Astros-Giants: Big Puma, Billy Jack and Doug Rader

Okay. I’ve had it with Lance Berkman. That bum only went one for four last night. Of course, that one was a monster two-run home run in the top of the first inning that put the Astros up 3-0. But the rest of the game… Nothing. What? Does he think that he can just slack off because of what he’s done the past several weeks?

I don’t think so.

Luckily, Brad Ausmus bailed Berkman out when he powered his first home run of the season to the left field seats, sending home Hunter Pence to put the Astros up 6-3. And speaking of Brad Ausmus, all of you people talking smack about Brad, you should know that he’s raised his average to .240 – I think getting that 1,500th career hit has really lit a fire under Ausmus.

Hunter Pence also helped to bail out Berkman by going two for four, scoring a run, and stealing a base. And after his miserable start to the season, Pence has lifted his batting average to .287. Miguel Tejada also helped to bail out the slacking Berkman by going three for five while scoring a run and knocking in two.

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Of no assistance whatsoever were Carlos Lee and Kaz Matsui. Matsui’s average is beginning to sink to its normal level – Adam Everett territory.

But why quibble, the Astros offense was once again able to do just enough to overcome the awful defense of Carlos Lee and Kaz Matsui and the mediocre pitching to get the win 6-3.

The Astros and Giants face off this afternoon to end the series with Giants. I kind of wish I could watch this game as Tim Lincecum’s getting the start for the Giants. If you haven’t seen this kid pitch, you’ve been missing something. Chris Sampson gets the start for the Astros.

The Astros are now 23-18 on the season, and they have won 10 of their last 12 games.


The Astros went through seven pitchers last night. Brian Moehler was barely able to get through five, then Cecil Cooper had to use most of his relief corps to save the game. I don’t care what Richard Justice says, good teams don’t win consistently with crappy starting pitching. For instance, see the Texas Rangers who are known for scoring lots of runs, or the Detroit Tigers who were supposed to be this year’s GREAT TEAM, but now sit in last place because of their bad pitching.

And this is for Steve Campbell with the Chron. The team has played 41 games. It’s way too early to make the judgment that Ed Wade is a genius. The guy traded for a steroids abuser who is two years older than what the team thought. While I’m still a big supporter of the Michael Bourn trade, I’m still not sold on the Valverde deal. But either way, let’s get to the end of the season before deciding that Wade’s a genius.

Or let’s wait until the hitters go into a slump and the starting staff is beat around. Then you can come tell me about what a genius Ed Wade is.

*************** The Chron is already starting the push for Lance Berkman as the National League MVP. And the Big Puma would be a really good choice, but there’s a guy in Atlanta, a Larry Jones who plays at third base who is putting up some comparable numbers to Berkman. And I’m not writing this to downgrade Berkman, but since the Chron’s not talking about Chipper Jones, I thought I would mention him.

Chipper is batting .418 with a .705 slugging percentage and a .479 on-base percentage. He’s got 61 hits, 29 runs, nine doubles, 11 homers, and 32 RBI. Berkman (and these stats aren’t fully updated to take into account last night) is hitting .388 with a .790 slugging percentage and a .470 on-base percentage with 57 hits, 16 doubles, 14 homers, and 40 RBI.

Those two guys are having incredible seasons. And at this point, unless one of them is injured, those numbers aren’t going to drop too much – well, the averages will probably drop, but neither of these guys is going to drop below .300. So this could be one of those seasons for the ages, like when Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams were battling each other.

My point: Berkman’s not the default MVP. And let’s really enjoy watching these guys this season. Also, I know there is talk out there among the Chron commenters that Berkman might surpass Mickey Mantle as the greatest switch-hitter in the history of baseball by the time he retires. And Berkman just might. But don’t forget that Chipper Jones is also a switch-hitter and has some really good career numbers, and he might also end up surpassing Mantle and Berkman. Once again, I think Berkman might pull it off, but don't forget to take off the blinders when making such statements.

*************** My Jim Deshaies quote of the night, based on the Giants playing so many close games: “Giants Baseball 2008: We’ll Keep It Close.”

Another good Deshaies moment: Asking if some guy in the stands wearing a cowboy hat was Billy Jack. What really made the moment was Bill Brown going off on how the guy who played Billy Jack disappeared to Alaska for about 20 years. And while I don’t remember any off the top of my head, at one point Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies were doing the game by tossing out Dan Ratherisms.

Have I mentioned before how brilliant these guys are?

**************** And one final thing before I go: Fox Sports does this text message poll during every game. Last night, the poll dealt with the greatest third baseman in Astros history. By an overwhelming margin, Ken Caminiti was the winner. I can see that. I don’t agree, but I can understand. However, Morgan Ensberg got over 25 percent of the vote for second place.

Morgan Ensberg? Really? Did any of you idiots watch baseball before the existence of MMP? Or the 2005 World Series? What a bunch of morons. One of the choices was Doug Rader. Rader won five straight Gold Gloves at third base for the Astros from 1970 through 1974. Do you know how hard it is to win five straight Gold Gloves? And unlike Ensberg, Rader had a decent bat. He was the first Astro to hit a home run into the Dome’s upper deck – what would, in later years, become the rainbows.

I swear, sometimes I just don’t know what I’m going to do. – John Royal

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