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Archive for May, 2008

5/31/08: JR Towles’ Lone RBI Makes Sure Astros Are Not Shutout

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

I can’t believe I’m writing this again: I feel as if we’re back in 05. The hitters are not hitting, Matsui is slumping badly and again I’m starting to say, after the first hit, well, at least we won’t be no-hit.
However, I sure didn’t think, in the second inning, when JR Towles drove in Pence with a single to left, that the Astros would only get 2 more walks and 4 more hits for the remainder of the ballgame.

Parra is not that great a pitcher, just as Lohse isn’t that great a pitcher and the guys can’t afford to not hit mediocre pitchers.

Ah well – at least THIS time, Towles can’t take all the blame for the lack of hits.
And Backe can NOT be giving up 3 homers a game.

Ah well…

5/29/08: Roy Oswalt Gets Poor Run Support, Loses To Cardinals

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Roy could NOT find the strike zone there for an unfortunate 3 batters in the first – Gary Darling would not give him a sliver of an inch on the inside corner and he gave up a single to Uncle after going to 0-2, then threw 8 straight balls, then went to 3-2 on Duncan before giving up a 2 run single, and there went the ball game. Out came Dewey, said something, and after that, Roy was pretty much nails.

He threw 7 curve balls, 4 for strikes, threw 7 sliders, hung one to youknowwho, who drove it about 370′ to left – and the funny thing is that for all the skreeeeeeming I do about the Crawford Box el-cheapos, I have to laugh because that homer would have been a double back home.

But for goodness sakes, this was Kyle Freaking Lohse, who is not exactly Wainwright, but the bats went limp, except for a Lance double to right center, a Lance 400 something’ homer to left center and a Carlos Lee homer to straightaway center, which would have just been a long fly ball out onto the Hill. Oh, and a couple of piddly singles and a walk, all of whom were stranded – Bourn on second after his 24th steal (throw from Mr. Gold Glove wasn’t even close) and Lance on third…

Ridiculous that Roy can’t get more than 2 runs of support. But except for about 15 pitches he couldn’t get over the plate in the first, he had an excellent game. It’s the best I’ve seen him pitch in weeks. Guess the extra 2 days of rest did him good.

sigh

Roy must feel like it’s the old days with the good pitching and no hitting. This lack of run support with good pitching causing a loss is called getting Clemensed – after Roger, who had a loss or ND something like 37 times during his 3 years with the Astros in which he allowed 2 runs or less and still, no cigar…

Which reminds me – I have no idea why on earth Cooper didn’t PH for Roy in the 6th with a man on second, 2 out, 2 runs behind. Could it be that Coop didn’t want Byrdak pitching the 7th or something?

Guess it really IS all Towles fault, hunh? If only we had a catcher like Quintero, who could hit like .218, then things would be REALLY different… Yep. Or Smith/Wade should just go out and get a great hitting catcher who could hit at least .240 (like say, how Ausmus hit last year – hehhehhehheh…)

Anyway, we’re off to Miller Park to meet/beat the Brew Crew. We should hopefully do well because, in my opinion, that team has gotten pretty demoralized with their lousy manager…

Friday, it’s Brandon Backe vs Manny Parra
Brandon beat Milwaukee earlier this year – 2R/5.2 IP and his last 3 starts have been very good. He’s started 2 games at Miller Park, relieved in 1: 13 IP – 7 ER, 2 HR, 5 BB, 2K.
Manny Parra this year is 2-2 in 10 GS: 49.1 IP – 59 H, 6 HR, 29 BB, 39 K: 5.11 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, .301 BAA. He’s already lost to Houston this year – 6 runs in 4 IP.

Saturday, it’s Brian Moehler vs Ben Sheets
Moehler has had 6 relief appearances at Miller Park – given up 1 run/8.1 IP. Last year, he threw 9.1 innings against the Brewers and gave up 4 runs – 2 solo HR, 2 BB, 3 K.

We all know Ben Sheets only too well. Unfortunately.
This year, he’s 5-1 in 10 GS with a 2.93 ERA – 9 HR, 12 BB, 55 K in 67.2 IP. Lifetime vs Houston, he’s 10-8 in 25 GS with a 3.86 ERA and in his start vs Houston earlier this year, he gave up 4 ER/6 IP.

Sunday, it’s Shawn Chacon vs Dave Bush
Shawn has started 11 G: 68.1 IP – 65 H, 12 HR, 28 BB, 47 K: 3.95 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .255 BAA
He’s thrown 10 innings at Miller Park – 3 ER, 0 HR, 7 BB, 8 K
vs the Brewers: over the past 3 years, he’s thrown 17.1 innings: 13 H, 2 ER, 8 BB, 12K: 2.31 ERA and a .206 BAA

Dave Bush is a mediocre pitcher except when he’s facing the Astros: this is a guy with a career line of 4.64 /1.27/.286 but when facing the Astros, he’s 3.45/1.10/.265. He’s 4-1 in 8 GS and 4 in relief over 57.1 IP: 56 H, 4 HR, 7 BB, 42 K

This year, however, Bush has, um, struggled – in fact, he was sent down and only recalled because Yovanni Gallardo injured himself and had season ending surgery.
He’s 1-5 in 9 GS(2 QS)†and 1 in relief: 53.2 IP – 56 H, 12 HR, 19 BB, 27 K:†6.04 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .269 BAA
- note: I’m going to be incredibly busy this weekend, so posting might could be very short, but I will reply to all comments and emails sooner or later.

