Tough loss today. I thought Duckworth actually threw the ball pretty well; he just made bad pitches at the wrong time, especially to Wily Mo Pena with 2 runners on, which Ol' Wily Mo deposited 498 feet away. Our offense was hit-and-miss - an early 2 run bomb by Lane, a nice rally led by Jose Vizcaino and Raul Chavez, of all people, but then we squandered a leadoff double in the 9th by Jason Lane. I normally hate bunting, too, but you have to at least consider having Luke Scott lay one down there. The announcers say you have to "play for the win", but you HAVE to go for the tie, too. So Scott flew out weakly to CF, Chavez lined out to LF, Everett walked on 4 pitches (again, at least he's showing a good eye - strangely, Everett has 7 walks, and Jason Lane has 0.), and Chris Burke flew out to RF to end the game. Burke has a somewhat odd stance - it doesn't look like he gets much power, but he is patient. However, both he and Morgan Ensberg have a strange and troubling habit of letting perfect pitches go by with 2 strikes. If it's close, you really have to try and protect the plate.
I liked our lineup alright - Everett, Ausmus, and Biggio needed a day off - but I think we were lucky that no line drives were hit in Mike Lamb's area. Heck, Duckworth did a hell of a job keeping the ball on the ground, except for two pitches to Joe Randa and Wily Mo.
The announcers were talking about the hot start that some of the Astros minor league affiliates were off to. Here are some of our minor-league prospects that are leading the way:
Triple-AAA (Round Rock):
Humberto Quintero, C, AAA: .394 / .429 / .667, 5 XBH, 2 BB, 33 AB. Not much patience, but good average and some pop. He's better than anything else we have at catcher in the entire organization. By a lot.
Todd Self, 1B, AAA: .368 / .458 / .474, 2 XBH, 4 BB, 19 AB. Pretty much the opposite of Quintero - Self is a Mark Grace / Wally Joyner / John Olerud - type: good average, good eye, little power. It's not what you expect from a 1B, to be sure, but if you plug him in he'll be league average with a solid OBP and you can spend money elsewhere.
Ezequiel Astacio, RHP, AAA: 12.2 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 9 K, 2 HR, 3.55 ERA. The walk-to-strikeout ratio looks good, and remember Round Rock is a hitter's park. I like him as our 5th starter, but not until August / September at the earliest, so he doesn't lose a year of free agent eligibility.
Wilfredo Rodriguez, LHP, AAA: 11.0 IP, 4 BB, 13 K, 0 HR, 2.45 ERA. Pretty impressive strikeout total, and he's a lefty.
Mike Burns, RHP (reliever): 4.1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 9 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA. Brad Lidge Lite. He's not young, so I'm not entirely sure why Burns is in AAA when Russ Springer is pitching in the big leagues. A 'pen of Lidge / Qualls / Wheeler / Harville / Burns / generic LHP isn't too bad.
Double-AA (Corpus Christi)
Fernando Nieve, RHP: 12.0 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 17 K, 1 HR, 0.75 ERA. Whoa. Look at that line again. 17 K / 12.0 IP = good. He's moving up fast.
Matt Albers, LHP: 10.0 IP, 8 H, 4 BB, 14 K, 2.70 ERA. Everything looks fine here.
So that's it. Some pretty solid pitching prospects, all in all. Astacio should be ready later this year, Nieve the year after that, and Albers the year after that. I'd like to see Burns in the 'pen right now, and Quintero and Self (and hopefully Brooks Conrad, though he's off to a slow start) should all be ready for The Show next year. Quintero should finally make Ausmus expendable, and Self would make a great occasional platoon partner with Bagwell so Bags can rest his rapidly degenerating shoulder whenever he needs to.