Friday, September 30, 2005

2 straight losses to the Cubs. By one run each time. This one...really fucking hurt. But I'll take my chances with Brad Lidge on the mound with a 1-run lead every time. We'll get them tomorrow.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Another HUGE win for the Astros tonight. Tonight's was the best yet, as we banged up the Cardinals' best pitcher for six runs and beat their dominant closer in the ninth.

This win was a statement -- to the Phillies, who remained 2.5 games behind with a blowout win tonight but are quickly running out of time. To the Braves, who clinched the division yesterday for the (yawn) 14th straight year and who we'll face in the NLDS when we clinch the wild card. But most importantly, to the Cardinals, who had their best lineup and best pitcher on the mound and couldn't win.

Chris Carpenter was gunning for his fifth win of the year against us. He had been 4-0 against us, allowing all of THREE earned runs in 33 innings over four starts. In fact, entering this two-game series, the Cards had won 11 of 14 meetings this year and were on the verge of becoming this year's only ballclub with 100 wins.

But we swept the two-game set: the only time all year St. Louis has been swept. Sure, they'll say it doesn't really matter... that the team has already clinched and is just trying to get ready for the second season. Besides, it was only a two-game series anyway. Doesn't really count.

Well that ain't what we're saying.

We showed the Cardinals what it's gonna take to beat us this year. We don't have nearly as much firepower, but it can be explosive. . We can hit the long ball, as Lance and Lamb displayed in the fifth. We can maufacture runs like we did in our two-run rally in the sixth. We can pitch through their best hitters, which Russ Springer did with ease in the seventh. We can come back, a major problem we had in last year's postseason. Down 6-4 with twelve outs left, we scored three runs on five hits in the last four innings.

And we can win ballgames without our best pitching. Backe was not inspiring in his last regular season game, giving up five earned in 4 1/3 innings. He handled the middle of the order fairly well, but wasn;t sharp against the Cardinals' less feared hitters. Like Reggie Sanders, who hit one of his two bombs tonight off Backe. Or Carpenter, who hit his first two major league doubles and scored both times.

But Backe wasn't all that bad. He walked two in the first inning but none after that, a good sign that his control is under control. He gave up hits early in innings and for the most part was able to limit the damage. Really, Backe only gave up three runs on his own accord. Gallo came in to face Walker in the fifth with runners on the corners and one out, giving up a sac fly. Strickland then relieved and promptly served up Sanders' second homer.

These were surprising moves by Garner. And by surprising I mean dumb. Garner, an old-fashioned kind of guy, seems to love Gallo and the old lefty-versus-lefty matchup. The fact of the matter is, Gallo is not one of our top five relievers. I'd rank Burns and Springer ahead of him along with Qualls-Wheeler-Lidge. And Scott Strickland? You've got to be kidding me! I don't care if it's the fifth inning, in a tied game with playoff implications and the Wild Card on the line, we need our best pitchers out there. And Strickland ain't one of them.

Elsewhere, the San Diego Padres won the West with a win over the Giants. And finally climbed back to .500 at 79-79. I almost hope they end the season under .500. It is kind of a joke. I mean, half of the teams in the NL are better than the Padres. Still, they'll be no pushover for the Cardinals, who lost four of seven to the Pads this year. Their starters aren't great after Peavy -- Eaton, Lawrence, Astacio, Williams and Chan Ho aren't exactly aces. But their lineup is powerful, patient, and most importantly, balanced.

I've wondered: Is it really a good thing to send a bunch of bench players out there after you've clinched the division? Don't you want to end on a hot streak? I can understand resting your starters, but the Braves today sent all their bench warmers out there and got creamed by Colorado. Maybe Bobby Cox, like Billy Beane, isn't a playoff-style manager. He can generate long-term winning seasons with excellent pitching, well coached hitters, and the Joneses, but has a hard time winning short series.

