Three words: What the crap? In the last four days, the Astros have:
1) Sent down their second-best starting pitcher this spring (and quite possibly their second best starter overall). Nieve in my mind was a lock to make the rotation. He had very good numbers and showed no signs of the elbow problems that plagued him late last year. But no, Chris Sampson overtook him despite Sampson allowing eight runs in a start. And the Chronicle claimed Sampson had a "more consistent spring." Utter BS. I thought maybe the Astros wouldn't need their fifth starter until late in April, but looking at the schedule, that's false. Wandy and Sampson will likely make three or four starts apiece this month. And Nieve will be pitching better than both of them in Round Rock.
2) Batted Adam Everett second in the lineup, after switching between Ensberg and Burke batting there in spring training. Judging by the way all the Astros were laughing and goofing off throughout the first game, maybe Garner was just thinking, "What the hell, let's try this craziness!" Forget his stats in the 2-hole and his ability to bunt and his speed at the top of the lineup. Pure and simple, Everett is a terrible hitter. Most nights, he deserves to bat ninth, behind our pitcher.
3) Blown their first late-inning lead, courtesy of Brad Lidge. I'm sure everyone reading this saw the game or at least the highlight. Lidge got two good outs against LaRoche and Paulino. But his first pitch to Xavier Nady was a fastball right down the middle that Nady deposited into the Crawfords. Lidge said later that Nady hit a good pitch, but something's gotta give, Lidge. I don't care about good pitches, I care about converting saves and getting wins. That pitch reminded me of the one he threw to Scott Podsednik in the bottom of the ninth of Game 1 in the 2005 World Series. Right down the middle, and the batter was waiting for it, dead red. Good pitchers locate their fastballs. Inside, outisde ... upstairs, down low. Corners. You can't get away with crummy command, Brad, if you expect to save games for much longer. Batters can hit 97-mph heaters if they're right down the middle.
4) Lost their first game of the year when Jason Bay hit a 2-run bomb off Chad Qualls in the 10th inning. Qualls got off to a rotten start last year, and he has a tendency to give up HRs at incredibly inconvenient times. Perhaps he's overthrowing and his sinker doesn't sink in time. Whatever it is, Lidge might not be the only headcase in the Astros' bullpen.
I realize it's only one game. Garner will stop being a jackass and bat Everett where he belongs. Whether it's Burke or Ensberg hitting 2nd, we'll score more than two runs more often that not. Lee will get big hits with men on. And Lidge and Qualls will settle down. Also, I expect to see Nieve pitching for the Astros before month's end.
But damn, what a way to start the season.