This was the only Exhibition Game at home this year, and I figured they’d start with this year’s starting lineup, and as Husband had no trouble getting hold of a couple of free tickets, off we went. Yes, he wasn’t thrilled. No, he didn’t grumble, well, until the 4th inning, but that is getting ahead of myself.
We got downtown about 6:30 and there was plenty of free street parking – not a good sign. A few brave scalpers were trying to sell some tix, but not getting much of a response. We sure nuff saw a lot of Red Sox t-shirts and jerseys. Well, there weren’t a LOT, but compared to the number of Astros jerseys, there sure were. I didn’t hear any Boston accents, neither, in case you’re curious.
I figure that all in all, about 10,000 people showed up – maybe 15,000 at most. No excitement in the air, no tables full of hucksters and only one table with some poor guy trying to sell season tickets and being ignored.
I suppose I’d better mention the new scoreboard – Drayton spent money on that instead of some good player, but I digress. It’s HD and sure nuff looks pretty and it will make all those between innings ads a lot easier to see. They keep both lineups posted on the sides – the printing is small and people who need glasses to drive will need glasses to see the board. Good is that they now have a sign below the board announcing strike velocity and pitch. Bad is that they put the sign with pitch counts in RF in small, hard to read print; the sign in LF is much better. And speaking of LF, they now have a screen in LF so that people in RF and bullpen seats can see what everyone else in the park sees on the big screen.
I’m not sure how it enhances FAN experience, but it sure nuff enhances Value Of Minute Maid Park SALE value.
The Pressbox is gone (they were the best seats in the house) and have been replaced with some Very Expensive Club Seats which they are selling with a “license” and a 5 year must buy season ticket book. I didn’t see anyone sitting in those seats. I’ll have to ask Justice where the 2 or 3 people who still cover the Astros are now sitting…
It was a great night for baseball, though. Especially if you like outdoor baseball and were smart enough to bring a coat because it got COLD after the sun went down. Very little wind, no humidity.
Bad news is that the game was played by DH rules and all I can say is that I absolutely HATE having to watch junior league ball. Yes, I’d rather watch the pitcher “hit”. bunt or K – as that would have been more interesting than watching Joe Inglett, this year’s version of Jason Smith, strikeout or LODP. (Line into double play). But I’m getting ahead again.
So, this year’s Opening Day lineup is:
C: Towles/Quintero (I can NOT believe they are giving Towles another chance)
1B: Brett Wallace
2B: Bill Hall
SS: Angel Sanchez
3B: Chris Johnson
RF: Hunter Pence
CF: Michael Born
LF: El Perezoso (the sloth) who, believe it or not, is even fatter and slower than last year
Backup OF: Jason Michaels and Jason Bourgeois (who can also play 2B – cain’t nevah have too many second basemen floating around)
Catcher – wonder how many ABs they are gonna give Towles THIS time for him to show he’s gonna hit .300 before they send him down and bring up Carlos Corporan/Brian Esposito – 40? 50?
Backup IF: Matt (Power-Aid) Downs and Joe Inglett. I knew that Sanchez would have to break something for Manzella to make the team – told you that BEFORE ST began that he wasn’t going to be on the ML team no matter HOW he did in ST. Good fielding on a goundball pitchers team is not important. But I digress…..
1st inning: Nelson Figueroa and his 87 MPH fastball on the mound. He throws strike 1 to Jacoby Ellsbury, who hits a grounder to Sanchez’ right. Sanchez, who isn’t real too particular fast, scrambles after it and gets there too late to throw out Ellsbury. Dustin Pedroia up – Figgy can’t locate the FB, can’t throw the slider for strikes and he strolls to first. Oh, forgot – Figgy didn’t even bother to glance toward first when Pedroia was up and Ellsbury takes a lead halfway to second and wanders over there on the third pitch, which was 0-2, by the way, a called strike, then a foul – Figgy couldn’t finish the job. And of course, Towles didn’t snap throw to first to keep Ellsbury honest because he didn’t want to distract Figgy from throwing strikes. I think.