Jack and I talked about Jim Edmonds today. People say he's having a down year this year. His OPS is .919. In fact, Jack tells me his last five years for the Cards is historic. Like, Willy Mays good. His OPS the past five years: .994, .974, .981, 1.002, 1.061, .919. And as one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball. He's got 331 career homers and will knock in his 1000th RBI if he gets three more this year. But I think the most amazing thing he does each game is play hard all day every day. When he strikes out, like he did against Springer in the seventh, he got mad at himself. Pissed. And when Lane popped a blooper up to center in the seventh, Edmonds gave it his all and dove full out to try and nab it. He hurt his wrist going for it, too, which wouldn't have been the best outcome, but that just shows you what kind of player he really is. As much as he's killed us over the years, I have utmost respect for him as a ballplayer.

Now then: down to business. We're back home, where we are a whole new team. Everyone hits better. Pettitte, Oswalt and Backe all pitch better. Win two of four and we're in. Let's go ahead and win them all:

Thursday vs. Cubs, 8 p.m. EDT: Wandy vs. Rusch
Friday, 8 p.m.: Pettitte vs. Zambrano
Saturday, 4 p.m.: Clemens vs. Williams
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Oswalt vs. Maddux

Meanwhile, the Phils have an off day before heading to D.C. to play the Nats. Good thing for them... they'd hear a TON of boos from their own fans once they get eliminated.

Let's go Stros!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

An Astros win coupled with a Phillies loss on Tuesday puts Houston back in the driver's seat to clinch the wild card this weekend. Oswalt pitched seven strong innings and Lane and Biggio both hit homer #25 on the season (both career highs). Garner made a brilliant move by bringing in Lidge for the eighth to face Edmonds, Pujols and Walker. Lidge also pitched the ninth for his 39th save. Not only was this a great move to win the game, but it prepares Lidge for more two- or three-inning saves in the postseason.

In Philly, the Mets held on to a 3-2 lead without closer Braden Looper (who is without a September save). The Phils had runners in scoring position in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but failed to score each time. In the bottom of the eighth, Beltran threw out David Bell trying to go first-to-third on a single. The throw was a bullet -- "Clemente-esque". So it looks like Beltran is helping us out after all. A shame we eliminated them from contention with our win. Haha.

So, entering Wednesday's games, the Astros are 86-71 with five games left to play. The Phils are 84-74 with four games left. Our magic number is down to three.

A couple notes on the team: Garner established our rotation for the remainder of the year. It's Backe tonight against Carpenter, then Wandy, Pettitte, Clemens and Oswalt respectively against the Cubs. had the mindset that if we had clinched before the last game of the season, we would rest Oswalt. But it works out well for him to stay fresh and gun for his 20th win. Then he'd be ready to pitch Game 3 of the NLDS after Pettitte and Clemens.

Biggio's mom underwent successful open heart surgery in Houston. Can you believe she actually scheduled the surgery for Monday, an Astros off-day, so her son wouldn't miss any games? That's a true fan.

Who says our team is inferior to last year's? We have even more dominant starting pitching with a healthy Pettitte and a more experienced Backe. We have a better bullpen with the emergence of Dan Wheeler. And while we will miss Beltran, Kent and Bagwell, we now have a speedy Willy T, a platoon of Burke or Lamb and Jason Lane, who's been on fire in the second half (.308 / .351 / .543). Okay, obviosuly our team is offensively offensive compared to last year's... but if Willy gets on base and causes havoc on the base paths... if Bidge, Ensberg, Berkman and Lane keep up their slugging... if Lamb/Burke, Everett and Ausmus contribute somehow... we might just score enough runs.

Here's a shot at our 25-man postseason roster. Keep in mind, we don't need nearly as many relievers:

Pitchers (10): Clemens, Pettitte, Oswalt, Backe, Burns, Springer, Gallo, Qualls, Wheeler, Lidge

Batters (15): Willy, Bidge, Ensberg, Berkman, Lane, Lamb, Everett, Ausmus, Bagwell, Burke, Palmeiro, Vizcaino, Bruntlett, Chavez, Gipson

I don't think either Zeke or Wandy has the stuff to be able to come out of the bullpen and be effective in important games. It's a shame, but they aren't crucial to our winning short series. Burns, Gallo and Springer are there for mop up duty only, or if we go into extra innings. Let's hope they never see a lead.

I wanted Luke Scott in there as a left-handed pinch hitter, but he just sucks too much. We have Palmeiro in there as our lefty (and he has a career .350 OBP as a pinch hitter!). Gipson's our pinch runner, and everyone else is more important defensively than offensively. The bench drops off quick after Bagwell, as none of our guys have any pop. Again, any runs will have to run through Biggio, Ensberg, Berkman and Lane. Not to put any pressure on them, but they are our key hitters.

