Archive for September, 2007

9/30/07: Astros Win 3-0 In Biggio’s Farewell Game

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Although you’ve come
To the end of the road
Still we can’t let you go
It’s unnatural
You belong to us
We belong to you…

(apologies Kenny Edmonds)

And of course it isn’t REALLY finished – next year there will be Craig Biggio Appreciation Day and Retiring Biggio’s Number Day…

But for today, everyone came to send him off and end The Year Of The Biggio in style. The owner, the mayor, the teammates, his kids. He hit career hit #3060, double #668 and scored run #1844. I’m going to write a more complete career retrospective later on this year, the good and the bad, NOT the “perfect” ballplayer Richard Justice wants to pretend he was. No such thing as a perfect human being of ANY sort.

And as for the game – well, Felipe Paulino pitched decently. He kept Harris, Chipper and Francouer off the bases, gave up 2 hits, 3 walks and 4 K over 6 IP – 78 pitches, 46 strikes. McLemore and Moehler each pitched a scoreless inning and Borkowski struck out the side for his first save this year.

Speaking of saves, Brad Lidge will be getting his knee fixed at 7:30 AM. Should have been fixed at LEAST a month ago.

Speaking of pitching, Dave Wallace, the pitching coach, will not be coming back because of “family issues” – whatever that means. I didn’t see THAT one coming. He did a great job with both Lidge and Wandy, but I’m not sure that I should be blaming him for Woody or Jennings… He will be replaced by Dewey Robinson, the minor league pitching coordinator, who I know worked with a lot of the pitchers who came up through the system.

Speaking of replacement, Mansolino, the 3rd base coach, who was Phil’s man, will be replaced by someone else, not sure who, but I’m not exactly unhappy about that, as I thought his judgement was lacking a few too many times. Cheo Cruz will be returning to coach first base and Jackie Moore, the AAA manager for the past 8 years, will be the new bench coach.

I will be writing a team retrospective later on in October. I am really REALLY tired and am going to take a week off, then will re-start by writing player assessments. We already know what I think of the management from Drayton on down…

9/29/07: Brandon Backe Hits The Game Winning Run With An Opposite Field Homer

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

Day 2 of Biggio Love-Fest.

The Good Lord/Mother Nature/Fate intervened with Drayton McLane’s plan to roast fans alive today by sending rain, so the roof had to be closed. Either that, or Drayton actually heard about the thousands of fans who were calling and complaining about his cheapness and maybe he didn’t want to get booed.

Anyway, of course it was – Craig is going to catch a few innings while Brad Ausmus plays second – day. Craig went over to the Braves dugout to ask them to please not steal any bases while he was pitching, and Bobby Cox was a good sport and said OK. So for the first 2 innings, Brandon threw all fastballs except for one curve. Adam Everett was allowed to start at short, probably to compensate for having Brad Ausmus at second.

And in fact, it actually did make a difference. In the second, Francouer hit a ball up the middle, which Adam had to range way over to get (Loretta would have just stared at it) and he made a fast offline throw to Lance. Frenchy didn’t try to advance on the throw as he would have if anyone but Biggio had been catching. Very next batter hits a grounder between first and second that was certainly playable, but Brad has the instincts of Jeff Kent out there and so the ball went on into right and Frenchy went to third and eventually comes home to score on a sac-fly.

And Brandon didn’t allow another run. In 6 innings, he threw 90 pitches, 56 strikes, with 4 hits, no walks, 1 HBP and 4 K. His FB topped out at 90, but he had decent success with both curve and changeup.

And defense? Lance Berkman made a fantastic diving catch of a liner with 2 out and 1 on in the second. Adam made an incredible diving stop on a ball up the middle in time to toss the ball to Biggio to get Frenchy running from first. I have MISSED his incredible fielding, I surely have.

Dennis Sarfate wasn’t nails out there today. He came in to hold a 2 run lead in the 7th, but his old location problems from AAA returned. He gave up 3 hits, a sac-fly and an ER while striking out 2. Qualls, the human rain delay today, came out for the 8th, gave up a single and a walk and struck out 2.

And Brad Lidge came out to shut down the bottom of the order. Brayan Pena did him a favor, flying out on the first pitch. Willie Harris took him to 3-2 before flying out on ball 4. Brad Ausmus remembered that Matt Diaz is a dead red hitter and so he had Brad throw only sliders to get him out. The entire stadium breathed a sigh of relief. Brad looks simply awful – his motion is totally screwed up and he looks awkward landing on his right leg.

So on His Second Day, BGO got a full dose of happy screaming fans (and by the way, there were a GOOD 3 thousand empty seats in this sold out stadium) and hit double #667 and hit # 3059 with a single in the 5th. With BGO on in the first, Lance launched a 3-2 changeup into the upper decks in right – the scoreboard said it went 441′ – yeah, try like 491′ at LEAST.

And Brandon Backe hit his only homer this year, and second career homer, into the right field seats just to the right of the bullpen. VERY cool. He really is a ballplayer, not just a pitcher.

Terrific fielder, intelligent, heads up baserunner, and good solid hitter. It was good to get him a W to finish up his year. And he should be even better next year.

Good thing he hit that homer – the Astros managed only 7 hits and 1 walk the entire game and the Braves kept Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence off the basepaths.