5/28/08: Entirely Towles’ Fault That Wainwright Beats Astros

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Yeah, it WAS sarcasm. At least he REACHED base, which is more than I can say for Kaz Matsui, who couldn’t get Bourn in from third base in the third inning, or Michael Bourn and Towles in the 8th, when Adam Wainwright was tiring. Bourn, in fact, is the only Astro who actually did well all night – the triple, a walk, and a liner that was smoked that Brendan Ryan made an incredible leaping catch on, and what would have been a sure single up the middle if it hadn’t deflected off Wainwright.

I guess am just getting tired of all the people who keep complaining about Towles, who think it is imperative to replace his limp bat and great defensive catching with Quintero’s limp bat and his lousy defensive catching, and I hear tell, difficulty getting along with pitchers.

But Lance and Lee and Pence simply looked absolutely clueless against Wainwright and Miggy only managed one single. You need these guys to come through because Bourn simply can not do it alone.
Let me be kind and say that this wasn’t one of Wandy’s best outings. He had a hard time finding the plate and didn’t have his good curveball. He just couldn’t seem to put hitters away even after getting 2 strikes.

In the first, he gave up a leadoff single, then what should have been a dead easy 4-6-3 and Kaz screwed it up committing his 9th error, throwing the ball into left and allowing both runners to advance a base. Then Uncle was IBB – and this threw off Wandy even more and he couldn’t find the plate at ALL – walked Ryan Ludwick on 4 pitches. He gave up a WP, got a popup, a RBI groundout, a walk and another groundout and there was the score at 3-0.

You can NOT give Wainwright a 3 run lead – dude has always been an Astros killer, and except for the midplate meatballs that he served up to Wiggy, who sent it to the Mac Land sign and to Bourn, who sent it to right center for an easy triple, that was all she wrote. Except for Bourn working a walk after Towles ROE (reached on error) and Lance beating out an infield hit in the 9th.

Wandy only lasted 4.2 innings, gave up 6 runs/3 ER, 6 hits, 3 walks, 1 IBB and 1 FODP. Actually, that was a kewl DP – Ludwick flew out to Pence, who threw the ball to Miggy who might could have tagged out Pujols, trying to advance to second – looks like he missed on the first pass, but got him before he re-touched the bag. Albert was adamant he hadn’t been tagged, but he didn’t argue quiiiite as much as he might could have. Mostly because the ump pointed out that he was NO question out after Miggy re-tagged him after he slid past second…

Cassel came in to mopup – I was surprised not to see either Sampson or Villareal, who should now be our mopup men now that Bork is gone and Moehler is in the rotation. I guess Coop thinks we need THREE mopup guys. Unless he is bound and determined to ruin Sampson by putting him in to pitch the high leverage situations. Anyway, Cassel looked great – threw 2.1 innings giving up only a single.

I do hope this means that they won’t send Cassel back down and keep Villareal, but I bet this is just what they WILL do. Like I said, it’s the money.

And speaking of mopup, I guess it really isn’t REALLY mopup, but Chris Perez, the Cards’ first round pick in 06, came in to pitch the 9th. Looks as if he was a closer in college, and the Cards had him pitching relief and closing from the minute he hit rookie ball in June 06. He finished 37 games at AA and 15 games at AAA. He started the year at AAA this year, finished 17 and saved 8 with a 2.03 ERA and was called up in mid-May after Izzy went down. I’m guessing he will be closing for the Cards pretty soon. He throws a 96-97 MPH FB and a 83-84 MPH slider and the guys had best get used to seeing him, because I think we’re going to be seeing him for a long time.

Man I hope Roy finds his stuff tomorrow. It’s not that Lohse is a Wainwright sort of ace, but we NEED Roy to be ROY.

5/27/08: Hitter Pence Goes 5/5 To Help Chacon Beat Cardinals

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Shawn Chacon pitched an excellent game. It’s so funny – when I was typing up my pre-game preview, I was going to mention that Uncle was something like 2 fer 15 against Chacon, but decided against it for fear of jinxing Chacon – guess my just THINKING about it was bad juju because Uncle went 3 fer 3 against him with 2 singles and a homer. I hate that guy.

He also gave up a double to Ankiel that almost went out, but hit the top of the yellow line. Then Glaus hit a single to left, Ankiel was waved around third and Pence nailed his ass with a perfect strike to Towles about 4′ before he reached the plate. No, it wasn’t near as close as the Erstad-Ausmus play. But hey, it was still kewl. And Chacon also gave up a solo homer to Brian Barton, the Cards Rule V guy from the Indians (wouldn’t they LUUUUVV to have him back, seeing as how none of their players are hitting worth spit this year…)

And there you go – 7 IP, 7 H, 2 HR, 1 double, no walks, 7 K, 2 ER – 104 pitches/62 s.
Miggy Tejada hit his first homer since May 2 – and, by the way, it was the very first homer hit by an Astro off Looper.

Towles didn’t get a hit, but he did get on base 3 of 4 times and he drove in a run with a walk. Hard to remember that last time we played the Cards, Pence wasn’t hitting even the Mendoza line and was swinging wildly at almost everything and had twice as many Ks as hits. Today, his average is up to .311 and I’m thinking it is about time that Towles turns it around, too.

Lance had 2 walks and a hit – he is still leading the league in runs scored and added 3 to his total tonight. No stolen bases though – you KNOW he’s thinking 30-30, which would be awesome – he’d be the first 1B since Baggy to do it.

Speaking of which, happy 40th birthday, Baggy. Man, it’s hard to believe he’s so old.

