Game Four: A Bitter Sweep Ending

The Astrosí attempt to win without scoring somehow fails

Yes, it’s pronounced “OZE-walt,” but big deal. It’s a nickname that you can really use. “He’s hitting the corners like they were JFK’s skull!” or “And you thought his namesakehad good aim!” If he didn’t have his good stuff and the manager had to come to the mound to take him out, the announcers could say, “Uh-oh. Looks like someone let Jack Ruby into the parking garage.”

Maybe not. At any rate, Lee Harvey had his Mannlicher-Carcano of a right arm in fine form last night, mowing down Cardinals like they were a bunch of sexed-up Irish-Catholic cold warriors asking not what their country could do for them. (And, with that last sentence, we bring an official end to the “Lee Harvey” Oswalt era.)

Even when he faltered and had two Cardinals on base, Oswalt seemed in complete command of things. The only blemish was giving up a monster home run to Albert Pujols, which delayed the game for five minutes while everyone waited for Pujols to stop admiring his dinger and actually take a step toward first base. Pujols was absolutely fascinatedby his homer; it apparently took a massive act of will to turn away from it and round the bases.

Since we’ve given up on the “Lee Harvey” theme, here’s one for all the gals (and gays) out there: Anyone thinking All About Evewhen it comes to Oswalt? The night before, at batting practice, he lines a shot off Andy Pettitte’s knee and Pettitte goes on to stink up the joint; Oswalt comes in and earns raves. Look out, Margo -- it’s going to be a bumpy night, indeed. (We now return to our regularly scheduled manly programming.)

Most disturbing information line of the night: Adam Everett was minor-league roommates with the Cardinals’ David Eckstein. In case you’ve never seen mug shots of these guys, Eckstein looks like he’s about 11 years old, and Everett has ears that give him the wingspan of a 747. Put them together in the same room and you’d tremble for your species.

Fox has continued, by the way, to assault us with the Dirt Cam. Every time they do, it’s difficult not to think of some dumpy middle-aged guy getting arrested at the mall for shooting pictures up women’s skirts on the escalator. (The Fox director no doubt is a fan of www.upskirt.com, which declares that “The latest digital camcorder and pinhole cam technology rocks the house!”)

Game Three is next, with Roger Clemens starting. We fully expect to be told several times that his three-inning relief stint against the Braves was mankind’s crowning achievement here on earth, or perhaps some combination of the Bataan Death March, inventing the polio vaccine and the Born to Runalbum.

For his sake, we hope he isn’t on the field while Oswalt is taking batting practice. Lee Harvey ain’t into sharing the spotlight.

Publication date: October 13

Jesus Ain't My Homeboy Tonight

The Astros have a lot to ponder after their first playoffs outing against the Cards

The Astros, as anyone who follows the team knows, are a very religious bunch. Guys like Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio and Morgan Ensberg wear their faith on their sleeves, trotting out God at every opportunity in order to butter up the Big Man. ("The Big Man" being not God, but owner and fellow Bible-thumper Drayton McLane. Although Astros employees sometimes confuse the two.)

The über-est of the über-Christians is pitcher Andy Pettitte, who's written a book about it all. Unfortunately, it appears God was watching the Angels-White Sox game last night. (And rooting -- strangely enough -- against the Angels, if umpire Doug Eddings's bizarre call is any indication.)

Pettitte took the mound last night as the Astros' ace. If he asked "What Would Jesus Do?" like a good Christian does, apparently the answer came back "Jesus would pitch like shit."

Cardinal Reggie Sanders has played for seven different teams in the last eight years; during his entire career he's batted .188 in the playoffs. It took only a few pitches from Pettitte last night to make him a post-season star.

Sanders pounded a homer to give the Cards a first-inning lead; but Pettitte wasn't done yet. He gave up five runs in six innings and never looked in command.

In the locker room after the game, an angry Pettitte wailed to the sky. "Father, Father, why hast thou forsaken me?" he cried, as puzzled and decidedly nonreligious sportswriters looked around for his dad.

Actually, Pettitte said all the right things, as is his noble wont. "I was just terrible," he said.

But then again, if you're one of the good-guy Astros, you can always be sure the Houston Chronicle will have your back. The first paragraph of its lead game story dealt with Pettitte getting hit by a ball in pregame batting practice; the second graf nominated Pettitte for sainthood: "Despite needing medication to numb the pain on the severely swollen knee, Pettitte refused to make any excuses for his loss against the St. Louis Cardinals." And when the clubhouse buffet was found to be inadequate, Pettitte rustled up some loaves and fishes for everyone, the paper didn't go on to report.

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