Where was I? This is gonna take a Looooong time. Sorry. Anyhow, Carl Crawford, Houston Boy, is up and smacks a clean single up the middle and Ellsbury trots home. Men on first and third, Adrian Gonzalez up (yeah, the guy from the Padres who “had” to be traded because he couldn’t be re-signed when his nice cheap contract would be up in 2 years) and he hits a high popfly down the RF line. Clank lopes over and pulls up to watch the ball drop about 10′ inside the foul line and another run scores. Clank is loudly booed – and he deserved it. This was easily distinguishable from the Youuuuuuuuuuuuuk calls, by the way. Youk took 2 called strikes, then hit a fly to shallow center, on which Bourn made a nice running catch.
I notice that the Boston hitters are all good at not worrying about 2-strike counts and that their waiting for a pitch to hit paid off more often than not. Of course, they can actually HIT the pitch to hit, which helps. But I digress. Ortiz walks on 4 straight balls, JD Drew takes a called strike then walks on 4 straight balls and the 3rd run scores. Only 1 out, yes. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – you remember him – former Braves prospect who was traded to the Rangers for Mark Teixiera and crapped out at hitting, then was traded to the Red Sox and is now the starting catcher – he hit like crazy in ST. And he raps a clean single up the middle after fouling off a curve and the 5th run scores.
Really. 5 runs, 1 out. Then Marco Scutaro lines to Sanchez, who feeds the ball to Hall to pick Drew off second, but the AAA ump (we had 4 AAA umps – either that or there are 4 new umps whose names I have not heard before) missed the call and the DP. But the next hitter grounded out to first. 35 pitches, and the inning was mercifully over. Actually, the ballgame was over, but I digress.
Josh Beckett was the Boston pitcher – came into the game with a 9 something ST ERA. He’s Boston’s 5th guy, believe it or not – heard tell he didn’t like to throw anything but FB and they got hit a lot and not just by the Yankees/Rays neither. But tonight, it was like the 03 WS Game 6. He got 2 weak popups and a groundout – and hit Sanchez with an inside FB.
2nd and 3rd innings: Figgy locates the FB, finds his slider, and it’s 2 quick 1,2,3 innings, AND he gets Ortiz swinging and Drew staring to end the 3rd. Aw RIGGGGGGGGGGHT, I think. But Beckett is sharp – Wallace grounds out to first, Hall strikes out (he does that a lot) and Inglett flails at 3 straight pitches. Then CJ pops out, Towles lines out hard to first and Bourn Ks on a 2-2 fastball.
4th inning: Here we go again. Figgy loses his grip. Salty singles up the middle. Scutaro singles to left through the hole. Ellsbury hits the first hard hit ball of the game – a double to deep right that Pence has to chase – he bobbles a little, then double clutches and doesn’t throw the ball in immediately – not that it would have stopped the run from scoring, or Scutaro from getting to 3rd. Pedroia walks on 3-2, Crawford singles through the hole to right, AGon loops a single to right, Pence catches it, means to throw home but Sanchez grabs it to keep Crawford at second. Pence didn’t have his head in the game.
Sox 8 – Stros – No Hit. Sox score 8 runs on 7 singles, 1 double, 4 walks. Not even 1 deep fly ball
Figgy out, Jose Valdez, RHP in. He’s got FILTHY stuff – gets Youkilis and Ortiz swinging, then Drew hits a weak popup. Valdez is a 27 year old AA pitcher we got in the Berkman trade and all I can say is that if he pitches like this at AAA (where he’s going) he’s gonna be up here the first time someone goes down. ST stats – threw 9.2 innings over 10 games, gave up 9 hits, 5 walks, 9 K, 3 ER, no homers. Oh yeah – Sanchez, Pence and Clank down on 12 pitches, nothing hit hard or well.