Anyway, Carlos Lee came up with bases loaded and drove in 2. I have to laugh because he was so worried that if he hit 5th, he wouldn’t have enough runs to drive in to make him happy – he’s right behind Berkman. So to speak…

Kaz broke out of his 4 fer 30 slump with a 3 fer 5 night. No stolen bases, but some very heads up baserunning in the first when Ankiel foolishly threw to third instead of second when Miggy flew out.
Michael Bourn went 1/5 and he was lucky on that hit, too, that Ankiel trapped. But there is a HUGE amount of luck in baseball and sometimes those line drives fall in and sometimes they don’t.

I hear that there is supposed to be this tremendous decrease in the number of home runs this year from last year. Well, let me assure all yall that the Astros pitchers are doing their very best to try to combat it. And I like how the mainstream media explains it as having anything to with no roid use THIS year, as if strict testing hasn’t been in place for 4 years now, unless they want to claim that somehow, all the home run hitters last year were using, but not getting caught and inexplicably, they decided to quit THIS year.

Byrdak continued his streak of scoreless innings, giving up a double to Uncle. I hate that guy.
Looks as if Villareal will be useful in mopup: he threw his third consecutive scoreless, hitless 1,2,3 inning tonight with the Astros leading 8-2 in the 9th. He can throw strikes as long as the game is either long gone or the Astros are 5 runs ahead.

And last but not least, the Astros announced that Sampson would go to the bullpen when Wandy returns. It’s so funny – they’ve wanted to shove him in the bullpen, where his ERA is historically about 2 runs higher than as a starter, since he was still in the minors. It’s a shame, because in the bullpen, he’s gonna make Villareal look like Mo Rivera. Ah well, dude better enjoy the few innings in baseball he’s got left. He won’t succeed at that elusive 7th inning guy position. He’s not a velocity strikeout sort of guy, he’s a finesse guy who needs a great infield defense.

And Wandy has his work cut out for him tomorrow as he tries to beat the Cards’ ace Wainwright. I’ll be wearing my homemade WANDY! Astros shirt that my kids gave me for my birthday.

Yes. I am a Wandy fangrrrrrl. I say it loud and I say it proud – I’ve been out of the closet for years…

5/27/08: Astros vs Cards: Round 1 At Busch

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing Memorial Day. The players had their first day off in 20 days, and seems they needed it.

I can’t believe that we’re almost 1/3 of the way through the season – seems it has been longer.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few comparisons of Astros hitters using Lee Sinins’ RCAA (runs created above average, which is an OPS-like stat which doesn’t take into account stolen bases or moving runners over) and Win Shares (courtesy of Hardball Times):

Here are the NL leaders in RCAA (in case yall curious)

1 — Lance Berkman …………………….. 45
2 — Chipper Jones ……………………….. 35
3 — Albert Pujols …………………………. 30
4 — Ryan Ludwick ……………………….. 27
5 — Dan Uggla ……………………………… 26
6 — Nate McLouth ……………………….. 23
T7 – Rafael Furcal ………………………… 21
T7 – Chase Utley ………………………….. 21
T9 – Pat Burrell ……………………………. 19
T9 – Jason Bay ……………………………… 19

Now, here are the figures for the Astros (RCAA, then WS – and WS are divided between every single player who has played even 1 game on the ML team – total team WS = 81, including pitchers: 57 including only those players listed.

Conclusion? Lance Berkman is freaking awesome.)

Lance Berkman ………….. 45 – 15
Miguel Tejada ………………. 8 – 10
Carlos Lee …………………….. 2 – 6
Kaz Matsui ……………………. 1 – 6
Ty Wigginton ………………… 1 – 0
Darin Erstad …………………. 0 – 4
Hunter Pence ……………….. 0 – 8
Jose Cruz, Jr ……………….. -4 – 0
Mark Loretta ………………. -6 – 2
Geoff Blum ………………….. -6 – 1
Brad Ausmus ………………. -9 – 1
J.R. Towles …………………. -9 – 2
Michael Bourn …………… -12 – 2

OK
Here is the schedule:

Tuesday: Shawn Chacon vs Braden Looper
- Chacon this year: 1-0 in 10 GS (7 QS) -61.1 IP: 58H, 10 HR, 28 BB, 40 K: 4.11 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .254 BAA
- vs St. Louis: 0-0 in 5 GS + 7 relief: 39 IP: 3.69 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, .266 BAA

- Braden Looper this year: 6-3 in 10 GS(4 QS): 58 IP – 67 H, 6 HR, 15 BB, 26 K: 4.34 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, .293 BAA
- lifetime vs Hou: 7-3 in 6 GS + 30 in relief

Wednesday: Wandy Rodriguez vs Adam Wainwright
- Wandy is just coming off the DL, says he feels fine and threw 6 innings at AA, 4 hits, 1 run. He was pitching great before he injured one of his groin muscles 4/19.
- vs St. Louis: 1-4 in 6 GS + 1 in relief: 36 IP: 5.25 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .254 BAA

- Adam Wainwright is this year’s ace – one of the few pitchers who have been obtained from Atlanta who has actually turned out to be good: 4-2 in 10 GS(7 QS): 70.2 IP – 63 H, 7 HR, 16 BB, 46 K: 3.06 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .239 BAA
- vs Hou: 3-0 in 4 GS + 6 in relief: 37.1 IP – 2.41 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .212 BAA

Thursday: Roy Oswalt vs Kyle Lohse
- Roy: 4-4 in 11 GS(6 QS) 69 IP: 85H, 15 HR, 18 BB, 53 K: 5.61 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, .302 BAA
- vs St. Louis: 9-5 in 23 GS – 157 IP: 156 H, 12 HR, 31 BB, 122 K: 2.85 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .259 BAA

- Kyle Lohse this year: 4-2 in 11 GS(5 QS):63 IP – 68 H, 2 HR, 16 BB, 32 K: 4.26 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .279 BAA
- earlier this year vs Houston – 4 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 R/6 IP

5/25/08: Astros Bullpen Gives Up ELEVEN Runs in 2 Innings And Astros Lose

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

I had hoped to talk about Carlos’ 3 run homer. Or the double steal pulled off by Lance/Miggy (this is the 4th Astros double steal of the year) and Michael Bourn’s 23rd league leading steal. And the Astros scoring SIX runs off ace lefty Cole Hamels – a game that Chris Sampson deserved to win.