Biggio Love-Fest Part 3 tomorrow. Felipe Paulino faces AAA lifer made good, Buddy Carlisle, RHP.

9/29/07: Biggio Love-Fest Part 1 – The Sweat Box

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

Well, as everyone knows, these last 3 days of this year are the culmination of the year long everything is all about The Biggio. These games have been sold out for months and giveaways and prizes have been heavily promoted.

My Husband and brother bought tickets for all of us to go to the game tonight, and we showed up in time (opening time 5 PM) along with some 8-10,000 odd fans to get our retro Biggio t-shirts. However, we got an incredibly unpleasant surprise as soon as we walked inside – the roof was open and it was at LEAST 90 degrees inside the concourse. Husband turned green (a bad color for a man of ANY race) not just because it was so hot, but because he knew very well he couldn’t just demand we leave immediately because then he would have to deal with 4 crying kids and one upset wife and he knew he’d have to suffer. AND if you decide to leave before 5:30, your ticket will be voided.

And suffer he surely did. We ALL did. There wasn’t so much as a breath of breeze or any cool place to stand and he and most of the other people milling around were just as hot, miserable and sweaty. And complaining just as loudly as Husband and in much, uh, less polite language.

And frankly, all I can saay is that Drayton is such a cheap &*R$&^%&$%! that he felt it necessary to save on air-conditioning on such an incredibly hot and humid night. Apparently he decided to keep the roof open this morning in spite of the weather report, knowing full well that he wouldn’t suffer from lost ticket sales and would gain money from increased liquid sales. The customer care booths were packed with lines of furious customers and in fact, there were plenty of empty seats and I watched people, especially the very old and parents with very young children leave even in the first few innings because it was too hot to tolerate. We were sitting in the cheap seats and it was so hot that even the vendors wouldn’t come out.

It was hot when the new Army recruits were sworn in. It was hot when the childrens choir sang the national anthem. And in fact, Husband was so miserable that he took his empty soda cup, went to the mens’ room, filled it with water and used it to cool off his head. It was still hot when the Astros took the field (after like half an hour of commercials) and there was only half hearted applause.

It was hot when Matt Albers used 27 pitches loading the bases before striking out the side in the first. It was too hot for people to even bother to groan when Jojo Reyes needed only 4 pitches to dispose of Anderson, BGO and Berkman. And even the applause for Biggio wasn’t near as enthusiastic as it might could have been because all clapping did was make you even hotter.
By the time Matt Albers struck out in the bottom of the second, leaving 2 on, people in the rows in front of us were getting up to leave, and Husband and Da Bull moved down a row to have a little more breathing room.

In the third, maybe Matt Albers was too hot and tired to grip the ball and he walked Chipper on 4 pitches, then walked Texiera on 4 pitches after getting him 0-2, then maybe Biggio was too hot and tired at his age to turn the DP on Francoeur’s easy grounder to third. Nah, Biggio and Loretta and Wiggy just are slow and stink at turning DP no matter what the weather. But after Albers managed to get out of the inning giving up only 2 runs with 24 pitches, the kids were complaining about being hot and thirsty and so with Husband refusing to budge an inch, I went to take them to get some more water and we had hardly gotten down the stairs to the concourse when Anderson, Biggio and Lance got themselves out on 8 pitches.

It was even hotter inside and the poor food service people all looked as if they were about to pass out.

On the TV monitor, I saw Miller hit a grounder down the LF line – have I ever mentioned that Wiggy is completely incapable of getting ANY ball that is hit down the line and not on a hop – and finally strike out Alcides Escobar and Willie Harris. Then Lee, Pence and Loretta singled and with one run in and 2 on base, Wiggy, Towles and Albers got themselves out without driving anyone in.

We got back upstairs in time to see Chipper manage to reach in the top of the 5th – it was a close play in which Lance threw the ball to Albers and the ump said that Albers wasn’t touching the bag when he caught the ball. Albers didn’t agree, got a little upset, got Tex to flyout in front of the RF bullpen, and then served up the same pitch to Frenchy, who got ALL of it and sent it into the RF bullpen.

Braves 4 Astros 2.

Meanwhile, Husband had gulped his bottle of water down and after Matt used up another 18 pitches getting the next 3 guys out, he said he HAD to get more water. Reyes needed 8 pitches and 3 minutes to get Anderson, BGO and Lance out. Yeah, again.

As soon as we saw Randolph trot out from the bullpen, Husband looked at me and said – well, here comes 3 or 4 runs for the Braves and said that he was sorry but he was about to pass out from the heat and Da Bull was feeling sick too and there was no point in staying any longer. I wasn’t near as miserable as my husband and brother, who I guess, didn’t read the Dusty Baker Manual on heat, but I called my Mama, who was sitting in another section and was as hot, miserable and angry as we were and we decided that Husband and Brother would leave and take the 3 boys and Little Miss and I would stay until the end and go home with Mama.

And sure enough, Randolph served up 3 runs. Not, mind, that it was entirely his fault as neither Loretta nor Biggio managed to turn what should have been relatively easy DPs and could have gotten Randolph out of the inning. But it surely wasn’t their fault that he then served up 2 singles and an RBI double before Cooper FINALLY pulled him and sent in Sarfate to get the final out. It’s about time that Cooper faced facts and it is MORE than clear that Randolph can’t pitch in the bigs.