But anyway, first things first: We gotta clinch first. We face Carpenter tonight for the fifth time this year, and he's looking for his fifth win against us. Let's show 'em what they're gonna face in the NLCS.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Astros win! Roy-O pitches 7 strong against the Cards, and Lane and Biggio homer for a 3-1 victory. Plus, the Phillies lose, 3-2 against the Mets!

Astros 86-71
Phillies 84-74

More later... right now, celebration time at Racha Thai.

Yeah Mets! New York scored four runs in a sloppy top of the eighth at Philadelphia to win 6-5 and send the Phils 1.5 games behind us.

The Astros had a much needed off day today. Hopefully we'll regroup from a pair of one-run losses in Chicago. Our remaining six games won't be much easier. Here are the matchups:

Tuesday in St. Louis, 8 p.m. EDT: Oswalt vs. Morris
Wednesday in St. Louis, 8 p.m. EDT: Backe vs. Carpenter
Thursday vs. Cubs, 8 p.m. EDT: Wandy vs. Rusch
Friday vs. Cubs, 8 p.m. EDT: Clemens vs. Zambrano
Saturday vs. Cubs, 4 p.m. EDT: Pettitte vs. Williams
Sunday vs. Cubs, 2 p.m. EDT: Oswalt vs. Maddux

I didn't think we'd face Carpenter again, but it looks like LaRussa has worked it so that we will face him. (I wonder if LaRussa wants us out of the playoffs? If we win the WC, the Cardinals face the Padres, if we don't, they'll play the Phillies... hmmmm). Looks like we'll get the same matchups we got in Chicago.

Here's how it went in Philly today: To start of the eighth, Charlie Manuel pulled Brett Myers, who had pitched seven solid innings and had thrown 110 pitches. Good move. Ugueth Urbina comes in and immediately gives up a double to Marlon Anderson. He then proceeds to walk the nigh un-walkable Jose Reyes. With closer Billy Wagner waiting in the bullpen, Manuel elects to stay with Urbina, who serves up a run-scoring double to Miguel Cairo. Beltran (who has been beyond terrible this year) taps a slow roller to second, whereupon Chase Utley (who has been beyond incredible this year) throws it away and allows two runs to score. Two pitchers later, Ryan Madson gives up a bases-loaded sac fly to rookie Mike Jacobs. Mets up, 6-5.

This loss can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Charlie Manuel. As soon as Ugueth got in trouble in the eighth, he should have brought in Wagner. Manuel claims Wagner had tightness in his peft shoulder, but Wagner had other ideas:

"Everybody's got soreness. Don't make no (stuff) up," he said, also mentioning he was able to pitch. Wagner is a big talker, especially when he's pissed off. But this was completely on the mark.

Too many times I see good teams lose close games with a crappy pitcher on the mound. Some managers wait to use their closers until the ninth inning, when a three-run lead isn't all that hard to protect. Sometimes the most important pitches are made in the seventh or eighth innings, and it's obvious that you best pitchers throwing your most important pitches to get the most important outs.

GArner has shown he's not afraid to use Lidge whenever it's necessary. We could have brought him in on Sunday to face Burnitz (or left in Qualls, who's tougher on lefties...). But his three-inning saves in last year's playoffs were genius. Every one of our six remaining games should be managed as if it were a playoff game, so I hope Lidge is ready for his best stuff yet. And Qualls and Wheeler, you guys are gonna have to bring it.