Or even grouse a little about how the HP ump screwed up the call on what should have been a 1-2 run scoring double for Wiggy down the LF line that was wrongly called foul.

I was actually a bit surprised that Sampson was pulled after 5 innings. Why? Well, because SOMEone had to pitch and the bullpen guys who were available were Nieve, Borkowski and Villareal – both Byrdak and Brocail were essentially unavailable after all their work for the past few games and it was more likely that Wesley Wright, if used at all, would be used as a LOOGY for maybe 1 or 2 batters.
Which, by the way, is why, in retrospect, I am VERY surprised that Coop decided not to pinch hit for Towles with 2 outs, bases loaded with the Astros only leading by 2 runs and the Astros needing to put a LOT of runs on the board seeing as how Nieve, Borkowski and Villareal are NOT ideal bullpen guys when the Astros are ahead, you know what I’m sayin…

Which reminds me,
I was wondering yesterday who should be the pitcher who is sent down when Wandy re-joins the club in time for his Wednesday start. The choices are, of course, Nieve, Villareal and Borkowski. Let’s take a look at their most recent performances, including today’s:

Nieve: (called up 5/16)
TODAY – With the Astros leading 6-4, to start the 6th, he gave up a homer, a single, a double and another single and 2 runs and left with 2 on. His relief let that run score, so that is 4 runs given up without getting a single out.
5/22 – came in in the 8th with the Astros losing 6-5, none on, none out. He gave up a walk, a FC and a single, and he left with 2 on, 1 out. His relief allowed one of his runs to score.
5/19 – came in the 6th inning with the Astros losing 3-2, gave up 2 singles, a double and a run.
5/17 – came in with Astros losing 5-2, 7th inning, 1 out, runners on second and third. He gave up a hit that let one runner score, then got a GIDP and another scoreless inning.

Borkowski: has had 9 appearances over the past month: (ERA went from 3.38 to 6.86 – was 4.50 before today’s debacle)
TODAY: came in to start the 7th with the Astros losing 9-6, gave up 6 ER – 2 doubles, 3 singles and a homer. He did have some bad luck with 2 hits down the line and a certain infielder not bothering to throw the ball home to get a runner…
5/19 – came in with Astros down 4-2, 2 on 1 out, let an inherited runner score then got the 2 . Next inning, gave up a 2 run homer.
5/16 – came in with one on, 1 out, Astros losing 8-2. Gave up a single, no runs. Pitched another inning, 1 single, no runs. Got the first out of the next inning, and was pulled for a leftylefty matchup thingy with the score tied.
5/15 – came in with Astros losing 7-3, pitched a scoreless inning (single, DP, GO)
5/9 – came in for the 9th inning, Astros leading 7-1, gave up a run on a double and 2 groundouts
5/4 – came in in the 4th with Astros losing 3-2, 2 on 1 out and immediately gave up a homer, letting both runs score. He got the other 2 outs and pitched another scoreless inning.
4/30 – the infamous – “home run to the pitcher” game – came in with the Astros leading 7-5, 2 out, man on, and promptly gave up the game tying homer to Micah Owings “the pitcher” – then a double and an RBI single to lose the game
4/28 – came in with the Astros losing 5-2, 1 out, 2 on, stranded BOTH runners, pitched another scoreless inning
4/27 – came in with Astros losing 5-1 to start the 8th, gave up a single and no runs.

Villareal: has had 9 appearances in May (ERA has gone from 4.82 to 5.33 – was 5.79 before today’s game) He had 13 appearances in April, a 5.19 ERA in 17.1 IP with 6 HR, 12 R/10 ER, 3 losses and 4 of 6 inherited runners scoring.
TODAY: came in to start the 8th, Astros losing 15-6, pitched two 1,2,3 innings, needing only 18 pitches. Best outing he’s had with the Astros. Ever. By FAR.
5/24 – came in with Astros leading 4-3 in the 8th, 2 out, none on, walked his only batter, who didn’t score.
5/22 – came in with Astros losing 7-5 to start the 9th, gave up a walk, a single, no runs
5/16 – the Texas Massacre – came in to start the 8th with Astros losing 10-8, gave up (are you ready for this) 2 singles, a walk, a triple and 3 homers – 6 runs, 2 earned. (Kind of like Bork today)
5/14 – came in with the score tied, 2 out, man on third, and got the 3rd out and the W.
5/13 – came in with the Astros with the Astros losing 4-2, 1 out none on in the 8th, got one out, gave up a single then was pulled and the runner stranded.
5/10 – came in with the Astros leading 5-0 in the 9th, 1 on, no out, got the 3 outs without letting the runner score.
5/8 – came in to start the 8th with the Astros losing 4-1, gave up a WP, 2 walks, 2 singles, 1 HR and 3 runs.
5/3 – came in with Astros winning 6-2, bases loaded 2 outs in the 6th, got the 3rd out stranding the runners, then pitched a 1,2,3 7th.