Anyway, the Astros mounted a comeback against a tiring Reyes in the 7th, but with bases loaded and 2 out, Lance Berkman failed to drive in any runs. And that really was all she wrote.

Little Miss begged to stay to see the fireworks and I guess Auntie and Nana were too hot and tired to protest much and besides, we both love fireworks too and so we stayed with the other 5000 remaining people to see them. And of course, I was thinking how the previous 3 years the last games were so incredibly exciting because we were fighting to the last minute to reach the playoffs, instead of being concerned about getting Biggio t-shirts and umbrellas and the crowd was loud, enthusiastic and happy instead of resigned – AND hot and angry with Drayton for being such a cheap *(^*&$%#!

The music started off, fittingly enough with “Thanks For The Memories”, “Desire” and “Glory Days.” Isn’t it ironic?

And to everyone’s great overwhelming shock and amazement, Bud Selig’s order to keep Cooper as manager was obeyed and he was given a 2 year contract. Isn’t that special? I SHOULD say, isn’t that tampering? But I guess it’s OK if the commissioner does it…

After we got to the car and turned the AC on full blast and sat gratefully in the cool streams of air, we turned on KTRH and listened to the post game show, which was NOT about the game played, but had caller after caller calling in venting anger and fury that Drayton chose, knowing the weather report, to open the roof on a sweltering night like this, knowing full well that he wouldn’t have to worry about losing ticket sales and knowing that he would profit from the increase in soda/water/beer sales. Tom Franklin, the host, tried to suggest it was for Biggio, as he was an old timer Who Had Played The Game The Right Way. As one lady told him, icily (hahahaha) please remember that Biggio, in the Old Days, PLAYED IN THE DOME!!!!!

It will be interesting to see if Drayton responds to all the fan anger and closes the roof tomorrow. The game starts an hour earlier and it will be even hotter. Brandon Backe will be throwing to Biggio, who will catch “an inning or two” and he will face Jeff Bennett, who has pitched 7 ML innings this year with a 2.57 ERA.

7/27/07: Wandy Pitches Great And The Astros Sweep The Reds

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Matt Belisle – yeah, Matt Belisle, the guy with the 5 something ERA, set the Astros down in order for 6 straight innings needing only 54 pitches to do so. Fortunately, Josh Anderson hit one of his Tony Gwynn Jr singles through the 5.5 hole to break it up to start the 7th and then Burke doubled into the LF corner. Cody Ransom walked to load the bases. Carlos Lee regained the closely fought league lead in GIDP, his 26th, scoring Anderson to break up the shutout. Pence then singled up the middle to tie the game.

Amazing. Belisle didn’t give up so much as a well hit ball for 6 innings, and the guys were swinging at way too many first pitches. I thought fer SHER he was going to easily pitch a nono in under 90 pitches. Which certainly goes to show that when it comes to baseball, there’s just one word – youneverknow.

On the other hand, Wandy was a little shaky starting out. He had a bit of trouble locating his fastball. He gave up a bunt single to Norris Hopper (man that guy is a GREAT bunter – I think he’s even better than Willy T), got 2 outs, then Edwin Encarnacion pounced on a luscious midthigh outside FB and sent it over the fence for a 2-0 lead. Actually, it really wasn’t a bad pitch – the one Wandy threw to the next hitter was much meatier, but he got under it and ended up just flying out.

Wandy gave up just 2 more hits, an infield dribbler and a solid double to deep center, 2 walks, an IBB and 6 K. That was 2 GOOD games he pitched to finish up the year. He had a very good fastball – and he was throwing it 92-93, the curve was working and so was the change. He actually had a VERY good year this year. He’s really learned to control his FB a lot better – he doesn’t nibble near as much as he used to and he is throwing both the curve and change for strikes. He STILL needs to work on controlling his emotions a bit better, especially when he gets squeezed by the umps, but all in all, he really improved over last year.

He worked VERY well with Towles, too. I’ve got to say – that boy has very very good hands, seems to be working just fine with the umps and is getting good calls on pitches. Towles has done a reasonably decent job of blocking balls, too and I’ve been surprised how well he’s handled both Qualls and Lidge. He’s got Quintero beat hands down, far as I’m concerned.

Borkowski pitched a 1,2,3 8th. He hasn’t given up a run since his ER debacle at Shea on the 7th.
Gary Majewski coughed up the lead in the 9th, giving up a double to Wiggy (who had replaced Cody Ransom, who had somehow gotten hurt – not sure how) who then scored on†Carlos’ single to left. Votto, the LF, made a wide throw home and Majewski, who was backing up the throw, attempted to throw to center to catch Carlos, but the throw went into center and Lee continued to third. Majewski then IBB Lamb to pitch to Bruntlett – not a bad idea, but Brunt actually managed to hit the ball to right, scoring Carlos.

Astros 4 Reds 2.

And oh dear Lord, there was Brad Lidge going out to keep a 2 run save. I can’t stand it. WHY are they doing this? Is anyone warming up in the bullpen just in case? Nope. First batter Jorge Cantu – ball, ball, ball, gift strike, good strike, foul, ball 4 WALK. Second batter David Ross – ball, ball, ball, gift strike, ball 4 WALK. Is Coop gonna let him win or lose again? WHY??? Here comes the pitching coach. Brad is not finishing off his pitches again – same as the last 2 appearances. Third batter Ellison – sac bunt.