Let's go, Roy! Show those Cards what they're gonna see in the NLCS!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Heartbreaker of a loss: Cubs 3, Astros 2. Combined with the Phillies win over Cincy, we're now 1 game up with 6 to play. 2 of those at St. Louis, the next 4 at home against the Cubs again.
This one should have been ours.
We had numerous chances to score, including a bases loaded, 0 out situation in the 2nd. We got nothing. Then Jason Lane gets picked off 3rd with 2nd and 3rd and 2 out. Then Ensberg gets thrown out stealing with Jason Lane up and 2 outs in the 8th. Bad.
Andy Pettitte pitched great, allowing only 2 hits in 6 innings. One of them was a HR to D. Lee in the 1st, so we were playing catch-up the rest of the game. We finally broke through when Adam Everett walked (halleleujah!!), and Orlando Palmeiro had a HUGE pinch-hit triple. This brough up Willy T with 1 out, and he actually got a ball out of the infield, and deep enough to score Palmeiro. Sweet.
Then Chad Qualls relieves in the bottom of the 7th. D. Lee singles on the 1st pitch. Nomar grounds to 3rd, nice play by Ensberg. Barret grounds to SS, nice play by Everett. Jeromy Burnitz coming up.
Pretend you're Phil Garner:
Chad Qualls vs. lefties: 36.2 IP, 2 HR
Mike Gallo vs. lefties: 52. 2 IP, 6 HR
Jeromy Burnitz vs. LHP: 8 HR in 167 AB
Jeromy Burnitz vs. RHP: 15 HR in 411 AB
So, to sum up, Gallo gives up a higher percentage of HR to lefties than Qualls does, and Burnitz hits a higher % of HR against lefties than against righties.
Garner brings in Gallo. Gallo hangs a breaking ball. Burnitz crushes.
Gallo walked the next two guys, forcing Garner to go to Wheeler, who walked another guy before getting a groundout.
And that was the game.
Go with the guys who have you got you this far (Qualls, Wheeler, Lidge). Don't lose games because of guys like Mike Gallo.

Friday, September 23, 2005

This just in: Clemens will miss his next start on Saturday. Astacio will start in his place. Just heard this from the Astros announcers. I guess Clemens's hammy in acting up again. Damn. Better safe than sorry, I guess. We need Clemens healthy.

Astros at Cubs, Friday, 9/23:

CF Taveras
2B Biggio
3B Ensberg
1B Berkman
RF Lane
LF Burke
SS Everett
C Chavez
P Wandy

SS Neifi
2B Walker
1B Lee
3B Garciaparra
RF Burnitz
C Barrett
LF Murton
CF Patterson
P Rusch

Burnitz has been a bust for the Cubs. Sure has 23 homers and 84 RBI, but his averages (.263 / .328 / .445) are less than stellar. As bad as Burnitz has been, Patterson has been worse. He seems to swing wildly at everything, and his numbers (.221 / .258 / .361) show it. Ugh. Murton has good stats -- a .950 OPS -- in 11 at-bats. And Garciaparra, after an awful start and a bad groin injury, has an .848 OPS in the second half, most at third base. Let's do it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Astros win, 2-1 over the Pirates. Backe allowed one run on two hits over seven innings and Berkman singled in Taveras twice in the early goings as the Stros maintained their two-game lead over Philly, which won at Atlanta. The good guys have won eight of their last nine games.

The big story around Houston is Hurricane Rita. It has slightly dissipated into a Category 4 storm, but still has 150 mph winds and looks like it's headed right for Galveston. Thankfully, many denizens were alerted and evacuated well in advance. The Storm will probably hit shore late Friday, but hopefully few will be inthe area to witness the destruction.

Backe, a Galveston native, didn't seem to be affected. He was awesome right from the get-go. His change-up, which he added in the off-season, was spot on today. He attacked hitters early and never gave in. He located all his pitches well and didn't walk a batter. With his second consecutive quality start, he's really rounding into the playoff form we witnessed last year. We'll need him to make a few postseason starts, too. With a 43-year-old Clemens and a recently repaired left elbow on Pettitte, we can't afford to start those guys on three days' rest.

The offense took another day off, collecting only five hits and five walks. But it was nice to see us win a low-scoring game without one of our big three on the mound.

Looks like Rusch will start tomorrow against Wandy, then Zambrano on Saturday against Clemens. That'll be a great matchup. Zambrano has been lights out in the second half (8-1, 2.36, 1.03). Rusch has not (2-5, 5.75, 1.66). Let's keep it up. The Cubs won't roll over just because they're out of it. I'm predicting a big series for Morgan Ensberg. We're gonna need him this last week and a half.
After losing the first two games of last week's four-game series against the Marlins (and temporarily handing over the Wild Card lead to the Fish), the Stros have won seven of eight games, including tonight's 12-8 win over the Pirates. Florida, meanwhile, has lost six of seven, falling four games behind Houston.

