Astros-Pirates: Houston’s Hitters Gunning for 1991 Numbers

I tend to dwell a bit too much on the negative. So, even though the Astros lost 5-2 to the Pirates last night – their seventh loss in the last ten games – there was some good news. Neither Roy Oswalt nor Oscar Villarreal gave up home runs last night. And seeing as how the Pirates have a pretty high-scoring offense, and seeing as how Oswalt and Villarreal have been on record-breaking home run pace this season, that has to be considered a victory.

If just a small moral one.

But the Astros did lose, so I do have to focus on the negative, a bit. This is their sixth loss in the last seven games, to go along with the seven for the last ten. This was also the seventh straight game in which the Astros failed to score two or more runs in a game – the team’s longest such streak since the 1991 Astros had a nine-game streak.

The Pirates pitching staff held the Astros to two runs on only eight hits. The inability to score runs is one thing when the team is losing to the second place St. Louis Cardinals or the third place Milwaukee Brewers. But there is a reason the Pirates are sitting in last place, and that reason is the inability of the Pirates pitching staff to prevent the other team from scoring runs – well, teams other than the Astros.

Coming into last night’s game, the Pirates’ team ERA of 4.98 was the worst in the National League, while only the Colorado Rockies had surrendered more than the 313 runs given up by the Pirates. But the Astros were never able to put any serious pressure on Pirate starter Zach Duke or on the relief staff. Meanwhile, Roy Oswalt struggled, giving up four runs (three earned) on nine hits in six innings. Oswalt is supposed to be the team’s ace, which means that the Astros should be able to depend on more than just a quality start from him.

With the loss, the Astros record drops to 31-29. And with the Brewers 10-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday, the Astros drop into fourth place. The Astros and Pirates finish up the series tonight with Brandon Backe (4-6, 4.54 ERA) getting the start against Paul Maholm (3-5, 4.74 ERA).

SOME MISCELLANEOUS ASTROS NOTES:

Major League Baseball’s amateur draft is today. And the Chron’s Brian McTaggart is good enough to remind us of some of the Astros number one draft picks over the last decade or so. And the fact that Morgan Ensberg is rated as the team’s third best number one pick in that time range should tell you all that you need to know about how crappy the Astros drafts have been.

And he further reminds us that the Astros didn’t have their number one and two picks last season, then rubs it in by pointing out that Drayton was too cheap to offer decent money to their third and fourth round picks. Now Drayton’s excuse for this is that he was offering those guys what MLB had decreed should be paid according to this slot position in the draft.

Now here’s a funny story: The guy who developed the slot system for MLB is now in management with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it appears that the Pirates are preparing to draft a player and pay him more than what has been slotted for him. Apparently, that slotting system is only for idiots like Drayton McLane.

The Astros do have a new guy running this year’s draft. Bobby Heck did a heck of a job with the Milwaukee Brewers, and he’s now in charge for the Astros. But unless Drayton forks out the cash, it doesn’t matter who gets drafted. And Drayton only seems to want to fork out the cash for steroid cheats or outfielders who refuse to hustle and seem more concerned with their ranches. – John Royal


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