Men on second and third, one out. Fourth hitter Valentin to pinch hit – ball, swing at a slider, RBI infield hit to third. Men on first and third, one out – should have been 2 outs but Wiggy made a very VERY bad throw (error) to first. PH Coates – taps a ball to shallow IF and Mike Lamb fields it and tags out the runner trying to come home from third. Sixth hitter Hopper – strike, infield tap to Wiggy who tags out the runner between second and third.

19 pitches and the last 3 hitters really did Lidge a favor. Either Lidge is lying and his knee IS bothering him, or he’s just lousy and I sure do hope he’s just doing the stupid male macho thing because if his knee really ISN’T bothering him, then he has a VERY serious problem called he can’t throw strikes.

I haven’t been impressed one bit with Cody Ransom’s hitting. His bat + glove is not an improvement over either Everett or Bruntlett. Yes, I know he’s the AAA team’s MVP this year. Joe McEwing was the MVP last year and 32 year old Mike Coolbaugh was the MVP the year before that. This tells you all you need to know about the excellence of our AAA team.

And now, back home for the 3 day long Biggio-fest. Atlanta is coming to town and they are out of it, too. 2005 sure seems like a LONG time ago, doesn’t it?

Matt Albers, 4-10 with a 5.88 ERA will face lefty Jo-Jo Reyes, 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA.

Remember when the Braves were famous for great pitching? All they have left is John Smoltz. Amazing, isn’t it?

9/26/07: Carlos Lee Scores The Winning Run With A Great Slide

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I was absolutely delighted to see Adam Everett starting at shortstop with Chris Burke at second. Rusty as he is from 3 months of inactivity, Adam is still head and shoulders above Mark Loretta. Actually, Burke is head and shoulders with the glove above Loretta and Biggio and watching the two of them was a real pleasure.

Tom Shearn started for the Reds, and straightaway ran into bad luck. The third baseman missed Burke’s hard liner, which went for a double, then Everett’s dribbler dwon the 3B line, which went for an infield single. I guess he got a little rattled because he threw a nice FB low, mid plate, unmoving, to Lance Berkman who promptly sent it over the LF fence. No outs, Astros 3 Reds 0. Carlos Lee comes up and hits an inside FB just inside the LF foul pole. Astros 4 Reds 0 no outs. Pence grounds out, Scott walks, Wiggy grounds out, Munson walks. Then to my surprise, with the pitcher coming up – and a pitcher who barely knows which end of the bat to hold, the Reds manager pulls Shearn. In comes ex-Astro Kirk Saarloos to get the pitcher out – which of course, he does.

Unfortunately, Gutierrez was just as bad as the Reds pitcher. He walks the leadoff man on a 3-2 count. He then gets the next guy, on another 3-2 count,to line out to Burke on a hit and run for an easy 4-3 DP. Votto hits the next pitch to right center for a double. Then Brandon Phillips hits the 3-1 FB on the outside corner over the fence. He’s now a 30-30 man. (I never was sure why the Indians soured on him, but hey, their loss…) ANOTHER 3-2 count and Encarnacion walks. Fortunately, he gets Valentin to pop out to finally end the inning. Uck. 28 pitches, 14 strikes, 14 balls. 2 walks, 2 hits 2 ER.

Second inning, Saarloos gives up a walk and a single before getting Carlos to GIDP to end the inning. Gutierrez goes back out there and he’s worse than ever. Double, single, 2 RBI double to the PITCHER, bunt single, RBI on a 4-6-3 GIDP (and oh LORD was it beautiful to watch Burke and Adam turn it with grace and ease – I didn’t have to do my usual prayer that Biggio and Loretta’s ancient, weak arms might not be able to do the turn, another single, a coaching visit to the mound, then a blessed K to end the inning. 5 hits, no walks, 3 runs. No this inning he only threw 6 of the 23 pitches out of the strike zone, but unfortunately the ones he threw in the zone were too hittable.

Reds 5 Astros 4.

In the third, Pence homered and Lance Berkman hit another bomb in the 4th. In the top of the 5th, with 2 on and 2 out, it was Gutierrez’ turn to bat and with the score so close, I was a bit surprised that Coop didn’t pinch hit, but he didn’t and of course Guti struck out.
Guti, by the way, settled down after the second and got 1,2,3 out for the next 3 innings.
McLemore came in in the 6th and gave up a run. Tie score 6-6.

In the 8th, with 2 out and Jared Burton pitching, Carlos Lee hit a ball into the RF corner and turned on the jets out of the batter’s box and barely beat the throw into second. You KNOW I am always ragging on Carlos for dogging it, which he sure does a LOT of the time. But gotta give credit where credit is due and he went full out on this one. Then Pence hit a single up the middle and Norris Hopper, who has a cannon, picked up the ball and fired home where Carlos, who had taken off at the crack of the bat, was running full speed. Valentin, the catcher, positioned himself outside the baseline and took the throw, which was right on the money, and turned to swipe Carlos who made an absolutely beautiful outside slide to evade the tag and score the winning run.