5th inning: Eneury Rodriguez in – he’s the Rule V guy we got from the Rays. We’re keeping him (so far) on the 25 man roster: He comes in, gives up a single, then a grounder to short for a FC (Sanchez is slow for a SS, have I said this) and no time for a DP. Ellsbury singles to right. Pence makes a very nice running catch, but is slow to get ball from glove to hand and he doesn’t throw in time to keep Scutaro at second. But Crawford grounds out on 3-2, so no runs score. Wasn’t very impressed with stuff, as I was with Valdez. Meanwhile, Wallace hits a grounder to exactly the same spot that he did in the second, the hole between first and second, but this time he beats it out for an IF single and at least we won’t get no-hit. Hall hits a ball HARD to deep center, but it’s caught. Inglett then lines right into a DP at 1B and Wallace is instantly tagged out.
Inglett, by the way, is 32, is a lefty, has played in 313 games over 5 seasons since 06, has NO pop, has a career .744 OPS – .286/.345/.397 and has played 2B and the OF over the past 2 years – he has only a couple of innings at short and third.
We up – Beckett out after 61 pitches and our old friend, lefty Dennis Reyes is in. Yeah, he’s been around for a looonnnng time – came up with the Dodgers in 97 and has traveled throughout the Al and NL – spent the last 2 years with the Cards – throws a lot of balls. Which he proceeded to do – CJ bloops a single to right, Towles flies out to deep right, Bourn pops out to left and Sanchez GO to 3rd.
6th inning: This game is boring – and is dragging onnnnn. It’s almost 9 and I KNOW Husband wants to go, but he KNOWS I want to watch all the relievers and he smartly says nothing. He can’t even complain about the cold because I’m wearing 2 sweaters and heavy jeans, so I’m fine, and he doesn’t get cold at 60 degrees. But he’s bored spitless and goes into the concourse to get a soda and chat up the food service folks. Who sez males don’t gossip?
Forgot – the Designated Driver free soda promotion is still on. ONE good this about this here ballpark.
Where was I? Oh yeah – Enerio Del Rosario pitching – he’s the guy we got from Cincy last Sept – traded him for $$$ but doubt it was real too much – he threw a total of 20 innings, giving up 14 runs/9 ER, no HR, 8 BB, 8 K. This spring, he threw 14.2 scoreless innings (HOW did I Miss THAT?????) over 12 games with 9 hits, 9 W, 11 K, 2 R, no ER. And tonight, he had FILTHY stuff. I was absolutely delighted. He got AGon flailing, and 2 weak GO from Ortiz and Youk.
7th inning: Wilton Lopez in, Sanchez out, Matt Downs at short. Matt Downs can NOT play short, I say to Husby before Wilton throws his first pitch. Wilton, by the way, best I know, is this year’s setup 8th inning guy. He had a great ST – 10 great scoreless, 1 lousy 3 run inning. So anyway, Wilton pitching to Mike Cameron, our old nemesis from the Padres, Mets and Brewers who Ks a lot and has a love/hate relationship with the Crawford Boxes. So Cameron hits an easy grounder to short that my 8 year olds could have scooped and thrown to 1B in time to get him out, but Downs promptly bobbles the ball for E6 – I mean, the words were hardly out of my mouth about him being suckage at short. So then Salty hits a tailor made GIDP ball back to Lopez who throws to Downs at second, who barely manages to hold onto the ball before dropping it and he can’t turn the DP. Lopez, however, is a True Gentleman and instead of running over and punching out his GM (such fond memories of Shawn Chacon – he WAS right about both Cooper and Wade) for shoving such an inept SS down his throat because he has a superb slugging percentage of .350, he grits his teeth and Ks the next 2 batters.
8th inning: Brandon Lyon, who uck-sayed all ST (you don’t want to hear the numbers) gets 3 quick outs – although out #3 is a very hard hit ball to deep left center on which Jason Bourgeois makes a very nice catch.
What’s this, you say? I haven’t mentioned Astros batters in a few minutes. Well, yeah. I am not into pain. I will say that to my stunned amazement, Clank hit a 98 MPH Fb from Daniel Bard up the middle for a clean single and lumbered down to first; also Matt Downs hit a clean single to left off some minor league guy named Clayton Maxwell.
9th inning: Gustavo Chacin up, trying to beat out Fernando Abad, who has had the ST from He!!, for the LOOGY spot – Ryan Rowland-Smith has already been DFA. He Ks the first batter, then walks PH Varitek (not sure why he’s till on the team – he hasn’t been able to hit the ball in 3 years – makes Ausmus look like Piazza 99), then Cameron FO to center. I turn to Husband – well, I say, only 3 hard hit balls tonight and here we are down 8 runs. So Daniel Butler (I looked this up when I got home, don’t have an I-phone) who is supposed to be 5-10 and was undrafted but signed with Boston in 09 and spent last year killing the ball at the Sally League and A+ is up and he swings, looking bad at the first pitch, takes a ball, then smashes the next pitch over the tracks – yeah, the ball hit the outer edge of the wall before bouncing down into Crawford Street.
Kid might be small. But he hit the ball. Over the Wall.
I turned to Husby – well, I said, guess Abad is gonna be the LOOGY.
Few notes: A few Red Sox fans got tossed from the field box level behind the Visitors Dugout in the 6th inning – first time I remember seeing someone get tossed since the 04 All-Star game. (Yes, I know that security has helped a few, uh, substance affected fans from the upper decks over the past years, but it hasn’t attracted much attention and today’s toss sure did.) The Red Sox fans were VERY loud. I asked several dozen of them if they flew in from out of town (like Cubs fans do) and they all said no. All but 5 had no doubt about it Texan accents and the other 5 did NOT have a Bahstin accent. Suuuuuuuuure they all been lifetime fans. Let’s say I definitely feel for the few remaining Jays/Orioles/Rays fans. I am not physically capable for feeling anything resembling sympathy for Yankees fans except for the people who really REALLY need to go to the bathroom during the 7th inning stretch and the cops won’t let them out of their seats while someone screeches GBA.
I don’t know how to put this nicely, but this year’s slogan “We Are Your Astros” is kind of not a good idea because no one wants to identify with hopeless suckage.
They announced during every half inning that tickets are still available for Opening Day. This is NOT a good sign. Even last year, they had sold out for Opening Day by the time the team showed up for exhibition games. AND they ALSO announced there is a trifecta ticket package for sale – a ticket to Opening Day/Rangers game/Red Sox game. This means the Red Sox games have not ALREADY sold out as they did the LAST time – I mean, I think they were already gone by Opening Day. This is NOT a good sign – the Astros are not taking any sort of advantage of their Houston sports team rivals (Rockets/Texans) not being any good and yes I know there is soccer and hawkey but I meant the kind of teams that get the majority of face.
Opening Day is a Friday noon game. I think I remember when Opening Day was a Very Big Deal and they always did it in Cincy. Maybe I just remember my Mama telling me about how it was practically a National Holiday and really, this weekend is all about the College Basketball Finals (and the underdog teams in it and how Duke/Other Big Name Teams crapped out) – and it will be here in Houston so it’s a good thing that opening Day is up in Philly because I would bet that with the tournament going on, Opening Day wouldn’t draw flies.
Drayton had better get offn his high horse and sell this dreary, listless team like FAST (apparently, he’s asking a LOT over market value) before the Mets/Dodgers officially go up for sale, bcause he sure nuff can’t promote THIS team as either up and coming or even “competitive”, let alone interesting.
Yes, I AM going to April 8th Opening Day with Mama, how did you guess? Keeping me out of the Ballpark is like keeping a alcohol addict away from a bar/likker store.
No, I will not be nagging poor Husby to come with me for the few games I am going to bother to go to. This has gotten to be like a chick-flick kind of thing where you go with your gf and her 2 kids who have never been to a ballpark once they start the – kids in free with adult ticket – promo next month. I don’t know how many season tickets they have sold this year, but I would guess it is waaaaaaaay down from the 20K+ it was only a few years back.
I know how the Pirates fans felt after Barry Lamar left Pittsburgh, where he was unloved and unwanted and 3 years later, they realized that the Barry/Bobby days weren’t nevah coming back…