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Astros-Cubs: Two Wins, One Loss, and a Few Roster Changes

The Astros got the second half of the season off to a good start by defeating the Chicago Cubs on Friday and Saturday. Astros killer Jim Edmonds gave the Cubs the 1-0 lead on Friday when he homered, but it appears that Miguel Tejada may have got a B-12 shot when he was in New York for the All-Star Game, because he got three hits and scored the winning run on Hunter Pence’s ninth inning single – also Pence's third hit of the night. And on Saturday, despite a home run from Chicago starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs lost 4-1.

Brandon Backe got the start on Sunday as the Astros tried for their first sweep since the Milwaukee series the first weekend of May. An attempt that went nowhere, especially after Backe let the Cubs get two runs in the first inning. The situation wasn’t helped when, in the fifth inning with the Cubs leading 3-0, the Astros loaded the bases with no outs, only to see J.R. Towles strike out, Brandon Backe strike out looking (and he should have been ejected from the game for his little temper tantrum on the called third strike), and Kaz Matsui popping up to end the inning.

The Cubs went on to win the game 9-0, giving Cubs starter Ryan Dempster his first road victory since the 2006 season. The loss dropped the Astros record to 46-52 for the season.

The Astros close out their current home stand starting on Monday with the first of three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates – yep, it’s the battle for last place. Runelvys Hernandez (0-3, 10.29) gets the start against John Van Benschoten (1-2, 9.77) TBA gets the start for the Astros on Tuesday against Ian Snell (3-8, 5.83), but Jack Cassel (1-0, 6.28) will probably be called up from Round Rock to make the start for Houston. And Brian Moehler (5-4, 4.03) goes against Paul Maholm (6-6, 4.10) on Wednesday afternoon.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

The Astros finally got around to placing Roy Oswalt on the disabled list on Saturday. Oswalt originally injured his left hip abductor on June 30, then reinjured it when he attempted to pitch on July 11. An MRI on Saturday confirmed the injury, as well as also revealing a small disk protrusion.

I argued for placing Oswalt on the disabled list way back when he first suffered the injury. He is, supposedly, the team’s ace, and it made no sense to me to risk further injury during a lost season. The Astros, like always, didn’t listen to me. Also, can someone please tell me why there wasn’t an MRI conducted until Saturday?

******************* Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano homered to right field on Saturday night, accounting for the Cubs only run. That was the 14th homer of Zambrano’s career, which is the most ever for a Cubs pitcher. It was also the fifth homer of his career against the Astros.

And speaking of that homer, I’ve got a message for you morons who sit out in the outfield. Leave Hunter Pence alone. I’ve got no idea if Pence could have made the catch, but he was timing his leap and it’s possible he could have leapt over the fence and pulled the ball down his glove. However, some idiot sitting on the front row decided he wanted to make the catch instead. Worse, the asshole threw the ball back out on the field.

Why go through the effort of interfering with Pence to make the catch if you’re going to just throw the ball back onto the field? I swear, sometimes, between the Los Caballitos, the Pumas, and the morons who throw back all of the home run balls, I think Houston has the stupidest fans in baseball.

****************** The only move of Ed Wade’s which has worked this year is the signing of Darin Erstad. And Cecil Cooper has finally decided to make Erstad a full-time starter. I was arguing for this back in late-May, early-June when Carlos Lee wasn’t hitting. Cecil Cooper however has decided to sit Michael Bourn instead. And since Bourn isn’t hitting, I can’t really blame Cooper for the move.

But I’ve got two issues. According to Richard Justice, Erstad’s starting because the Astros are showcasing him for a trade. I don’t have a problem with this because Erstad’s the type of player contenders like to have, and there’s a chance the Astros might be able to pull in some prospects for Erstad. But I don’t see the move happening because this move would actually be one a team would make that was looking to start rebuild.

And the Astros don’t believe in rebuilding.

The other problem is this: if Erstad’s not going to be traded, then Michael Bourn should be sent down to Round Rock. Bourn, supposedly, is the future of the club in centerfield. He needs to be playing everyday. Hopefully, in Round Rock, he can get some assistance from a hitting coach. In my opinion, it’s better for the Astros, and Bourn, if he plays everyday and works on his hitting, than it is if he sits up in the dugout waiting for the ninth inning so that he can go in as a defensive replacement for Carlos Lee.

***************** And Richard Justice, thanks for rubbing it in by reminding all of us that while the Astros were off wasting money and talent on the likes of Woody Williams and Jason Jennings, the Cubs decided to go after Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly. It was thought at the time that the Cubs badly overpaid for Marquis and Lilly. But both of them are key contributors – especially Lilly – to one of the best teams in baseball while Williams is retired and Jennings is now with the Texas Rangers and injured. -- John Royal


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