Oh, and I wanna give props to Cody Ransom who made a great play on a ball hit up the middle, first play, bottom of the 8th. Loretta wouldn’t have gotten NEAR that baseball.
Dennis Sarfate pitched a very nice 7th and 8th. 31 pitches, 22 strikes, 1 hit, 3 K. So far, he hasn’t had the serious control problems he had in the minors. So be it and shall it remain.
I was praying that after 2 long, strenuous nights that Coop wouldn’t send poor Brad Lidge out there again and he didn’t. Qualls came on and gave up a walk, but then got 2 groundouts and a flyout. Amazing – Burke is supposed to have a weak arm, but next to Loretta and Burke, he’s got a Furcal-like cannon.

Berkman went 4 fer 5 with 2 singles, 2 homers and 4 RBIs, which allowed him to get 100 RBIs again, for the 5th time in his career.

So tomorrow, it’s the Wand-man vs Matt Belisle.

Wandy is 1-0 with a 6.17 ERA over 11.2 IP in the GAB. Of the guys on their roster who are actually playing, Norris Hopper is 5/5, Encarnacion is 2/11 and Phillips is 3/8. So youneverknow, he might could actually have a great game…

In other news, Roy’s side is hurting and he has decided to shut it down for the year, a very wise decision. He was supposed to pitch on Friday, but since the game is long sold out for the goodbye Biggio weekend, it really doesn’t matter and besides, the Braves are out of the race too. Biggio is now supposed to catch Backe for a few inning on Saturday.

That is going to be interesting. Makes me feel funny because I was only in second grade when he came up and he was this little skinny guy, smaller than my mama. And you know something? He wasn’t very good at hitting his first couple of years. HE HAD A .604, .738 and a .690 OPS his first 3 years. Oh wait – I forgot – most Astros fans are only about the BA. So it was .211, .257 and .276 his first few years. Man, if modern Astros fans had been watching back then, they would have been screaming that he should be DFAd or traded, like, say, Chris Burke after last year.

Good thing they had a little patience…

9/25/07: Brad Lidge Strikes Out The Side For His 17th Save

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

OK, so he hit one, walked 2 and loaded the bases before getting that last strikeout and limping off the mound. I haven’t heard an explanation from the Astros Organization as to why they’ve insisted on running him out there for no reason instead of shutting him down early and having his knee operated on. Pretty stupid. As usual.

Anyway, I missed the beginning of the game. I should have known something was wrong with Da Bull when I  picked him up from preschool. He was unusually crabby and kept telling the twins to shut up, which is not like him at ALL. But when he didn’t want any chicken pie, his very favorite food, I KNEW he was sick. And since he didn’t want to hear any sound, I knew it was an earache. And I KNEW that if I just gave him some tylenol and benadryl and put him to bed, he would be up screaming at one in the morning and then I’d have to take him to the ER and if there is one place I don’t want to be in the middle of the night, it’s the ER. So as soon as Husband walked through the door, I told him that I was taking Da Bull to the night clinic for his earache and he could re-heat the pie.

Which is how I ended up having to listen to the first inning on the radio. Have I ever told you how much I hate the Astros announcers? I had been looking forward to checking out Homer Bailey, the Red’s #1 pick last year, a guy from LaGrange, the town that made Marvin Zindler and the Chicken Ranch (not dressing – hahahaha) famous.

Anyway, he plunks Josh Anderson, who promptly steals second, goes to third on a WP and scores on a Biggio sac fly with the first out. Small ball is pretty kewl, I do say. Paulino got through the first inning giving up only a solo homer.

Then, we left the clinic, heard a Hunter Pence hit a homer, then a 1,2,3 inning for both sides and I walked in the door just in time to see Wiggy lineout and Brunt tag up and run to third – heads up baserunning. Husband and twins were sitting on the couch and I gave Little Boy his medicine and ear drops and sat down in time to watch the start of the bottom of the 9th. I was absolutely STUNNED to see Lidge out there. What is the point about humiliating the guy? I couldn’t take it, got up and put Little Boy to bed and when I came back, it was over and somehow, no one had scored.

Good grief.

So I replayed the game to see how things went…

Homer Bailey – well, he made it through 5.2 innings, giving up 5 runs, 2 earned on 3 hits, 2 walks, a HBP, 2 ROE and a WP. Stuff didn’t really seem like anything special except he had a great curve, which he didn’t always throw for strikes. He is only 21, and there aren’t real too many really REALLY impressive 21 year old rookies.

Paulino? Again, he wasn’t very impressive. He gave up 4 runs in the second, but got therough the next 3 innings without trouble. He has a fast FB, but his command really isn;t that good and he has trouble throwing the change for strikes. The only regulars in the lineup were Javier Valentin the catcher and Brandon Phillips the second baseman. Everyone else was a bench guy or AAA callup. Dude does not look to me as if he’s ready for prime time.

Everyone but Wiggy and Ransom had at least one hit and Biggio hit #3056 and passed Rickey Henderson into 20th place on the all time list, where he will end his career.

No bad fielding, no errors and Towles and Anderson hit with men on base again.

Tomorrow, Juan Gutierrez will face Tom Shearn, a 30 year old right handed rookie who was drafted in the 26th round in 1996 by the Astros. And so far, he’s 3-0 in 5 GS – 6 HR, 11 BB, 16 K over 32 IP with a 3.94 ERA. 6 homers over 32 innings is a LOT of homers. `

UPDATE: MORE ON ED WADE
Check out THIS comment from Jon Heyman at Sports Illustrated:

Puppet regime ahead in Houston

While the Pirates at least appear to have a clue, the Astros just completed one of the most pathetic GM searches in baseball history by hiring Ed Wade, a proven failure.