So what would I personally do?
Answer – send Nieve AND Villareal down right now and bring up Jack Cassel – and yes, I know he’s a starter, but he’s pitching lights out down there and seeing as how he is not going to start up here unless more than one guy gets hurt, why waste him? Put him in the pen, let him pitch one or 2 innings as there don’t seem to be real too many guys who can do that. When Geary is ready to come back up, I’d send Bork down unless he suddenly has gotten himself straightened up.

Oh yeah – all yall know how, um, disGUSted I am with all the people who blamed Adam Everett’s lousy bat for the Astros’ losing the past few years? Like the #8 guy is there for his bat? Well, we’re seeing the same sort of crap THIS year with JR Towles. I can’t believe how MANY people are screaming that he needs to be replaced by, of ALL people, Quintero. Yeah, the guy whose lifetime ML line reads .238/.275/.317/.592 and who is hitting .200/.231/320/.551 in AAA right now – with SIX errors. Yeah, in TRIPLE A – and even if he DID hit .238, that would mean approximately 1 more hit every 30 AB. Like that matters. When you decide to blame your #8 guy, who is the CATCHER, who is not there for his bat, for team losses and completely ignore your #2 guy, who went 1 fer Philly (and screwed up a critical DP with bases loaded) you got yourself a problem with priorities.

And what would I have done if I was the manager and I was planning to not send my pitcher back out no matter what, bases loaded, 2 out, ahead by 2? I would have sent Loretta up to pinch hit. Not Erstad, because then Manuel would have pulled Seanez and sent up Romero and Erstad can’t hit leftys. I suppose I could have sent Cruz up, hoping to get him to walk in a run, but I trust Loretta to get a hit more than I trust Cruz to draw a walk, and anyway, I would have had to send Loretta up for Sampson anyway.

UPDATE 9 PM:
Nieve has just been sent down and Cassel called up. Not surprised about either move. But the question still is – who will be sent down when Wandy returns? I hope it is NOT Cassel. Just out of curiousity, I checked with Cot’s on both Villareal and Borkowski:

Villareal has had 5 full years of service in the majors, so can’t be sent down without his permission. The Astros are on the hook for 2.85 mill, covering this year and next, so I think we gonna be stuck with him as I seriously doubt Drayton will agree to eat ANOTHER contract.
Bork has 3.1 years of ML service and is being paid 800K, so he COULD be sent down without having to clear waivers.

I haven’t made up my mind on which I thought should go down, but I got this feeling it ain’t gonna be the guy with the bigger contract.
Oh yeah – they CAN’T send Wesley Wright down, remember? They can either keep him on the ML roster or return him to LA.

5/24/08: Astros Left Fielders Win The Game For Houston, Beat Philly

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

I think I’ll have to call this the “I don’t believe what I just saw” game.

Moehler pitched 6 innings – 73 pitches, 50 strikes, giving up 1 walk, 1 HBP, 4 hits, 1 HR, 3 K, 3R/2ER. Really he could have pitched longer, he did quite well in the 6th, but it was a tie game and the pitcher’s spot was due up with a man on second, so he had to be pinch hit for.

Sigh.

It’s a sad time when your long man/spot starter is outpitching your ace, you know what I’m sayin.

Bourn went 2/4 with 1 SB and 2 RS and made 2 excellent catches, the last one in the 9th, coming forward at top speed to get a shallow pop that Miggy wasn’t going to get in time to prevent a run from scoring from 3rd. He’s getting there. Slow but sure, he’s working that average up.

Kaz Matsui went ofer Philly, so far.

Miggy went 2/4 with†a single and a double.

Lance walked twice, was IBB once, and popped out. AND his string of errorless Gold Glove plays came to an end when he looked like a circus juggler out there with Victorino’s grounder in the first, which eventually led to an UER – well, it kind of shouldn’t really be unearned totally because Moehler DID drop the throw from Lance and Miggy didn’t throw home on a relay throw from Carlos and he probably could have nailed Victorino at the plate, as he had broken kind of late from second.

AND Lance’s string of brilliant baserunning ALSO came to an end when he decided to break for home on Carlos Lee’s double to left in the 5th – he was on third and Burrell’s throw into second got away from Utley, but unfortunately he recovered the ball in time to nail Lance at the plate.

Carlos Lee came to the plate 4 times with men on. First time, he hit a double down the LF line to drive in 2. Second time, with men on second and third, he GIDP. Third time, with men on first and third, he singled to left, driving in 1 and Lance foolishly decided to break from third, ending the inning.

Hitter Pence managed an IF single in the 8th, but was caught stealing when Wiggy swung through a hit and run play.

Wiggy went 2/3 with a double, a HBP and a run scored and he handled every fielding chance flawlessly PLUS he made an outstanding play throwing out Utley at the plate. He is determined to show me up I’d say.

Brad Ausmus is ofer Philly and a GIDP and a missed easy popup at the screen (which, fortunately, didn’t cost us the game. But he did make the tag to end the game – more on that later.

Moehler darn near got a hit and he probably would have if it had been anyone else besides awesome glove Pedro Feliz handling that ball. Pedro Feliz, by the way, was the best fielder at third by FAR last year, but you know how it is – the guy with the best BA or closest to best BA who can actually catch the ball, is going to get the Goldie.

Loretta got his first pinch hit of the year, a single with 2 out in the 6th to drive in what turned out to be the winning run.

Relievers?

