Astros-Phillies: Jose Valverde Blows (the Save)

Maybe he wasn't so bad after all...

Okay, I could have sworn the Astros traded Brad Lidge to the Phillies. So what was he doing pitching in the bottom of the ninth for the Astros last night? Excuse me a second, my friend is telling me something…

“What do you mean that wasn’t Brad Lidge?”

“Dude, trust me, that wasn’t Lidge. It was that Jose Valverde guy we got from Arizona.”

“You mean,” I say. “That guy the team stiffed in arbitration? The guy who was an all-star for the D-Backs?”

“Yeah. That’s the guy.”

Excuse the interlude folks, but I think I have things straightened out now. That was Jose Valverde who self-destructed in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Astros holding a three run lead. And by self-destruct, I mean self-destruct. The Astros were up 3-0 after another surprise pitching performance from Shawn Chacon. All Valverde had to do was to convert the easiest save in the business – get three outs with no one on the base.

The first batter is a pinch-hitter, Chris Snelling, who takes Valverde deep to right field to make the score 3-1. But that’s okay. The Phillies still need to score two more runs. Chase Utley is hit by a pitch. One on, no out. Still, no big deal, even if Ryan Howard is up to bat. And Howard strikes out. See, nothing to worry about. Pat Burrell is up. Burrell is an Ed Wade special. The Phillie fans don’t much like him. Until he sends a long fly ball into the right field bleachers. Tie game.

Now it’s time to worry.

And now the pitching coach makes a trip to the mound. Where were you three batters ago? But hey, it works because Valverde strikes out Geoff Jenkins, expect Brad Ausmus can’t handle the ball and Jenkins gets to first base. And Pedro Feliz is at bat and Feliz is making contact. Hey, what do you know, it’s not going to leave the stadium. But it is going to land fair just inside fair territory by the left field wall.

Run, Carlos, run. RUN DAMN IT!

Jenkins is rounding second and approaching third.

Lee makes the throw to Tejada who’s on the line far behind third base. He pivots. Jenkins is rounding third. Tejada throws a strike to Ausmus who’s not blocking the plate. Jenkins slides as Ausmus tries to make the swipe tag.

And Jenkins is SAFE! SAFE! SAFE!

Phillies win 4-3.

Come back, Brad. Come back. All is forgiven. All is forgiven.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS BASEBALL NOTES:

The Phillies had seven hits last night. Shawn Chacon, SHAWN CHACON, surrendered only four – all singles – in eight innings of work while surrendering no runs. In a third of an inning, Valverde gave up two home runs and a double while hitting a batter and giving up four runs.

Meanwhile, the vaunted Astros offense disappeared. The team had nine hits, none for extra bases, while stranding nine men on the bases. Adam Eaton – he of one of the stupidest baseball injuries of all time – who had a 6.29 ERA last season, gave up only three runs to the vaunted machine. The heart of the machine, Berkman, Lee and Tejada, stranded seven runners, while only Tejada was able to knock in one run.

Yep, nice work all the way around as the team’s record drops to 5-9. Roy Oswalt gets the start tomorrow for the Astros – and let’s hope he has finally got a handle on his problems – and Brandon Backe gets the start Thursday afternoon.

********************* Speaking of former Astros…The Baltimore Orioles are tied for first place in the American League East, helped partly by starting pitcher Matt Albers, who is 2-0 on the season (four appearances, including one start) with an 0.79 ERA for 11.1 innings pitched. Dennis Sarfate, who was also part of the Tejada deal, is 2-1 while pitching in relief. He’d gone 3.1 innings in three appearance without giving up a run until Tuesday night when the Blue Jays beat him up.

Another member of that Tejada trade, Luke Scott, is hitting .375 with a homer and 6 RBI, 6 doubles, a .444 on-base percentage, and a .600 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, Aubrey Huff is batting .245 with two homers and 11 RBI.

******************** Jeff Weaver was just signed by the Milwaukee Brewers to an incentive-laden contract. And Chan Ho Park is back in the majors with the Dodgers. So, can Lima Time be far behind?

******************** Sports blog Deadspin is run by Will Leitch, who for a short while, was actually a sportswriter. He’s got a new feature allowing actual sportswriters to submit stories about their dealings with various players in the clubhouse – it’s a way of showing what jerks some of the players really are, and showing us what writers really have to handle. This submission is from Jeff Pearlman, a nationally recognized writer, and it involves dealing with the prick that is former Giant, Ranger, Oriole, and Cardinal first baseman Will Clark.

The reason I point you to this is that I believe it helps explain Jose de Jesus Ortiz’s writings on the Astros. He wants the players to like him, so he tries not to pry. And lots of writers are like Ortiz – I kind of suffer from that when I deal with the Aeros, but I’ve yet to meet one of those guys who wouldn’t talk, so I’ve never had to really deal with real problems.

******************** The Giants and Diamondbacks game in San Francisco on Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the very first major league baseball game played in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Ken Griffey, Jr. homered for the Reds to move to within five homers of number 600. And you know, I think Griffey is about the only power hitter Jose Canseco hasn’t tried to link to steroids. – John Royal


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