Everyone who has ever worked could tell you that the best person often isn’t the one hired. But what’s remarkable about this search is that Houston interviewed a succession of retreads (plus a few logical young candidates who were spurned) and managed to pick the worst of the retreads. Not easy to do.

Wade’s record as a GM in Philadelphia wasn’t just poor, it was putrid. In a recent interview with Jim Salisbury of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Wade cited his two great regrets as trading Curt Schilling and firing Terry Francona. But that is really the tip of the iceberg. As GM he gave Pat Burrell a $50 million extension, Mike Lieberthal multiple extensions and David Bell a $17 million free-agent deal. He also engineered what has to be one of the all-time worst two-steps, by trading Scott Rolen for Placido Polanco, then swapping Polanco for Ugueth Urbina.

Wade didn’t make the playoffs once in eight years in Philly, while Schilling, Francona and Rolen have won four World Series titles between them since leaving Philly.

But take heart, Astros fans, Wade — who is known to some co-workers as “the biology teacher” for an abject lack of charisma — is merely signing up to play puppet to club owner/head puppeteer Drayton McLane. Wade’s greatest qualification appears to have been that he once worked as the p.r. director for club president Tal Smith, and will say “yes” to Smith and McLane.

“The idea normally is to hire someone to lead,” one competing GM said. “They hired someone so they can direct him.”
If that was the Astros’ goal, they probably got the right guy.

I want to add that the reason that Rolen “had to be traded” was not because he turned down 90 mill of guaranteed money plus 4 club options, it was that Wade stood by and let both Dallas Green and that unpleasant bully Larry Bowa disrespect Rolen for several YEARS until the situation was frankly iuntenable. It wasn’t that he traded Rolen for Polanco, a very good player, it was that he played David Bell instead and left Utley, who was more than ready, in the minors, when he should have traded/released Bell and played Polanco and Utley. And Ugie Urbina is just one of many in the long long line of crummy middle relievers Ed couldn’t Wade to get his hands on at grotesquely inflated prices…

9/25/07: Jason Lane Is Traded/Sold To The Padres

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Well, The Hated Jason Lane is gone.

With both Milton Bradley AND Mike Cameron injured, the Padres needed SOME warm body to play OF and so Jason, who DEFINITELY had no future here, was traded for either a PTBNL or cash. Not that Jason was exactly a problem if he stayed on the Astros roster for the last week of the season, but at least this way, he can end his ML career playing instead of sitting. I am guessing he’s most likely at the end of his career. Yeah, I KNOW that younverknow, but unless the Padres (or some other team) think that they can help Jason recover the stroke he lost last year, I would say he’s through.

But as far as I know he’s a good and decent human being and I truly wish him the best.

9/23/07: Roy Oswalt Shines On ESPN Sunday Night Baseball

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

You know ESPN didn’t originally plan on having the two bottom feeders on Sunday Night baseball. I mean, the Astros and Cards had been fighting it out for the top spots in the NL central for years. But the Astros had bad starting pitching, bad relief pitching poor defense and poor hitting with men on base AND the Cards were decimated by injuries to almost the entire starting staff and many of the regular hitters.

So tonight it was Roy Oswalt, who should have always had a LOT more appearances on national TV vs a whole bunch of guys from the bullpen.

The Cards gave Biggio a big hand again before the game (and a standing O in the 8th – incredible) and Jon and Joe spent a lot of time explaining that Bidge Played The Game The Right Way. ESPN spends a lot of time talking to players on the phone, talking to managers, discussing pennant races, Cy Young voting in the OTHER league, but not real too much about the game being shown. I sure am getting to be an Old Lady because I sure remember things being Different When I Was A Kid…

The terrible Astros defense/baserunning showed up right away on national TV. Poor Roy. Carlos Lee drops a fly ball in the first. Then hehe makes an unbelieveably boneheaded blunder in the bottom of the inning. With Carlos off and running with the pitch, Loretta hits a grounder to third and the third baseman throws to first. For some strange reason, Carlos stops dead inbetween second and third and naturally the first baseman throws to third and he’s a dead duck. Veterans never get fined for stuff like that.

In the second, Roy is pitching, 2 out, the pitcher gets a single to right because Biggio can’t get to the ball (what else is new) and then a ball is hit down the LF line – and mind you Wigginton can NOT get any balls hit down the line and there are men on second and third. Next ball goes straight to Wiggy, and easy ball and he throws so far off the line to Berkman that the runner reaches – run scores.

Welcome to Astros fielding.

Third inning, Loretta the “SS” can’t get to a routine GB. Single. Yeah, he didn’t score, but every out that the fielders don’t get is another out that Roy has to get. Roy wasn’t especially sharp at the beginning, but except for the Wigginton error he kept them from scoring. He got sharper in the last 4 innings and ended up with 7 innings, 8 hits, 1 walk, 2 K. I wish that some of his real ace games had been shown on national TV. He’d be a household name if he pitched on the East Coast.