Well, Byrdak came into pitch the 7th, faced a righty and 3 switch hitters and gave up a double off the LF wall to Jimmy Rollins. He stayed in to start the 8th, getting Utley and Howard to ground out. He had then thrown 21 pitches and Burrell, a righty was up, and he would be followed by Jenkins, a lefty.

So who do all YALL think has a better chance of getting Burrell out – the lefty Burrell or the righty Villareal?

Well, Coop disagreed with all yall and sent Villareal in. And mind, this is a close game in which the Astros are LEADING by one run. Not losing by 5 runs or something. And fortunately, all Villareal did was to walk Burrell. At least it wasn’t a game tying homer because Burrell didn’t swing at the FB down the middle for strike 1. Wesley Wright came in to face Jenkins, but Manuel sent in Bruntlett and Wesley got him out.

You know, pretty much in general it is a VERY bad idea to take any pitcher from Atlanta. With 4 exceptions (in 20 years), pitchers that Bobby doesn’t want any more aren’t any good.

Valverde, naturally, got the night off, so it was going to be Brocail in to close and Brocail, um, made things, um, interesting. Feliz singled, then Coste hit one of those bloopers to short center. And things got more interesting.

And fielding?

Well, I guess Carlos wants me to quit calling him Clank because this is the second night in a row he’s made some EXCELLENT catches in left. Tonight he made a great catch in the 6th, catching Ruiz’ fly ball by the Dr. Pepper sign in the bullpen and he made an even better catch of Coste’s fly ball in the 7th, which had less hang time, almost in the same spot – and he had to catch it on the run and leaping.

You already heard about Wiggy’s great throw home in the first to nail Utley.

And NOW, we go to the 9th. Brocail in to save, Erstad in left for Carlos. And you’ve got to hear about Erstad’s great play in left – and as good as Carlos was this game, he’s still not Erstad. Ok, here’s the situation – men on second and third (because Brocail had a brain fart and fired a ball into center to try and pick off the guy on second, only no fielder was anywheres near second) and Dobbs has just popped a ball into shallow center that Michael Bourn came in on from deep center to make a great running catch and hold the runners, and Rollins has been IBB, leaving bases loaded, 1 out, with the hope that Brocail can get Victorino out on a K, infield pop or DP.

So Victorino comes up with bases loaded, 1 out. You know it is almost impossible to get him to GIDP because he’s Bourn fast. He flies out to Erstad in left. So Erstad sees the ball coming – he backs UP so he can catch the ball coming forward, throws a perfect 1 hopper to Brad who tags out the sliding Ruiz before he can touch the plate. Absolutely Gold Glove. Period. And there we are, a 7-2 to end the game, just like that.

No boring endings 2 nights in a row.

Two questions:
1 – Please someone, explain to me why, with men on first and second, no outs, top of the 9th, down by one, a superb pinch hitter at bat who is hitting 11/19 as a PH and is hitting .349 over all with a .508 SLG, why, WHY would any manager tell that guy to bunt? (And, by the way, he hasn’t exactly been slumping lately…)

2 – Wandy Rodriguez will rejoin the team and pitch Wednesday in St. Louis. Someone will have to be sent down. Who should be sent back down, Villareal or Nieve?

5/23/08: Backe Done Eaton Up The Phillies

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Brandon Backe Backe brought his A game fer SHER. He gave up a 335′ pop-up into the Crawford Boxes, a double off the LF bullpen wall and 3 singles and a walk and 6 K over 7.1 innings. He threw 105 pitches, 72 strikes. Of those 72 strikes, 16 were looking, 16 were swinging, 19 were fouls, 15 were GO/FO and 6 went for hits. That is 2 really well hit balls and one went for an out. Even the singles were 2 bloops and a single off the pitcher’s leg. Absolutely stellar outing. No other word for it. Brandon had his FB located, his curve curving and that slider was a thing of cruelty.

Actually, I was just a bit surprised to see that Coop let him go out to start the 8th with the Astros leading 3-1. But I see that Coop, unlike Garner, doesn’t strongly adhere to The Book of What Managers Are Supposed To Do These Days with the “set-up guy” pitching the entire 8th and the “closer” pitching the entire 9th and no extra or broken up innings. Coop also isn’t particularly a devotee of the leftylefty/rightyrighty thing neither. I’m starting to like Coop, I surely am.

After Brandon got Ruiz out, Dobbs doubled and Rollins singled and Brocail came in with runners on first and third. Rollins took off for second on the first pitch, Towles threw a perfect strike to Miggy and Rollins was out, except the ump called him safe.

shrug

Brocail struck out Victorino, then there was a big ol confab on the mound – I guess wondering whether or not to pitch around Utley or just put him on. In the end, they did both. Lance then made a GREAT play on a smash by Howard and Phils left bases loaded.

As for the hit parade, well, Hitter Pence hit an opposite field homer just over the bullpen fence just to the left of the foul pole to tie the game at 1-1 in the 5th, then in the 7th he hit a mammoth smash off the RR tracks above the ‘97 pennant flag†to put the Astros ahead for good.

Wiggy, I see, has been reading my blog and he has been showing me up for 2 days straight now. On May 19, he was hitting .217/.286/.319 and he sat out a couple days for Blum. So yesterday, he went 3/4 with 2 doubles and a run scored and today he went 2/3 with another double to raise his average to .263 – AND he made a play I’ve never seen him make, a fantastic stop and throw of a hard smash down the line. He moved FAST, something he doesn’t usually do. I like this Wig-man!!!!!

Towles laid down a beautiful sac-bunt, hit a long fly ball to the bullpen, then singled in the 7th, went to second on a sac-bunt, then scored a run, sliding in juuuuust ahead of the tag. He called a great game, blocked everything and it is obvious that Backe likes throwing to him. I hope HOPE this is the turnaround he NEEDS.

