Yesterday's 7-6 loss to the D-Backs was 'encouraging', if you can ever call a loss that. Andy Pettitte was knocked around, with a
But then the bullpen came in and did a nice job, with Harville, Qualls, Burns, and Astacio combining for 4 IP and 0 ER. (Mike Burns had looked excellent so far, and I like the 'inventiveness' of having Astacio pitch an inning in what is essentially a bullpen session day for him. Speaking of Astacio, his ERA isn't pretty at 6.88, but his 4-to-17 walk to strikeout ratio is impressive for a 25 year old.)
And the offense showed signs of life late, led by Palmeiro and Biggio's 3 hits, Mike Lamb's 3 walks, and Todd Self's 2 run PH homer in his first major league plate appearance (Congrats, Todd!) The 'Stros loaded the bases in the 9th inning with 2 outs, but Adam Everett lined out hard to Troy Glaus, and that was that.
Couple of news and notes:
Phil Garner says Jason Lane and Orlando Palmeiro will be splitting time. This a blow to my fantasy team, but I don't disagree with it at this point - Lane has seen his late-April 1000 OPS drop all the way down to 707, and his .281 OBP is awful. He's going through the first 'slump' of his career (only because he hasn't played enough in the past to have a real slump), so it makes sense to play Palmeiro a little more (you can't argue with his 349 / 396 / 488 line and solid defense) while Lane works through some kinks. I just hope that Lane wins back the job fairly soon, since Palmeiro is much better suited to a 4th or 5th OF role.
Craig Biggio continues to stay hot with 3 hits last night, but I can't help but be concerned about his playing time. So far he has played in 38 of the Astros' 39 games; the last two years, he's played in 153 and 156 of a possible 162 games. And in those past two years, his OPS has fallen from 775 pre-All Star Break to 744 post-All Star Break in 2003 and 843 to 759 in 2004. In other words, Biggio is 39 years old, and playing a difficult defensive position - he needs more days off, because it's clear that he has worn down in the 2nd half the past two years. This is where Chris Burke could come in handy; unfortunately, he's in AAA. So as much as I hate to do this, I think we need to give Viz (or Bruntlett, I guess) at least a weekly start at 2B. Otherwise we could be looking at an exhausted Biggio in August and September.
Lance Berkman is starting to make me just a little nervous. I'm confident he'll be fine, but he's late on everything - 90 mph fastballs down the middle of the plate become foul balls into the LF stands. He's still only had 34 AB's this season, so he's got plenty of time to pick it up, but if his bat slows down just a little bit, that 6 year / 85 million dollar deal may not be such a bargain; Lance is already 29 years old.
Mike Lamb is still struggling, so I'd like Todd Self to get a few starts at 1B, but I have to give Lamb credit for some tough AB's last night - he drew 3 walks, and saw at least 8/9 pitches or so in all of them. I expect him to bounce back to his career 745 OPS; I just hope it's as a backup corner infielder / pinch-hitter than as our starting 1B for the entire season.
Adam Everett is looking better at the plate - he had 2 hits last night, and could have easily had 4 - his liner to Troy Glaus ended the game, and he also lined out to CF. I hope he keeps hitting hard ground balls and line drives, because early on in the season he kept hitting weak flyballs and popouts; not what you want to see from a guy with his speed. Willy Taveras is sometimes guilty of this same thing. His swing looks a little long to me,
Speaking of speed, how come Everett has fewer SB attempts (4) than Biggio, Lane, and Ensberg?
I had almost forgotten about Nomah! when it comes to next year's FA crop. He'll be an interesting case this offseason - who's going to want to give him a multi-year deal with his injury concerns? I'd love a similar one-year + incentives deal that the Cubs gave him this year. Sign him and Ramon Hernandez, and you've got an offense again.