And some nobody bullpen guy who was released by the Cubs, Marlins and Royals mowing down the Astros for FIVE innings? 1 hit, 1 walk, 5 K, 1 DP. Welcome to Astros baseball 2007.
But incredibly, with Berkman at first on a ROE, Carlos Lee hits a home run off Jason Isringhausen for a 3-1 Astros lead.

On comes Brad Lidge – can he nail it down? I’ve gotta root for Brad, but you know my stomach gets all nervous. And it’s a single. Then a walk. Then it’s Uncle Albert. Oh gawd, I can’t look. I just can’t look. I mute the TV and shut my eyes. Husband looks for me. In a few minutes, he taps my shsoulder and I open an eye enough to look at him. OK he says. Pujols singles. Ankiel triples to the RF corner off a slider ankle high. Three runs scored. Not even a single out.
Game over.

Guess we SHOULD have traded Brad Lidge at the deadline. Or left Qualls in – maybe it is just Brad’s bad knee. Maybe????????

At least Albert didn’t homer.

Not that it matters anyway. It’s been 7 long years since I’ve waited for a season to just be OVER. This was just an awful game. But hey, it’s what we’ve been watching all year long. Why would tonight be any different?

Tomorrow – a blessed day off, then 3 in Cincy, then home to finish off the Year Of The Biggio Love Fest Where Winning Didn’t Matter.

Husband SEZ he has just the thing to cheer me up. Hey, give it a chance. What could happen…

9/22/07: Matt Albers Pitches Well, Woody Pitches Batting Practice And Biggio Passes Carew

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

So besides the question of – would Tal tell Coop to pull a catcher on a hot HOT streak and use Quintero (he didn’t and they didn’t) – was who would show up, Good Matt or Bad Matt?
Sure looked as if it was gonna be Bad Matt in the first. 2 singles, a walk, then a blessed 1,2,3 GIDP and a flyout. We aren’t the only team around with a little problem with bases loaded, less than 2 outs and no runners score. He got through the second inning 1,2,3. In the third, he got a groundout, then a single, then what should have been an easy 6-4-3, except that it was Loretta at short (WHYYYYYY?) and he couldn’t get the ball in time to turn it. He hardly ever is quick enough at either short OR second to turn the DP. But he managed to do it in the 4th with 1 out and men on second and third.

The Cards finally got to Albers in the 5th by hitting ground balls down the lines. Wiggy is useless for getting any ball hit down the line. No long fly balls, just balls down the line into the LF corner. Between Wiggy and Carlos Lee, you hit a ball that way, you are going to get a double. Matt worked out of trouble in the 6th, getting men on first and second with 2 out, but then getting the 3rd out on a FB. He gave up 11 hits, but only 2 runs as the hits were all groundballs and he got all those DP grounders to get out of trouble

Woody Williams???!!! came in to start the 7th only 1 run behind – I was a bit surprised that Coop pulled Albers after only 74 pitches, but hey, it’s not like it matters, right? So of course, That Dratted Pest came in and hit a leadoff double and naturally Rick Ankiel promptly hits a fat one (flat, dead, belt high, mid plate FB) over the wall. Good grief.  Albers gives up ground balls. Woody gives up homers. Real good switch there Coop. Woody then gives up 2 singles. How long is Coop going to leave him in?

ANOTHER single just up the middle, not hard, and Ransom boots the ball with his glove the ball a bit and it heads into left. He gets lucky because the third base coach has held the runner at third, So Ransom is able to catch the runner off second in a rundown. FINALLY, an out!!! Then a single to shallow left and they almost catch the guy at third in a rundown, but Towles doesn’t get the ball to Wiggy in time so the runner is able to get back to third in time and it’s bases loaded again. (You know, THAT should really be called an error, because it really WAS an error in judgement and it SHOULD have been an out.) And actually, Wiggy should have just stayed at third to wait for the throw, so HE should have gotten an error too. Bad fielding.

And it’s Uncle Albert pinch hitting. Busch goes WILD as he limps to the plate. Can Woody get ANYBODY out? Nope. Albert hits a 2 run single to center. Still only 1 out. That was the absolute worst I have ever seen Woody pitch. He looked like Jason Jennings in that 11 run first inning debacle. (Even if they had gotten the runner at third, STILL another run would have scored.)

In came Moehler and it’s men on first and third, 1 out, and PH Taguchi. And it’s a single up the middle and another one of Woody’s run scores. Is this gonna be another 18-1 game? Well, not just yet because Moehler gets a nice 4-6-3 to end the inning. Guess Coop should have left Albers in after all. Anyway, Moehler stayed in to pitch the 8th and got 2 outs, then gave up 2 singles and then got out of trouble with an easy groundout.

So, what about the Cards pitchers?

Brad Thompson got 1,2,3 out through 5, needing only 46 pitches. Good grief. He didn’t do that well in middle relief, which is where he pitched before all the starters weren’t resigned/got hurt. FINALLY, the Astros got to him in the 6th. Towles led off with a double, then Anderson GO and Towles went to third. Chris Burke took Thompson to the FIRST 3-2 count of the night, then singled home Towles. Lance got himself out on the next pitch. I was stunned that TLR pulled him after 6 innings and only 64 pitches. Ah well.