Bourn, well, his night didn’t go quiiiiite as well – he made an error on Burrell’s fly ball in the 9th, which went for a single and an extra base, instead of an out AND he grounded into a DP 4-6-3. Actually, I didn’t think that was possible with his speed, but hey. However, he DID catch Utley’s fly ball right at the base of that stupid hill (one of the little ironies of this ballpark – you hit a baseball 430′ to dead center, all it is is out but, you hit a popup 320′ by the foul pole and it’s a homer. Ah well, the ballpark giveth and the ballpark taketh away…) AND, his second time up with 2 outs and RISP, he hit a ball through the right side, allowing Towles to score to put the Astros ahead 3-1.

Matsui was ofer, Miggy singled, but was stranded. Lance walked, and he had just one hit, but the boy he sure made the most of it. He smacked an inside thigh high slider into the RF corner, which rattled around, and he turned on the jets and beat Jenkins’ throw into third. I swear that boy hasn’t run like this since the year he played center. Which was a good thing, because Carlos, who hadn’t managed to get Miggy home in the 4th or Lance home in the 6th, hit a FB to the RF corner and Lance slid in ahead of the tag with his patented behind the bag touching the plate with his hand slide. Dude is putting on a base running clinic this year. And a glove clinic at first, too.

- grinning

Guess he is ganging up with Wiggy to make me look like a dam fool because I hadn’t disagreed with more than a few negative assessments of his glove at first based on his past few years’ performance. He looks like a different guy out there – in the Lee/Pujols class with the glove. (Yeah, Uncle is a great glove man. I hate that guy.)

And there were the Astros leading 4-1 with Valverde coming on to shut the door.

And things got a little, um, interesting. He hadn’t blown a save since April 22 in San Diego and hadn’t given up a run since April 17th in, um, Philly.

Well, he went to 3-1 on Burrell, who hit a mid thigh, outer third FB to center and he wound up on second. Geoff Jenkins gounded out. Then Pedro Feliz hit a comebacker off Valverde’s glove which deflected onto his FACE and he hit the ground. But he’s all macho and after the trainers check him out and he gets back up and he stayed in the game (hope he’s OK) to face Ruiz. He went to 1-2, then Ruiz singled and Burrell scored.

Astros 4 Phils 2

Then Valverde struck out PH Coste. 2 out. Jimmy Rollins up. He swings and misses at 2 splitters, then fouls off a splitter, then doubles on the very next splitter and Feliz scores.

Astros 4 Phils 3

Gulp.

Men on second and third, Victorino up. Three straight balls. Valverde  KNOWS that Utley is on deck and he can’t be wantin ANY part of him because if he walks him, ain’t no place to put Utley. So he throws 2 FB for called strikes, Victorino fouls the next one off, then hits one to center where Bourn waits patiently and game OVAH.

Backe gets his very well deserved win and Valverde had to work VERY hard for that save.

And tomorrow, it’s Brett “Wifebeater” Myers vs Brian Moehler.

Ol Wifey pitched well against the Astros in Philly, giving up only a run (solo homer) in 7 IP. Overall, he’s 3-2 in 7 GS: 44 IP – 36 H, 8 HR, 16 BB, 36 K.

This year, he’s 2-5 in 10 GS over 59.1 IP – 74 H, 15 HR, 21 BB, 50 K (you know, I keep hearing all the media crowing about how homers are down – heck, Roy and Myers are both on pace to cough up more than 50 EACH this year, and Brandon is on pace for 45.) 5.76 ERA, 1.70 WHIP and a .307 BAA

Moehler has gone 5 innings in his last 3 starts, giving up 0, 3 and 3 runs. Lifetime vs the Phils, he’s 1-3 in 6 GS and 4 in relief over 36.1 IP – 51 H, 8 HR, 9 BB and 24 K: 6.94 ERA, 1.60 WHIP and a .332 BAA (yecccccch)

Wandy, by the way, made his rehab start and may be ready to rejoin the rotation next week…

5/23/08: To Michael Bourn From Harold Reynolds

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Harold Reynolds, now on mlb.com, wrote this interesting entry about himself. But when I read it, I immediately thought of Michael Bourn:

“… I would struggle through that season, playing part-time and hitting only .144. Miserable, frustrated and unsatisfied with my performance, I considered quitting baseball at the end of the season.

Many people would say I was living the dream, but for me, I couldn’t live with being mediocre. I knew I was better but just couldn’t put it together. I had been an All-Star at every level in the Minor Leagues and didn’t understand why I was struggling in the big leagues while others I outperformed in the minors wasn’t….

The tough stuff is being willing to make adjustments. I knew I needed to make some changes in my swing and approach at the plate but was unsure of what to do. I was lost and needed to find the stroke that had made me an All Star at every level. When I got to the big leagues, I had been given so many confusing messages from coaches.
“Hold your hands high.”
“Hold your hands low.”
“Swing at the first fastball you see.”
“Don’t swing until you get two strikes.”

… It seemed every time I got around big league coaches and discussed my hitting problems, they all agreed on one thing as a solution — that I should “hit the ball on the ground and use my speed”.
I had heard that crap from the first day I signed a pro contract. “Hit the ball on the ground”. Hitting the ball on the ground does not automatically result in base hits. They pay guys millions of dollars to field ground balls. If the defense positions themselves correctly, you should be able to throw out a batter hitting nothing but ground balls every time. This isn’t Little League, where you find the weakest link to hit the ball to. This is Major League Baseball! I have yet to see a player outrun a throw from a Major League infielder on a ground ball hit hard right at the defender.

