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…