What impressed me most from today's 10-5 win over St. Louis was our bullpen. Fernandez's knuckler just wasn't knuckling, and Jimy had to pull him after serving up 4 runs and only recording one out (which reminds me of a late season start by Mr. Robertson). Duckworth calmed the Cardinals' bats, and though he wasn't at all dominant, he was able to finesse his way through the fourth.
I can't figure out Duckworth. When I first heard about the Wagner trade, I thought Brandon was the prize jewel. After researching his stats, Jack discovered that he dominated when he was allowed to start. His ERA was about 2 runs higher out of the bullpen than as a starter. Obviously, there was little room for him to start for the Astros, but I kept hoping he'd fit into a long-relief-slash-spot-starter role.
Both Jack and I have been amazed at his drop in velocity this Spring. I was under the impression he could throw in the mid- to upper-90's. And his 167 K's in 163.0 IP back in 2002 as a starter for the Phils meant he is capable of good stuff. But he hasn't been reaching 90 in most of his fastballs, and until tonight, he really hadn't had good command of his off-speed pitches.
Miceli is another mystery to me. I can't figure out why in the world we have him in the first place. He's never had good numbers, and he's never been able to stick with a team. Yet he pitched well for us down the stretch last year, and has been decent so far this year. He gave us a couple solid innings tonight, but I'm still reluctant to use him in games when we need to hold onto the lead.
Ricky Stone, meanwhile, looked awesome tonight. He worked a near-perfect 7th, giving up a hit on what should have been ruled an error by Ensberg. Stone had great control tonight, and I think he really has the experience to become a terrific finesse pitcher. Think Rheal Cormier. Or Brendan Donnelly. He's not gonna blow you away, but can paint every edge and change speeds on you. I think he should be the leading candidate to claim the seventh inning before Lidge and Dotel.
Speaking of whom, the firemen were lights out again tonight. Lidge was perfect, and Dotel fought some control issues but was able to close the door.
Is it just me, or do Biggio and Everett seem a lot more aggressive on the basepaths? Biggio stretched a single to short right-center into a double (with blinding speed!) and Everett stole his second base. Those two could wreak some havoc on the basepaths (maybe Bidge can teach AE a thing or two about running?). Everett is growing on me.
Also, Bags looked bad tonight. And I'm not talking about his batting (he went 1-for-5 with an RBI and a run). Edmonds hit a sharp single to right with runners on second and third in the second inning. Marlon Anderson scored easily, and Pujols held at third. Bags cut off the throw and had Edmonds caught in a rundown after he rounded first a bit too much. Bags ran after him towards second, but stopped to throw home. Pujols baited the throw by taking off toward home, but returned to third easily since Bags' throw was a loopy floater. Luckily Duckworth worked out of the jam by walking Renteria, but it still looked bad.
When are we going to see the cool trick Bagwell and Hidalgo have been working on? The one where Bags goes back for the pop-up, catches it and flips it to Hidalgo who rifles it to third or home? I've heard so much about it, but I have yet to see it.
Biggio looks good with no leg kick. I saw his new stance in Milwaukee, and he looks a lot more comfortable — especially against breaking balls.
Is Jason Lane an especially good defensive CF? So why is Jimy putting him in for defense but still refuses to let him bat? Today's scenario: Top 8th. Up by two. Bases loaded. One out. Pitcher's spot up. What's the easy call? Get a slugger up there who, if nothing else, can loft a sac fly! Jimy's decision: Jose Vizcaino. Batting right-handed. Viz lifts a weak pop out to shallow right. No insurance run. Good thing Biggio was up next. (Actually, good thing Ray Lankford got hurt. Marlon Anderson had a total of 29 innings at LF in his career, and a decent outfielder would have caught the third out. Anderson dropped Biggio's liner for a 3-run double.)
Tomorrow: Rocket vs. Jeff Suppan.