Troy Percival gets a scoreless 7th with just a walk. Brian Falkenborg comes in to pitch the 8th and gets 1,2,3. Tyler Johnson came in for the 9th. He walks Anderson, Burke singles, Lance pops up, Carlos whiffs and Pence homers.

Cards 7 Astros 4

Biggio comes in to PH for Moehler, gets a big hand from the Cards fans, and singles. That’s #3054, for those of yall keeping count and he passes Rod Carew. Now it’s a little more interesting. Out comes Johnson and In comes Izzy. If it was Phil, he would pull Wiggy and send in Lamb the lefty. Not Coop. But Wiggy is no easy out. Takes Izzy 11 pitches, 7 fouls, 3 balls to get him to sharply lineout to The Pest.

It might could have helped things if Lance and Lee had, like, hit.

Tomorrow, it’s Roy Oswalt vs Todd Wellemeyer, RHP, ex Cub/Royal/Marlin – in case you were thinking you had head that name somewhere before. He’s been mostly a mopup type reliever since 03, logging between 20-70 innings a year in the majors. He was picked up by the Cards because they needed SOME warm body to start and he has started 9 games, going 2-3 with a 3.69 ERA. This from a guy with a lifetime ERA of 5.18.

It’s baseball and if there is one thing you can be sure of in baseball, it’s that youneverknow…

9/21/07: Backe, Towles, Anderson And Berkman Beat The Cards

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Brandon Backe had a bit of trouble finding the strike zone in the first – as usual, he was a bit too pumped up to start out and over threw – maybe the excitement of starting off with a 3 run lead, who knows.. The Pest singles (I hate that guy), then a FC, then another single, then an RBI sac fly, another single, then a groundout. He settled down, had a nice 1,2,3 second and third, but had a leadoff double in the 4th. Then Molina hit a pitch back up the middle, which Backe grabbed, fired to Ransom, who tagged the runner off second, then fired a ball offline to Berkman, who made an incredible grab to make the DP on Molina, who was all Carlos Lee dogging it down the line.

In the 5th, Aaron Miles bunted a ball between 3rd and the mound and Wiggy rushed in, trying to field it, blocking Backe, who actually was in a better position to field it, and then bobbled the ball. Then with 1 out, That Dratted Pest singled Miles to third. Then Ankiel grounds into what should have been a perfect 1-6-3, but Ransom threw the ball in the dirt in front of Lance and the run scored. In the 6th, Brandon gave up a leadoff walk, but then got the next 3 guys. He did look pretty tired, agree with Coop that he needed to come out.

Decent outing – 6 IP, 87 pitches, 52 strikes, 6H, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 ER (should have been 1)

Sarfate came in for the 7th. He walked the first hitter, got a GO, then That Dratted Pest singled, so with men on first and third, Sarfate struck out the next 2 batters. It wasn’t the 1,2,3 mowem down innings he had had before, but I like how he stuck in there and didn’t let a run score – and this was with a 1 run lead.

Qualls came in to pitch the 8th and got 2 quick groundouts and then should have had an easy FO to right, but Bruntlett dropped the ball. Yeah, Brunt was playing right, what can I say. So poor Qualls had to keep going – gave up a single before getting the remnants of Jim Edmonds to groundout.

After Towles drove in 2 (yeah, him again) and Anderson drove in another to make the score 6-4, Steve Randolph came in. He was lousy, as usual. He could barely find the strike zone. First hitter, 3 straight balls, 2 strikes then a popout on ball 4. Second hitter, strike, foul, ball and a popup. Then, facing a lefty, 3 balls, a gift called strike, a foul on ball 4, then ball 4. Then, facing a righty, ball, hey a strike at LAST, 3 more balls. Coop leaves him in. Another righty – 2 balls, then a pitch down the middle, a gift strike, a foul, 2 balls. Bases loaded.

We are talking 28 pitches, 16 balls, 12 “strikes” and I am sorry, but for whatever reason, Randolph can’t seem to throw strikes very well in the bigs.

So in comes Brad Lidge and up comes Albert Pujols, bad legs and all. And to my surprise, Towles stays in. Let’s see if he can catch that nasty stuff. He pitches VERY carefully to Pujols and 4 straight balls and in comes one of Randolph’s runs. Very smart. And Towles does a great job blocking 2 balls in the dirt. I am not sure why the Organization was badmouthing this guy’s ability behind the plate (throwing, yes…) And, by the way, in spite of all the Press about Brad vs Albert, Brad like OWNS Albert, who is 3 fer 14 (2 singles, 1 double) in the regular season and 1 fer the postseason with 5 Ks in 11 AB. Anyway, Brad gets Molina to GO to save the game and get Randolph off the hook.

As for hitting, again, every single batter got a hit. Towles hit a double with men on second and third. Burke hit a double, then Lance drove him in with a homer to dead center, which would have just been a long out onto that stupid hill in the Box. Lucky 7 indeed. Carlos doubled, then Wiggy drove him in and yes, Carlos WAS safe – TLR went out and protested, but he was in LONG before the tag.

Oh yeah – and Rick Ankiel did NOT steal a base on Towles – it was most definitely defensive indifference – they didn’t even LOOK at him for goodness sakes.

Tomorrow, it’s Matt Albers vs Brad Thompson.
Guess it will be Q catching. Because you KNOW he’s not gonna be catching Roy on Sunday.