Astros-Reds: Houston Sweeps, Carlos Lee Injured

So I’m sitting down to write my Astros wrap-up and do you know what? YAWN! I might be reaching that stage in the season where I just don’t give a damn. Sure, the Astros swept a four game series with the Reds, but as bad as the Astros are, the Reds, believe it or not, are even worse. And they didn’t even face the best pitcher on the Reds staff, and as the Cubs demonstrated last week, when the Astros face a good pitcher, they’re rather hopeless.

The big news of the weekend is that Carlos Lee is gone for the season because of a broken pinky finger that is going to require surgery. I’m sure all of you know how I feel Carlos Lee – a waste of several million dollars who has the luck to be batting behind Lance Berkman. And frankly, I’m kind of looking forward to the next several weeks. It’s going to be nice to see three actual outfielders – Darin Erstad, Michael Bourn, and Hunter Pence – all playing the outfield for the Astros at the same time. When is the last time that that happened? 1986 maybe, with Kevin Bass, Billy Hatcher, Jose Cruz, and Terry Puhl rotating in and out? And while it’s possible that I missed it, I don’t think Luis Gonzalez, Steve Finley, and Kenny Lofton ever played together at the same time.

Unlike many of you, I’m sure, I’ve become sick and tired of watching designated hitters, first basemen, and second basemen try and play in the outfield. Of course, you can imagine my disappointment when Bill Brown mentioned on Sunday afternoon that the genius that is Cecil Cooper is thinking of moving Ty Wigginton to left field. DON’T DO IT! PLEASE! Let the damn outfielders play in the outfield – seriously, are the Astros working from a different rule book in which it commands the Astros to play no more than two legit outfielders at the same time?

The Astros did have a successful road trip, going 5-2 to improve their record to 58-59 – yes, you read that right, the Astros are only one game below five hundred. They’re now on their way back to Houston where they will be playing four games with the San Francisco Giants starting tonight. Brandon Backe (6-11, 5.35) pitches against Jonathon Sanchez (8-8, 4.64) tonight. The matchup of the series is on Tuesday night when Roy Oswalt (9-8, 4.56) goes up against one of the most exciting pitchers in the majors, Tim Lincecum (12-3, 2.68). If you’re sitting in the outfield seats on Wednesday night, make sure to wear a hard hat as Randy Wolf (7-10, 4.67), still seeking his first quality start as an Astro, faces off against Barry Zito (6-14, 5.55). And the series comes to an end on Thursday afternoon as Brian Moehler (8-4, 3.83) goes against Kevin Correia (2-6, 5.21).

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

The long wait is over. Lance Berkman hit his 23rd home run of the season on Sunday. And as those of you who have been following the Astros know, that was Berkman’s first homer since June 30th, or 34 games, which was the longest homerless streak of his career. I guess someone finally got him some Twinkies.

***************** Richard Justice wants Drayton McLane to sign Barry Bonds to take over for Carlos Lee in left field. The Astros have said that this will not happen. I don’t want it to happen because, as I said above, I’m looking forward to three top-rate outfielders actually being in the field for the Astros at the same time, and Bonds, who was once one of the game’s great left fielders, just can’t do that anymore – though even with his inability to run due to knee damage I still can’t help but think that Bonds would still have more range and still get to more balls than Carlos Lee on his best day. (And those doubting the necessity of a good outfield, flash back to Sunday’s game – it’s the seventh inning, the Reds have the bases loaded, and there are two outs with the score 8-2 Houston. LaTroy Hawkins gives up a shot to left field that Carlos Lee would still be walking after, but Darin Erstad got to it easily to end the inning. The Reds could have used that momentum to get back into the game, instead they were left with almost no hope.)

Normally, I would say the Astros would never make a run at Bonds because of Bonds’ checkered history, and his so-called legal problems. But since Drayton seems to have embraced Miguel Tejada – who is nowhere the ballplayer that Bonds still is, despite Bonds having sat out the season – I can’t see where Drayton should have an objection.

And – I’m actually agreeing with Justice – I know that despite what they say now, the fans would embrace Bonds. They’ve embraced Tejada after all, so they’ve got no grounds to object to Bonds. Second, Bonds, even at his age and with bad knees, would still be one of the best players on the Astros – if you morons out in left field think that Carlos Lee is actually a good player, then you’re going to be shocked and amazed by Bonds. And while teams have still been pitching around Berkman to get to Lee – so much for that stupid argument about Lee providing protection for Berkman – I seriously doubt they would pitch around Berkman to get to Bonds.

But Barry Bonds is not coming to the Astros. And I don’t want Bonds to come to the Astros. While an improvement on Lee in the field, Bonds doesn’t have the range he once did, and I really, really want to watch Erstad, Bourn, and Pence play together for awhile.

I know the Astros aren’t going to the playoffs, but damn, I think it would be fun to watch some real professionals in the Minute Maid Park outfield for once. Is that really too much to ask? -- John Royal


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