I knew I had to hit line drives and balls in the gaps to have success. I did it in the minors and knew I had to do it in the big leagues. As long as they kept preaching ground balls and I didn’t make the adjustment to hit line drives, I was never going to stay in the majors…

Harold Reynolds is just about the same size as Bourn, is also the same kind of ballplayer.

Maybe Milo ought to read this…

Yes, I know Willy T was a leftover from the old “Baltimore Chop” days of the Runnin Redbirds when Busch was covered with Astroturf, but Willy T is a totally different guy from Bourn, who is a better fielder, baserunner, and, I suspect, a better overall hitter.

5/22/08: Roy Oswalt Pitches Lousy, Lidge Beats Berkman And Phils Win

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Roy Oswalt once again had a great deal of difficulty locating all of his pitches. He had a nice quick 1,2,3 first inning, but after that, oh Lord, he couldn’t get control of any pitch. The pitches that were in the strike zone were mid plate and up. The Phillies hit him all OVAH the field – deep to left, deep to right, singles through the 5.5 hole, singles through the right, heck, even a single to the PITCHER who only had one hit for the entire year, popup homer into the Crawford Box – 11 hits and 2 BB with 4 K. And it wasn’t lousy defense letting hit happen, neither.

In the second, he gave up 2 singles then a 4 pitch walk to load the basesSomehow, he managed to get an infield fly, a run scoring single, a FC and a ground out: 29 pitches. In the 3rd, he gave up an infield single to short, another walk, a RBI double, an RBI single and there were 2 runs in without any outs. Dewey went out to the mound, had a little chat with Roy. He then gave up a sac-fly (because Bourn made an absolutely HORRIBLE throw as Howard should have been a dead duck) and 2 grounders.

In the 4th, he got 2 Ks and a double. In the 5th, he gave up a popup homer into the Crawford Boxes, a double and a K. He got through the 6th with 2 singles and a GIDP. But nobody got a hit off a “good” pitcher’s pitch.

I have no idea why Roy has struggled so much this year – I suppose he could have lost it – it DOES happen to pitchers, but hopefully it is like Lance last year – it took him 2 solid months to start to come around from his curious inability to get comfortable at the plate. I don’t know if it is mechanics or what, but he hasn’t lost velocity on his FB. But when your ace’s ERA is just barely ahead of your #5 guy and his ERA is just under 6, you have a problem.

sigh

Wesley Wright was nails in the 7th – 7 pitches = 3 outs. Cooper sent him back out in the 8th to face Pat Burrell, a righty, mired in a 6 for 28 slump. Was that smart? Well, on a 3-2 count, Burrell hit a high popup to left that went about 330′ and bounced on top of the yellow line and went into the Crawford Boxes. So the Phils went ahead by one.

It so happens that Burrell got a cheapo homer instead of a popout, as it would have been in in every other stadium in the majors. But Wesley is not a LOOGY, threw 7 pitches, and it is silly to say that a pitcher can’t throw more than 7 pitches if he has to wait 5 minutes in between batters. I personally don’t think that Coop should stick to a rigid rule that Brocail must ALWAYS come in in the 8th unless the Astros are losing. And Brocail and Valverde are going to be significantly overworked if Coop can’t be using any bullpen guys besides Byrdak, Brocail and Valverde.

Hitting? Well, Matsui and Lee and Ausmus were ofer, although Ausmus did lay down 2 perfect sac bunts and he drove in a run with a sac-fly. But Lee, Oswalt Berkman Pence and Bourn all left runners in scoring position with 2 outs. Bourn went 2/5 with a stolen base. He didn’t go when he got on in the first, and Milo was almost hysterical about it. Honestly, the guy has to pick up a good read on both the pitcher and the catcher. Looks like he picked up just fine by his second hit. And, by the way, he’s raised his average from 180 something last week to .215. We aren’t talking silver slugger here, but, he’s starting to swing at decent pitches and he’s starting to get hits. Not sure if he’s getting bunts down any better in practice, but maybe he ought to take practive with the pitchers.

Wiggy came back, went 3/4 with 2 RBI and 1 really good leaping catch.

Lance seems to have recovered his swing – he went 3/5 with a double, but popped out when he faced Lidge with the tying run on first.

Lidge looked like he did in 04 and actually, last year, between mid-April and late August, when his knee was bothering him. Actually, I went back and read a lot of my old entries from 05 and read what I had said about Brad at the time – he had a LOT of difficulty after the ASB. Interesting. But folks who are booing the guy now for his years of work as an Astro should get a good swift kick in the butt. But booing any Phillie is fine.

Tomorrow is Brandon Backe vs Adam Eaton

Backe did OK last start – in fact he was nails for 6 innings straight, then got tired. Hopefully he can do the same with the Phils – because let’s say he hasn’t done well against them before – 2 GS, 7 innings – 13 H, 9 R, 2 HR, 5 BB, 6 K.

What’s that old song – a change, a change, a change, will do you gooddddddd. Either that or a nasty curve and slider. And Brandon had best get those homers under control because he’s already given up 10 in only 55 IP.

Adam Eaton we last saw 6 weeks ago in Philly – he went 6 innings, gave up 3 runs.
This year, he’s 0-2 in 9 GS: 48 IP – 52 H, 5 HR, 23 BB, 27 K: 5.59 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and .287 BAA
Lifetime vs Houston, 3-1 in 7 GS: 44.2 IP – 43 H, 6 HR, 17 BB, 41 K: 4.43 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and a .251 BAA