Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hope everybody had a happy Easter. The Astros sure enjoyed the weekend, taking two of three from the D-Backs. I had a great time in Austin, and even headed up to Round Rock on Sunday. I played the disc golf course at Old Settler's Park, where the Express play at the wonderful Dell Diamond. I really wanted to check out the game, but Ruby, my black Lab, wouldn't have liked being locked in the van on a 90-degree afternoon. I heard later that Brooks Conrad hit a walk-off two-run homer to win 6-4 over the Cubs. Luke Scott also homered, Jason Hirsh started and J.T.'s favorite Astro, Brandon Puffer, got the win. Ah, baseball.

Meanwhile, in the big leagues, Berkman and Ensberg have been going crazy. Just insane. Forget the numbers; every time they step to the plate, you can SENSE that they're gong to hit the ball hard and do some damage. Obviously, these guys aren't giong to slug .800 for the year, but let's hope they can both ride their streaks for the next few weeks.

Monday' game was encouraging in more ways than one. But none more important than the team's ability to come back from deficits. After Gabe Gross' pinch-hit three-run homer off Qualls (c'mon Qualls!), our hitters rattled off 5 runs in the bottom of the seventh, capped by Lane's moonshot bomb. Also encouraging: Buchholz was money in his first start. Berkman and Ensberg (and Everett!) continued their hot hitting. Lane and Biggio improved their averages. And Lidge nailing down the save in a one-run game. Here's the play-by-play:

I left work early to catch the first pitch, only to find out that the game was blacked out in Bryan-College Station. Hmph. But Milo — like the Astros — was on top of his game tonight (At one point, he described Prince Fielder as "a Hummer in a baseball uniform").

Taylor Buchholz threw a very good game in his first career start. He gave up a monster bomb to Carlos Lee in the second inning (Milo: "Just this side of Beaumont"), but settled down to retire 14 of the next 16 batters. After a Moberg throwing error allowed J.J. hardy to reach with one out in the sixth, Geoff Jenkins hit another monster shot to right. Buchholz walked Lee, but got Koskie to ground into the double play. So in six innings, Taylor allowed only those two hits! Sure, they may have traveled a combined 1000 feet, but still... it was a very encouraging start.

The offense was steady throughout, and boy it was nice to see us respond whenever we lost the lead. Right after Lee's homer, Everett singled home Lane in the bottom of the second. After an awful first week, Everett has really started hitting. With a 2-for-4 night, he's hit in 8 of his last 19 at-bats. Who needs walks? A sac bunt later, Biggio drives Ausmus home with a grounder to go up 2-1.

After Jenkins' bomb, Ensberg made up for his error with a solo shot leading off the sixth to tie the game at 3. And even when most fans thought the game was over after Gross' three-run shot, Biggio led off the seventh with his 609th career double. Taveras reached on Koskie's throwing error which pulled Fielder off the bag. It sounded like it was a close play since Prince put up a fight, but since I couldn't watch the game, I really don't know. In any case, Berkman and Ensberg followed with RBI singles, and after a Preston Wilson strikeout (his 4th out of 5 on the day!), Lane follows with an absolute BOMB off Matt Wise. I finally saw the highlights on SportsCenter, and Lane was PUMPED as he rounded first, high-fiving Cruz and pumping his fist. What a clutch hit! In the playoffs last year, I remember hearing an announcer quoting hitting coach Gary Gaetti as saying that Lane could lead the team in homers in 2006. Boy, that's a scary thought...

Wheeler got in trouble in the eighth, giving up a single to Weeks and a double to Fielder that fell three feet shy of entering the Astros bullpen. Yikes. But Lane made a nice sliding grab of Moeller's liner, and Wheeler got Bill Hall swinging. Lidge allowed a two-out single to Jenkins, upsetting my nerves a little bit, but got Lee on a grounder to end it. What a game!

What's that old saying about momentum? Something about tomorrow's starting pitcher? I believe we got the Wizard going tomorrow. And I have a feeling Wilson will get a big hit off Davis.

No comments: