I guess Wilton Lopez, who had been perfect for SO long, was gonna throw a bad pitch sooner or later. But I’m getting ahead of myself, here.
I would have said, a long time ago, that I LUUUUVVVVV 6 PM game starts because I can watch it all and be finished writing my writeup by the time I get the last kid in bed. But things change – and between feeding kids and dogs, getting kids started on (shudder) homework and who knows what, I missed the first inning. And of course, there were lots of interruptions because Certain Kids, who had exactly zero interest in watching games during the summer, suddenly have developed this intense Astros Fanhood, in which they can’t bear to not watch a single pitch (instead of doing homework, you feelin me here).
So by the time their Daddy got home, got fed and got going, it was the 4th inning and Pence had singled and then Carlos Lee had homered. And here it is noon the next day, and I’m just getting time to going back to the replay. Babies and toddlers are easy. Kids take TONS of time.
So, the important points: once again, Brett Wallace was benched against a lefty, with Clank playing 1B. Bud Norris is looking as if he has turned the corner, he really is. One of the things that rookie pitchers have to deal with is to not lose focus/concentration when the HP umps don’t call a strike a strike – especially when they have called that exact same pitch a strike on an earlier occasion or for the other pitcher.
In the second inning, Bud threw 30 pitches. With 2 outs, he walked Victorino (and yes, those balls WERE balls) and then he got overly distracted, trying to keep him on first, then balked. He had Ruiz struck out on pitch #5, but Victorino stealing 3rd distracted the HP ump, and a pitch RIGHT in the strike zone was called ball 2 instead of strike 3 (actually, ball 1 SHOULD have been strike 2, but I digress) and the next pitch was ball 4 (it really was). Hamels was then up with runners on first and third. He swung at the first 2 pitches, and the next pitch was called Ball 1 instead of Strike 3 – it was a FB right at the top of the zone – INSIDE the zone, but noooooo. But Bud kept his cool and FINALLY got Hamels out.
Third inning, Hamels gets 1,2,3 outs on 12 pitches. Bud goes back out – gets Rollins out on 3 pitches, gets Polanco out on 2 – and Strike 1 (called a strike the last 2 innings for Bud) was called Ball 1, gave up a single to Utley on 3 pitches and got Howard out on 2 with a lineout to center. What was good is that for all 3 innings, Bud kept the ball down, except for the deliberate high FB, and only had 1 pitch mid plate – the second pitch to Howard in the 3rd, whose swing was just a leeeeeetle off – good thing for Bud.
Fourth inning, Bud was handed a 2 run lead and went out there with grim determination. He got lucky with Jayson Werth – left a ball in the middle of the plate and it was fouled off. But he got him out, then got Ibanez to GO, walked Victorino on 5 pitches (and yes they really were all balls) then got Ruiz to flyout – threw over a few pickoff throws, but didn’t lose focus this time.
Fifth inning, he got Hamels out on 4 pitches, Rollins out on 4 pitches (and Ball 1 should have been Strike 1) then watched his first 2 pitches to Polanco get called balls, even though they were most definitely in the strike zone (lower outside corner) and had definitely been called strikes before (I hate to say it, but I think that some of this is the fact that Q is lousy at framing pitches – I’ve said this for YEARS) but kept at it and got him out on the 6th pitch. I’ve lost count of how many pitches in the strike zone were called balls – AND he didn’t get any pitches OUT of the strike zone called strikes.
6th inning, at 89 pitches, he went back out, got Utley out on 4 pitches (and another strike called a ball – midplate, right above the knees) then got Howard out swinging – good thing, too, because the ump probably would have called that sllider a ball. Then Werth singled – after 2 pitches called balls which were strikes (you notice a pattern here? And watching the mlb replay, even the Phils announcers are surprised at how many pitches are not called strikes) and Ibanez doubled to the LF corner – ball 1 was strike 1 (the Phils announcers noticed) and then ball 1 was called strike 1 (Phils announcers groused) then Victorino singled. With Ruiz up and Domonic Brown on deck, Bud threw a ball, did that sillyass fake to third fake to first thingy (WHY on earth do pitchers do that? All it does is risk a balk, which you do NOT wanna do with a guy on 3rd – and it never gets anyone out anyway) then got Ruiz to flyout to Bourn.
And there you go – 6 tough, gritty innings, DEFINITELY not exactly helped by the HP umpire’s crappy and inconsistant strike zone.
Since Bud came back from the DL, he has had only 2 of 11 starts in which he didn’t go 6 innings – before that, he had only 1 start out of 9 in which he went more than FIVE innings – 8 innings against, naturally, St. Louis. One thing I noticed this game is that Bud used his changeup effectively – only 10 of em in 108 pitches, but he threw all but 1 for strikes, got 2 of his 18 outs with them. Earlier this year, he either couldn’t throw the changeup for a strike, it had no movement on it, or it was down the middle. Bud pretty much kept the ball down, painted the corners, and had good movement on his pitches.
Bud’s July ERA was 3.73 and his August ERA is 3.58. I really REALLY hope that this is something permanent – he’s beaten 4 good teams this month (of course, he’s had outstanding run support in 2 starts in which he gave up 4 runs) and so it isn’t just him beating lousy teams.