It's essentially a two-team race between us and Philly, which won tonight on a Ryan Howard grand slam in the top of the tenth innning against Atlanta. They're two games back.

So here's what we got: 10 games left: seven against the Cubs, two against the Cards and tomorrow's finale of our four-game series against Pittsburgh. Backe will start against rookie sensation Zach Duke. For our weekend series at Wrigley, the matchups are looking like this:

Friday: Wandy vs. Zambrano
Saturday: Clemens vs. Rusch
Sunday: Pettitte vs. Williams

Luckily, we miss Maddux and Prior. Friday's matchup doesn't look too bright, but check out Wandy's second-half stats: 6-4, 4.10, 1.26! Damn good! Clemens has given up 12 runs in his last three starts... we're gonna need him to be at full strength. And Pettitte really deserves to be in the discussion for Cy Young. He won't win it, but he's been a cut above Clemens for months now. As Ausmus and John Donovan put it, "He's amazing."

After an off day on Monday the 26th, we'll travel to St. Louis for a two-game set. Oswalt and Backe are set to start against the Cardinals, who look like they'll send Marquis and Morris to the mound. Garner probably won't change the rotation, but it might make sense to start Wandy on Wednesday against at St. Louis, then have Backe start at home against the Cubs on Thursday. Wandy will have his full four days of rest, and seems to fare a tad better on the road than at home (5.01 ERA on the road compared with 5.75 at home). Backe, meanwhile, simply can't pitch away from the Juicebox (6.00 ERA on the road compared with 3.41 at home). Also, Backe has won both his starts this year against the Cubs, but has an ERA over 10 against the Cardinals.

It might make more sense, however, to have our big three all pitch in the final series to give us out best chance to make the postseason. I guess everything will depend on how we're looking in the Wild Card race.

The Phillies, meanwhile, have an interesting schedule. They finish their series in Atlanta tomorrow, with Lieber starting against Hudson. Then they head to Cincy for the weekend. Those teams split a four-game series in Philly in May. Finally, the Phils get the Mets at home and the Nats in D.C. next week. The Mets have played spoiler this month against the Marlins, and could do the same against the Phils. Beltran may help us this year after all...

Some interesting second-half stats:

Willy T's and Biggio's OBPs have dropped off significantly. Biggio's (.288) hurts more than Taveras's (.315). In fact, Biggio's second-half stats have been much inferior to Burke's:
Biggio (Post All-Star): .226 / .288 / .387 (.675)
Burke (Post All-Star): .257 / .320 / .449 (.769)

Besides Burke, Lane and Lamb have stepped it up:
Lane (Post All-Star): .296 / .333 / .513 (.846)
Lamb (Post All-Star): .248 / .293 / .455 (.748)

It seems to me that we should be starting Lamb at 1B against righties consistently.

Adam Everett has six walks in 220 second-half at-bats. He sucks. Fortunately, Bradley Ausmus has been a wonderful surprise. Actually, he's been a freakin' godsend. His second half has been remarkable: He's taking walks, hitting doubles, and striking out seldom. After the break he's hitting .296 / .391 / .402, and has brought his total OPS up over .700.

The only hitter on our lineup with better stats away from MMP? Orlando Palmeiro, of course. He's got an .892 OPS on the road, but it's only .651 at home. Weird.

How much better would we be with Jeff Bagwell? Even in this injury-shortened year, his .372 OBP is oodles better than Lamb's .275, Burke's .301 or Scott's .247.

Now then, let's focus on tomorrow's game. It's an early one: 12:35 p.m. EDT. Gotta have it. GO Stros!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Retrospective Sunday Post

Maybe I'll talk about New Orleans for a bit. I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I went to school there, I made friends there...I learned how to ride a bike there. I actually didn't spend much time in New Orleans - I might have visited 5 times or so in 10 years. I never went to Mardi Gras. I was there for some tennis tournaments and field trips and I drove through a few times. That's it. But it was definitely THE city in Louisiana. The Big Easy. N'Awlins (no one really says that in Louisiana, by the way. It's not New OrLEENS, either. It's just New OrlINS.) And now it's pretty damn near destroyed. Yep, they're going to try and rebuild it. But that might take a little while. Most of the city is underwater, and houses don't do so well with water everywhere. Anyway, I was kinda depressed this week, but take a step back and I don't have so much to be depressed about. I've got family and friends and a house. So maybe I'll do something to help out.

