a little more full than it had been for the last homestand, maybe 3/4 full (yes I know all about “official attendence” and I don’t believe it any more than I believe that certain ballplayers are 6′ tall…) I think that perhaps a lot of folks came on in because Wandy Wins At Home and at least so far, this is not a winning team, you know what I’m sayin…
And when you’re not winning, you don’t get the breaks. Not sure why. The umps won’t give your pitcher borderline strikes, the umps won’t give your runners borderline calls and grounders go juuuuuuuust past a diving Tejada. But even when you know your team simply sucks, even when winning is an unexpected pleasant surprise, there is STILL something about going to the ballpark that never ceases to thrill me. And oh, what a BEAUTIFUL night for a ballgame, nice and warm, but not too hot, unless you are sitting on the first base side looking into the setting sun.
And the first thing I noticed was that Wandy didn’t seem to be throwing quite as fast as usual and that he wasn’t using his changeup and that his curve wasn’t near as lethal as usual, even though Wandy seemed to be throwing it at least a third of the time. And he was walking guys, something he hasn’t had a problem with in a few years. He threw a FB down the middle to the pitcher to get strike 3 and the pitcher, Cook, hit it up the middle to score the run. He seemed to be a little better in the 3rd, but still, he hung a curve to Holiday, who hit it to deep left center, just in front of the Hill, where Michael Bourn made yet ANOTHER spectacular catch (more on him later.) He managed to come back and K Atkins on a curve that broke jusssst inside the inside corner. He looked as if he was fighting for his life. Not good.
In the 4th, he walks Barmes on 4 straight FB (NOT like him) then Tejada screws up a tailor made 6-4-3 grounder and both Barmes AND Ianetta are safe – and it wasn’t completely his fault because for some reason I do NOT get, Matsui hadn’t gotten his butt over to second to get the throw (where is this superb fielder we heard ALL about???) After Cook Ks, Spilborghs singles to center, driving home Barmes – Bourn had grabbed the ball, fired a bullet and Tejada cut off the throw. Yes, plays NOT made CAN in fact, determine the outcome of a ballgame, can’t they?
Anyway, Wandy then walks Tulo on 4 straight pitches after getting a first called strike, to load the bases. Todd effing Helton is up – the guy who knew enough to send a fly ball to left where it wouldn’t be fielded, the guy who hit a single to left juuuuust past a diving Tejada, the guy who has, in 95 AB at the Box: .385/.451/.695/1.146 with 7 homers. Dewey Robinson and the entire team trot out to the mound, talk about what to buy Millie and Jimmie for their wedding and FINALLY the ump breaks it up.
Wandy bounces 2 curves in the dirt. Then Helton juuuust misses a good swing on a nothing FB down the pike, fouls it off into the upper deck. He then fouls off a FB almost at his knees, then Ks on a curve a foot outside. Wandy can’t believe his luck and slowly trudges off the mound. I looked at Husband. He looked at me. We both knew something was seriously wrong with Wandy and we weren’t surprised to see him not come out for the 5th.
Villareal came out, the score tied 2 all and we both said – well, there goes the ballgame. Sure enough, he gives up a 4 pitch walk, a single to left, an RBI single to right, then Dewey Robinson comes running out as fast as his legs can take him. Sorta reminds me of those Benny Hill skits where they speed up the reel – and Benny comes running up to the Little Old Man (who never talks) and kicks him in the butt a few times. Anyway, it seems to work because he gets Barmes to popup and Ianetta and Cook to K. And even though he has a 1,2,3 6th except for hitting Helton with a breaker, that was the losing run. He did seem to be a lot sharper than I had seen him in previous outings, I must say.
Geary pitched the 7th, giving up only a single up the middle.
Cooper had got his self tossed in the bottom of the 7th (more on that later) and Jackie Moore was managing. He sent Brocail out – figuring, I guess, that Geary couldn’t pitch 2, and that Bork and Moehler were tired from yesterday.
Brocail had a, um, little trouble with the HP ump, who, I think, was taking it out on the Astros because of his, um, little – ahem – discussion with Coop the inning before. Brocail CLEARLY struck out Spilborghs on an inside FB (yes, I checked on the replay and on gameday) and it was called a ball 3. Brocail wasn’t happy, tried not to show up the ump and Towles, being a rook and all, really couldn’t ask the crew chief – now WHERE was that pitch, or they’d never have gotten a call all night. Anyway, it takes him another 2 pitches to get a groundout, then Tulo grounds out too.
I don’t guess I was surprised to see Brocail go back out for the 9th – Valverde was warming up, but hey, with the 3,4,5 hitter coming up in the bottom of the 9th, Jackie had to “show confidence” in the closer that he could hold a lead if we managed to tie it up.