And the rest of the game?
Well, I watched Byrdak come in the 7th, walk the first 2 guys, then get 3 outs. I watched Gustavo Chacin come in in the 8th, get 2 outs, then give up a double (ahem) to Ibanez on what SHOULD have been an easy single to center, only Michael Bourn, of all people, booted the ball. Ibanez, one of the 5 slowest runners in the majors, decided to go to third and SHOULD have been dead meat, but Sanchez, the cutoff man, dropped the throw from Pence and made it into third. With switch hitting Victorino coming up, Mills pulled Chacin and sent in our best reliever, Lopez. Who got Victorino out.
When Lopez came back out in the 9th, I knew that Lyon wasn’t gonna pitch tonight, but figured, no problem, Lopez is Da Man. So I let the kids stay up to watch him get the last 3 outs, even though it was most DEFINITELY bedtime on a Tuesday night, and he breezed through the first 3 outs, then went to 3-1 on Rollins, threw a mid-plate, thigh high FB, which Rollins popped up into the RF seats, just left of the foul pole to tie the game.
Then, of course, I had to get the kids settled and into bed – and they, uh, resist this, not seeing why on earth a good night’s sleep is necessary for skool, and by the time I got everyone in bed, I was tired, it was late and Fernando Abad had managed to throw 2 scoreless innings (which I didn’t think possible – GLAD to be wrong) giving up a single, no walks and 3 Ks, watched the top of the 12th in which Michael Bourn came in with 2 on, 2 outs, the game on the line, and grounded out. Melancon came in to pitch the bottom of the 12th, gave up a bloop single but got 3 outs, and I was just too tired to stay up and watch, having been up since around 4:30 AM.
So I missed the 14th. JMike struck out swinging, CJ singled, then Tommy grounded into his SECOND DP of the night – hadn’t been his night at all – he’d been called out on strikes his last AB on a FB at LEAST 4″ off the plate. Then Melancon came back out, got 2 outs, gave up a single and a walk and it was Ryan Howard at the plate.
He fouled one off, then checked his swing on the next pitch. Only the 3B ump thought he’d gone around and called it a strike. Watching the replay, it sure nuff looked to ME as if he’d checked it – and I’m an Astros fan. Ryan was NOT happy and started yelling. The 3B ump looked grim, but Ryan calmed back down, went back into the box after walking around a bit to shake it off. He fouled one to the 1B line, then Melancon threw a breaker in the dirt, which Castro didn’t block (HIS weakness as a catcher, just like Q’s weakness is his lousiness at framing pitches) and both runners moved up, even though the ball didn’t roll far. Howard fouled another one off, then checked his swing on Ball 2. I mean, he didn’t even go as far around as he did the first time, but the 3B ump IMMEDIATELY called him out.
Howard immediately turned to him and screamed (and it was not the bad word that starts with F or C) and the 3B ump IMMEDIATELY tossed him. And Howard is not a guy who gets tossed – in fact, I think that Berkman has gotten tossed more often. Victorino, like a foot shorter and 100 lbs thinner, came in kind of grabbed Howard, tried to shove him backwards with his shoulder. There was a WHOLE lot of yelling, no contact, and finally a furious Howard stormed down the dugout stairs. I don’t blame him. It was a bullstuff call – and the 3B ump OBVIOUSLY did it because Howard had had a fit about the FIRST checked strike call.
Interesting because the 3B ump was the HP ump for the previous night’s game and I thought he had done an EXCELLENT job behind the plate with balls and strikes. INCREDIBLY better than tonight’s HP ump.
And some guy in the Phils dugout got tossed too – even though he’s on the DL. Pretty silly, you ask me.
So Roy Oswalt got sent in to play LF. And sure nuff, first out, top of the 15th, he catches a nice can of corn from Jason Castro. I love stuff like this – Kevin Cash pitching, pitchers fielding and pinch hitting (Wandy grounded out) when everyone has already been used up. As long as the season is not on the line, that is. It’s not like 05, when it seems that 1 of every like 4 games went into extra innings – and we lost them all…
Melancon ended up with 3 scoreless and Herndon, pitching his 3rd straight inning, gave up a single to Pence, then hit Wallace with the 9th pitch, then IBB Michaels to pitch to CJ and hopefully get an inning ending GIDP. And CJ hit a ball to 3rd, but it was smashed, Polance couldn’t handle it and Pence trotted home with the go-ahead run. Then Tommy Manzella, going for the trifecta in GIDPs was up. I mean, not even Brad Ausmus or Miggy Tejada had managed THAT feat. And sure nuff, he hit the ball RIGHT to short, but a sliding CJ broke up the DP and Manzella beat the throw into first and Wallace scored the insurance run. Fulchino struck out for the 3rd out. Yeah, the pitchers had to hit for themselves by then, you know.
So Fulchino had to slam the door – got the first 2 outs, then walked Polanco, IBBd Utley, and then Roy-O was up. And even though he isn’t on our team any more, it would have been teh KEWL if he had gotten a hit and tied it up again, but he grounded out and the Astros won after 5 something hours.
And tonight, all those tired guys have to go out and play at least 9. Happ faced Halliday. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get shutout.