Astros-Cubs: Brandon Backe Back in the Lead (for Homers Surrendered)

Despite Brandon Backe giving up three home runs in 4.1 innings, the Astros last night found themselves leading the Chicago Cubs 7-3 in the bottom of the sixth. It should thus be no surprise that the game went into extra innings.

Somehow or another, the Astros continued to play over their heads and pulled out the victory, 9-7, in 11 innings. I watched the Astros do it last night. But it just shouldn’t be possible. This is not a good team. The stats say that this is not a good team. One of their key starting pitchers once again failed to deliver a quality start. The bullpen couldn’t keep a big lead. They’re having to depend on the likes of Geoff Blum to bail out the high-priced superstars. Yet they won the game, and I just don’t know how, or why.

The Astros end the series with the Cubs tonight. Randy Wolf (8-11, 4.73) will pitch against Ryan Dempster (15-5, 2.55).

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

At the start of last night’s game, the Astros were 8.5 games behind the NL wild card leaders the Milwaukee Brewers. The New York Yankees were seven games behind the AL wild card leaders the Boston Red Sox. Yet listening to the start of the game on the radio, I heard Brett and Dave giggling about how the Yankees were out of playoff contention, which was kind of funny seeing as how I’d spent the day listening to sports talk radio and hearing about how the Astros were still in contention for the wild card spot.

It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. I think the Yankees are out of contention, and I think the Astros are out of contention. So I guess if Brett and Dave are going to giggle about the Yankees, they really need to giggle about the Astros.

And at the end of the last night’s games, the Astros were 7.5 games out, and the Yankees were still seven games out. So I feel safe in writing that the Yankees still have the better odds of making the playoffs.

******************* Richard Justice wants us to apologize to Ed Wade. To apologize for doubting the squad that Ed has assembled. To apologize for criticizing the hitting and the pitching on the club, and to apologize for criticizing some of his personnel decisions. (I’m not going to get into Justice being one of Wade’s biggest critics.) Justice marks as a positive the Jose Valverde and Miguel Tejada trades along with the LaTroy Hawkins and Randy Wolf trades. Justice wants us to apologize for doubting Ed’s moves because the vaunted offensive machine is superior to last year’s, and the bullpen is much improved. But primarily Justice wants us to apologize because this year’s club has a winning record.

So I did something I probably wasn’t supposed to do. I looked at the numbers. On September 2, 2007, the Astros were in fifth place with a 61-76 record. The team had scored 604 runs and had surrendered 685 runs. That was good enough for 12th in the NL in runs scored, and 13th in the NL for runs allowed. After last night’s game, the Astros were 73-66 and 11 games out of first. They had scored 624 runs for 10th in the NL in runs scored; and they had allowed 653 runs, for 10th place in runs allowed.

So it appears that Ed Wade has led the Astros from suckitude to mediocrity. But then again, shouldn’t we expect more than mediocrity? The Astros have been playing some good baseball lately, but it’s because a bunch of journeymen, role players, and bench guys have been playing way over their heads, and way better than their past stats indicate. Ed Wade has assembled a team that has gotten lucky and is playing way over its head. Ed Wade shouldn’t be congratulated for getting lucky because, for the most part, this is the same team that stunk up the NL for most of the season. And if the Astros come back in 2009 with guys like Ty Wigginton, Kaz Matsui, David Newhan, Geoff Blum, Darin Erstad, Humberto Quintero, Brian Moehler, Brandon Backe, Randy Wolf, and Wandy Rodriguez getting lots of playing time, then once again the Astros are going to being playing catch-up yet again. And it’s going to be Ed Wade that owes us an apology, not the other way around.

****************** And for anyone who was worried, Brandon Backe’s three homers last night catapulted him back into the NL lead for home runs surrendered with 32. – John Royal

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