The 9th was a real interesting time for Brocail, it surely was, let’s call it that. First up, Helton hits a mid-plate mid thigh FB to left for a clean single. He stops after rounding first, but Pence bobbles the ball, Helton turns on the burners, dives into second, where the throw from Pence, who has FINALLY gotten hold of the ball, is offline and late. The scorer credits Helton with a “double.” Remember making plays is, you know, important??? Holiday makes it an exciting duel, fouling off 9 FB and sliders before striking out on a curve – not that Brocail throws it very often, but it was just the ticket here.
Then Atkins is up – Brocail is tiring and Atkins is also fouling off pitches and Brocail is throwing a few balls. But he CLEARLY strikes out Atkins on a nice pitch at the knees on the outside corner (yes, I checked the replay AND gameday) and again, the HP ump calls it a ball. Brocail is LIVID. He says something to the HP ump like – might could you be the ump in the TSO commercial on the jumbotron??? Lance Berkman trots over to calm Brocail down, but Brocail is too pissed to talk and he goes back up on the mound, fire in his eyes. Hawpe and Barmes both flyout and Bourn makes great catches on both, especially Hawpe’s as he had to adjust at the last second.
I swear I heard Brocail tell the HP ump to – eat THAT – as he strolled off the mound. But that was 47 pitches, which means that no way is Brocail coming into this afternoon’s game, which means that IF we are ahead, we are stuck with Valverde. Which is, um, depressing.
And speaking of depressing, Lane and Clank are ofer Rockies.
And speaking of even more depressing, Wandy was indeed hurting – he has a strained groin – no word on what will happen. If he has to go on the DL, we’ll have to call up SOMEone. Cassel is the ONLY AAA starter not sucking (trust me on this) – has a 1.11 WHIP and a 2.50 ERA over 18 IP and 3 GS.
But all in all, it was a fun night. Just watching Michael Bourn is worth the price of admission. For the second time this YEAR, he stole second ON A PITCHOUT. I mean, except for driving in the game winner in the bottom of the 9th, what could POSSIBLY be cooler??? And as for his fielding? Spectacular – well, that is the absolute minimum I can say. Unlike some commentators, I certainly am not going to fault the guy for playing deeper that you might could like when power hitters are up – you prefer singles to doubles/triples, and almost no balls hit to the power alleys have fallen in for hits as Velcro is Right There.
And watching Lance throw a tantrum after he ran full steam to just barely beat out an IF chopper to the mound and get called out was worth the price of a ticket. Lance hardly ever argues calls, let alone throws a fit, but when he does, he’s usually right and from our seats right over first, it sure looked to all of us as if he had beaten the throw. Coop was out there in a second, arguing with the ump, but, naturally, the ruling stood.
But of course, the REAL prize fight was in the 8th. Geoff Blum hit a drive to deep right center right in front of the bullpen and Spilborghs appeared to make a spectacular snowcone catch, but the ball popped out of his glove as he hit the ground, but he muffled it under his body and held it up for the ump to see and Blum was called out. The bullpen guys were screaming even BEFORE he held the ball up, but the ump missed it. Blum was standing on second, but Coop was out of the dugout fastern Clank on the post game buffet and was out to talk with the umps, who, for once, agreed to confer. Unfortunately, no one had a better sight line on the play, so the ruling had to stand. Coop went absolutely Lou Pinella (sorry, but he IS the master, followed closely by Bobby Cox) on Rick Reed, got tossed and the 3rd base coach had to come running over and grab Coop. The fans in the RF stands, who had seen the whole thing, were all screaming and booing – I checked with one of my Mama’s friends, who was sitting just above the bullpen and she had a great view and she said the ball DEFINITELY came out of his glove, she SAW it.
But, unfortunately, what the ump sez goes, so it was up to Pence who Kd on a (3 guesses) slider and Towles, who flewout to left. Pence had better get himself together because any pitcher who can throw a slider has exactly ZERO reason to throw him anything else and he is gonna get any hits – IF he can get any hits – on any other pitch. And Towles is a dead pull hitter, and the ML pitchers are going to adjust – he’d better get ready to adjust too or learn to take pitches the other way.
Anyhow, this afternoon, it is gonna be Shawn Chacon vs Ubaldo Jiminez, RHP
Jiminez is 24 years old, had a cup of coffee in 06, was called up last year and started 15 games. He went 4-4 over 15 games – 82 IP, 70 H, 10 HR, 37 BB, 68 K, a 4.28 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and a .228 BAA
Meaning he gave up homers with MOB.
Chacon had best be ready to pitch a complete game. Maybe with all the relievers all tired out, Coop will get off his idiotic – no guys can finish games because we have a closer – schtick. Either that or he best be taking ulcer medicine and tranks when Valverde goes out there…
By the way, is this a good time to mention that Luke Scott is 22/57 with 9 BB, 9 doubles and a homer and 6 RS – .386/.470/.596/1.066 or that Mo Ensberg is .375/.375/.563/.938 – yeah, in 16 AB… Or that Albers has given up 1 R/ER in 12.1 IP? Or that Chad Qualls has given up 4 hits and 6 BB in 9.2 IP and 2 UER and still has a 0 ERA?