Astros-Giants: Big Puma Still on the Prowl

Barry Zito was cruising for the San Francisco Giants last night. Going into the sixth inning, Zito was easily pitching his best game of this season, and he was arguably pitching his best game since signing with the Giants before the 2007 season. The Giants were up 3-0, and it was looking like the Astros' three-game winning streak was coming to an end.

Then Hunter Pence led off the inning with a single to left field. Mark Loretta followed up with another single to left that advanced Pence to third, then Pence scored on a Miguel Tejada sac fly. The Giants were still up 3-1, and there was one out, but Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti trotted out to the mound to have a little chat with Zito. To see how he was holding up. Zito indicated that he was okay, and Righetti retreated to the dugout.

The next batter was Lance Berkman. Berkman, who was batting right-handed, had singled earlier in the game to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. And Zito probably thought he could relax a bit since Berkman doesn’t hit for power from the right side. But Zito forgot was that Berkman was in the Russell Hammond zone, which probably explains Berkman unloading a screaming line drive into the deep center field seats – just a little father than 404 feet – to knock in himself and Loretta to tie the game at 3.

And Hunter Pence, who was hitting .403 with runners in scoring position, got the sac fly in the seventh to score Jose Cruz, Jr. and put the Astros up 4-3. And after Lance Berkman doubled to lead off the eighth – his third hit of the game – then scored on a Cruz single to make it 5-3, you just knew watching that, somehow, the Astros have become some kind of team of destiny. There’s just nothing else to explain it, especially when a Giants reliever tried to pick Cruz off of first base, only to overthrow his first baseman and allow Carlos Lee and Ty Wigginton to score to make it 7-3, which would be the final score.

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Brandon Backe gets the start tonight, and he takes on Matt Cain.


The Astros don’t appear to be the only Team of Destiny in the majors. The Tampa Bay Rays are six games over five hundred for the first time in team history, and they are only a half game back of the AL East leading Boston Red Sox. And the Minnesota Twins, who lost Johann Santana and Torii Hunter over the winter, are sitting in first place in the AL Central, while the Oakland A’s, who held a winter clearance sale on their roster, are in first place in the AL West. But the most amazing story has to be the Florida Marlins who, at 23-15, sit in first place in the NL Central and find themselves tied with the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks for the best record in baseball.

***************** Speaking of destiny, here’s something you definitely don’t see everyday. This is from yesterday’s second game (of a doubleheader) between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians. Watch as Indians second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera pulls off the unassisted triple play. That’s right. I said unassisted. And in the first game, Cabrera got his first home run of the season.

**************** Last night’s victory was the Astros tenth victory for the month of May. The team is 10-1 this month. And they are a major league best 15-5 since April 21. The victory was also their 12th come-from-behind win this season. The team is now 23-17 for the season, and they still sit in third place, 1.5 games back of the Cubbies.

And congratulations to Brad Ausmus for getting his 1,500th career hit, and for becoming only the eighth catcher in MLB history with 1,500 career hits and 100 career stolen bases.

**************** I’m not sure what’s left to say about Lance Berkman. This is just an unbelievable streak of hitting. Incredible. There haven’t been any fluke hits. All of his hits have been solid base hits. Berkman was named the NL’s Player of the Week for last week. He hit .682, going 15 for 22 while scoring ten runs. He had a 1.136 slugging percentage, and a .741 on-base percentage. Berkman currently leads the NL with 38 RBI, 42 runs and 30 extra-base hits.

But to me, here’s the most amazing thing about the streak. Berkman’s homer last night came while batting right-handed. Berkman doesn’t hit for power from the right side. Of his 13 homers this season, last night’s was only the third from his right side.

**************** Now I said yesterday that I was just going to sit back and enjoy the ride, but me being me, I’ve got to complain about something. And I’m complaining about the radio guys Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan. I had to listen to the end of Sunday’s game on the radio, and they were making fun of AT&T Park. Specifically, they were joking about the place being on its third different name since its opening in 2000.

I guess Dave and Brett have forgotten that another ballpark opened in 2000, and that it has also had three names. Then again, AT&T Park’s name changes have been the result of corporate mergers. MMP’s name changes resulted from the implosion and descent into criminal infamy of its original namesake.

And I’m a little pissed at my man Jim Deshaies. But I’m pissed at him because he kept talking about the garlic fries they sell at AT&T Park. First, he made me hungry. Second, I’ve had the garlic fries at AT&T Park, and they are fantastic. I’m primarily a hot dog guy when at the ballpark, but like the brats are a must-get in Milwaukee, the garlic fries are a well-earned must-get at AT&T.


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