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.