Astros-Pirates: The Battle for Last Place Continues

Game 100 of the season started out much like it seems the other 99 games of the year have started for the Astros, with the team losing. Pittsburgh’s Freddy Sanchez, who hit the three-run inside-the-park homer in the ninth inning last night, hit a disputed home run with one out in the first to put the Pirates up 1-0. And after Cecil Cooper rather half-heartedly argued the call, the Astros then went out and gave a rather half-hearted effort in this key contest for last place.

The Astros didn’t even get their third hit until the seventh inning, which must have made the Pirates happy because I’m not sure they realized that Cy Young had arisen from the dead to inhabit the body of Pirates starter Paul Maholm. Maholm easily retired the first ten batters he faced, and by the time the Astros got their first hit the Pirates were already up 3-0. And unlike the night before, when the Astros stranded 13 runners on base, they found themselves only able to get a total of eight base runners on the entire night.

And just like game 100 seemed to start much like the first 99 games, it ended much like most of the others, with an Astros loss. This one by the score of 8-2. The loss dropped the Astros into a tie with the Pirates for last place with a record of 46-54.

The Astros close out this monumental matchup for last place in the NL Central this afternoon at 1:05. Astros ace Brian Moehler (5-4, 4.03) goes against Pirates starter Ian Snell (3-8, 5.83).

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SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

Freddy Sanchez’s first inning hit was originally called a double off of the left field façade. Then the umpires huddled and called it a home run. Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies thought it was a double. So they went to the replay. Originally, the replay was inconclusive, mostly because of the bizarre angles of the ballpark and because of one of Drayton’s ad panels on the wall – a panel which happened to be white and helped to obscure the flight of the ball. However, the audio sounded as if it hit the railing just over the yellow line. Finally, in the third inning, Fox Sports was able to produce a blown-up video of the play to show that it did hit above the yellow line. Meaning that the umpires got the call right.

But if the umpires would have consulted the replay as MLB wants to do next season, it’s not known what they would have called since it’s doubtful they would have wanted to sit around a half-hour waiting for the video crew to blow up the video.

It should be noted that replay was not needed for Nate McLouth’s third inning home run. That thing went into the stands just to the right of Tal’s Hill. Nor was it required for Ryan Doumit’s seventh inning homer to the choo-choo tracks.

The Astros gave up three homers to the Pirates last night, and have given up six to the Pirates in this series. The homers also allowed the Astros to extend their MLB leading home run surrendered number to 140.

******************* I know that Chad Reineke was actually a cheap price to pay for a veteran pitcher. And I know that Reineke didn’t really have a future in the Astros organization – witness the fact that washed up veterans like Runelvys Hernandez keep getting called up to make starts.

But this move bugs me. Yes, the guys over at the Chron are correct that Randy Wolf is a free agent after this season, and that if the Astros offer him salary arbitration then they get a draft pick if he signs with another team, and this team definitely needs draft picks. But he’s a 31-year-old pitcher with lousy home/road splits – and the numbers for his home park are pretty mediocre, which is bothersome when you consider his home ballpark was Petco in San Diego, a noted pitcher’s ballpark. (I guess they’re forgetting the lesson of Woody Williams, another Padres reject who had mediocre numbers at Petco.)

This is a lost season. The Astros are struggling to stay out of last place, but Ed Wade keeps making comments about getting back into the race, and this move strikes me as evidence of a deluded organization still trying to win now instead of worrying about the future. I just don’t understand what this organization is doing. Then again, I don’t think Ed Wade, Tal Smith, Cecil Cooper or Drayton McLane understand where the organization is going either, so at least I’m not alone.

****************** And on a personal note, I’d just like to offer my congratulations to Paul Darst, the former head of the Houston Astrodome DiamondVision and scoreboard, as well as my former boss. Paul was one of the first inductees into the IDEA Hall of Fame – IDEA is an organization that Paul helped to found which is devoted to people in the big screen/game entertainment industry (and thanks to Brian McTaggart at the Chron for noting this in his Tag’s Baseball Plays blog).

Paul, it was an honor to work for you. Well, most of the time.

****************** Has anyone seen since Lance Berkman lately? He seems to have disappeared from the team because I think Miguel Tejada is putting up better numbers than the Puma at the moment. Coming into last night’s game, Berkman hadn’t homered since June 30, had only five RBI so far in July, and he was batting .192.

If you should see Lance Berkman, would you please return him to Minute Maid Park? But while he’s wanted, he’s wanted alive only, not dead or alive.

-- John Royal

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