My senior year at college in Nashville some guy named Byron forced me into buying a Ryan Adams CD, "Demolition". I listened to it once or twice, and put it away for later. Little bro Andy steals it, likes it, buys all of his other CD's, and makes me listen to them. And they are DAMN good. Check them out sometime. Andy and I had a chat the other day - Ryan Adams basically puts out as much new music as possible - not all of it is awesome, but the sheer volume of work means that at least some of it will strike a chord with you somewhere. Then there are some other artists that take a couple of years (damn you Radiohead make something new so I can keep worshipping you) to put out new stuff because they want it to be perfect. Which way is better? Well, if you come up with "OK Computer" in your few years (recently named the best CD of the past 25 years by some British magazine), then I'll let it slide. But that Mr. Adams sure is prolific.

Oh yeah, the Astros. Brandon Backe looked good last night and the offense got some timely hits, and we won 7-0. Still a 1/2 game ahead of the Phillies, who scored 10 runs in the 9th to beat the Marlins 10-2. Morgan Ensberg pinch-hit yesterday and beat out an infield single; hopefully he starts today. Oh, and WELCOME BACK, JEFF BAGWELL! His game-winning pinch-hit RBI single on Friday was unbelievable.

But it's Sunday, so it's a football day. Speaking of football: Vanderbilt Commodores. 3 wins. 0 losses. That is all.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Big big win last night. We're now a half-game behind both the Marlins and Phillies (who seemingly haven't lost since we swept them in Philly). Yep, it's close.

It was a nervous game for much of last night, although 7 runs in the 7th and 8th put it away. It's good to see Mike Lamb, Jason Lane, and Adam Everett have solid nights at the plate, instead of the usual Berkman / Ensberg crew.

Andy Pettitte has been unstoppable lately; hopefully he can keep it going tonight.

The injury bug is starting to take its toll. Ensberg has missed the last 8 games, Willy T is hurt, and Chris Burke's injury might be the most serious, and he will likely miss a week or so. That means guys like Orlando Palmeiro, Mike Lamb, and Eric Bruntlett may well see more playing time, and they need to bring it.

No stats today. Need a break from the numbers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

That Dontrelle Willis guy (former Cub! as my roommate BJ would remine me) can play himself some baseball. After a complete game win and a 2 run HR, Willis put the Marlins a half-game ahead of the Astros for the wild card. Somewhat unsurprisingly, our offense struggled for the 3rd game in a row.

Below average offense - its best hitter for much of the year = REALLY bad offense.

Willy Taveras is slumping, Craig Biggio has collapsed in the 2nd half, and no one else is really picking up the slack that Ensberg has left. Gotta find a way to do something, quickly, or the Marlins (whose offense is much more balanced, with Castillo, Conine, Encarnacion and LoDuca having solid years and Cabrera and Delgado leading the way) are going to run away with the Wild Card, for the simple reason that they are the better team.

I'll be watching tonight. Cross your fingers: Beckett vs. Wandy.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Well, seems like I only post once a series these days. Sorry about that. More importantly: Clemens AND Oswalt the Brewers? Shit. Now we have a MONSTROUS series coming up against the Marlins. How big? Real big.

Current wild-card standings:

Houston, 76-66
Florida, 76-67 (0.5 GB)
Philly, 75-68 (1.5 GB)

Pitching matchups:

Monday: Backe / Willis
Tuesday: Wandy / Beckett
Wednesday: Clemens / Burnett
Thursday: TBD (Pettitte / Vargas?)

Letsa go.

Hope Ensberg is back and healthy. We need him bad. Bats gotta step up. I know it's Willis / Beckett / Burnett, but this could be the season.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Well, that went all right.

All three games against the Phillies were close (4-3, 2-1, 8-6) but we were just a little bit better every time.

The star of the series in my opinion has to be Lance Berkman (3-10, 2 BB, 2 HR, 4 RBI) who is heating up at the right time. But everyone contributed (Pettitte and Oswalt were awesome, Eric Bruntlett stealing 2nd and 3rd, Jason Lane with the RBI single YEAAAH), and Craig Biggio delivered when it counted most in an unbelievable way.

Now we have a 3-game series coming up against the Brewers (Clemens vs. Davis, Pettitte vs. Ohka, Oswalt vs. Helling). Those are really good matchups, and a sweep would be awesome, because after that we have a 4-game series at home against the Marlins, which is without a doubt the biggest series of the year.

Our schedule gets a lot easier from then (Brewers, Pirates, Cubs), so that series is going to be huge. Nevertheless, we shouldn't look ahead. We're playing the Brewers, so let's do it.

Hopefully Morgan Ensberg will be back tonight, because our offense isn't good with him, and it is BAD without him. Well, I guess we did score 8 runs on Wednesday night, but c'mon. I don't want Luke Scott batting 3rd.

Monday, September 05, 2005

After an absolutely insane 6-5 win in the first game against the Cardinals (I'll let Andy tell you about it later, as he saw the whole thing), we scored 3 runs total against Chris Carpenter and Jason Marquis, both of whom pitched complete games. Our offensive woes are back again - Craig Biggio is having a rough 2nd half (670 OPS), Ensberg and Berkman never seem to have good days at the same time, Jason Lane is still swinging at everything (.306 OBP), and Adam Everett, Willy Taveras and Brad Ausmus are all playing almost every day (668, 669, 667 OPS's), so we can't expect much more. If Luke Scott gets on a hot streak, that would be nice, as he's a possible source of left-handed power.

Anyway, we start a HUGE 3 game series against the Phillies today.

The matchups for the series:

Pettite vs. Myers
Oswalt vs. Lieber
Backe vs. Padilla

It will help to have Backe back, not because he's been that good this year, but because Zeke and Wandy have both struggled. But we're not going to go anywhere without an offensive resurgence. Let's hope we can get some runs tonight.

Andy Pettite in the 2nd half: 73 IP, 1.60 ERA, 7-2.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Couple big moves by the Astros, both on and off the field. Most importantly, we righted our ship by sweeping the Reds behind spectacular pitching by Wandy, Pettitte and Roy O.

Wandy: 5 IP, 1 ER
Pettitte: 7 IP, 0 ER
Roy: 5 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 11 K!

And we actually scored some runs -- 18 of them. Roy remained a perfect 15-0 against the Reds in 19 career appearances against Cincy. He's been complaining of fatigue and dead arm, so it's good to see Garner's going easy on his pitch and inning count. Pettitte says he's "a better pitcher right now than ever before." Since the All-Star break, he has been our best pitcher: 7-2, 1.60 ERA, 0.96 WHIP. And Wandy has been a pleasant surprise. With his tremendous run support, he's definitely keepin us in games.

Off the field, we sent Humberto Quintero and Mike Burns to New Orleans and called up Raul Chavez, Travis Driskill and Charles Gipson. We're basically swapping out our worst hitter and worst pitcher and adding a little speed. Why not?

I still have high hopes for HQ, mostly because of that nickname. I think he's displayed decent pop in the minors, and he just turned 26. (Note: my "high hopes" are realistic... maybe a .700 OPS? I don't see him as an adequate starter anytime soon.) Apparently Raul Chavez is a much better defensive catcher. Or at least our pitchers prefer him behind the plate.

Gipson is a speedster and can pinch-run un the late innings. I don't expect him to get any playing time. Burns wasn't getting it done: nine ER in his last five innings. Driskill is a non-factor: a career 5.29 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. He's got mop-up duty.

Now then, we got a huge series against the Cardinals this weekend:

Friday, 8:05 ET: Mark Mulder (15-6, 3.74 ERA) vs. Ezeqiuel Astacio (2-6, 6.03)
Saturday, 7:05 ET: Chris Carpenter (19-4, 2.29) vs. Roger Clemens (11-6, 1.51)
Sunday, 2:05 ET : Jason Marquis (10-13, 4.42) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (9-6, 5.94)

Wow. Saturday's matchup will be phenomenal. Unfortunately, Mulder went 10 innings last time we saw him. Hopefully we'll do better this time around.