Wandy's Mediocrity Revealed in 9-5 Loss to Reds

Can we please, please, stop talking about Wandy Rodriguez having turned the corner and become a legitimate top-of-the rotation starter? Please. I don’t understand the obsession that people have with trying to make this mediocre pitcher into something he’s not. The guy’s mediocre. He’s always been mediocre. He will always be mediocre. Sure, he looks good for a couple of games, then he gets beat up unmercifully.

Last night, when he gave up three home runs (two of them monster shots to Adam Dunn and one an upper deck job to Ken Griffey Jr.) is a perfect example. Rodriguez never had control of that game. He was pitching out of desperation the whole time. And by the time Cecil Cooper pulled him with two outs in the fifth inning, the score was 6-0 Reds and the Astros were running on fumes. Chris Sampson emerged from the bullpen in the sixth inning, and he deserves the credit for keeping the Astros in a position to win the game.

With the 9-5 loss the Astros' record dropped to 50-57. (They finished 10-14 for the month; my pick of a 12-12 July was close). The Astros' solo stay in fourth place lasted just one day, and now they find themselves back in a tie for fifth place with the Reds with the Pirates holding up the rear.

The Astros will start the season’s fifth month on Friday when the New York Mets come into town for three games. Unlike the Astros, the Mets are actually playing games that count as they are currently involved in a battle for first in the NL East with Philadelphia Phillies and the Florida Marlins. The pitching matchups are Brandon Backe (6-10, 4.73) against Pedro Martinez (3-2, 6.25) on Friday. Roy Oswalt (8-8, 4.67) starts against former Astros prospect Johan Santana (9-7, 2.92 – and who has pitched much better than this record) on Saturday night. Randy Wolf (6-10, 4.79) finishes the series on Sunday afternoon against TBA – this is John Maine’s (9-7, 4.13) spot in the rotation, but he is day-to-day after a MRI revealed a mildly strained right rotator cuff.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

I love Jim Deshaies, but I had to laugh when listening to him complain about Edinson Volquez slowing the game to a snail’s pace when he had runners on base. I laugh because Deshaies was one of the slowest guys I’ve ever seen pitch. Talk about slowing the pace of the game, and god forbid if a batter made it to first on Deshaies because he would throw over to first about twenty times before ever making a pitch.

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For those who are interested, Lance Berkman went through July without hitting a home run. That’s the first time since he’s become a regular starter that he’s gone a month without hitting a home run.

***************** LaTroy Hawkins? LaTroy Hawkins?

Excuse me a moment please. (Bangs head on desk repeatedly.) Sorry about that. LaTroy Hawkins?

The Astros have made a lot of stupid, inexplicable moves since Ed Wade took over – see Villarreal, Oscar; Tejada, Miguel; Wolf, Randy; Valverde, Jose; Matsui, Kaz; Chacon, Shawn – but this move puzzles me just as much as any of those others.

LaTroy Hawkins? Really? A guy the New York Yankees had designated for assignment. A guy who the New York Yankees – one of those teams looking for pitching for the playoff push – were ready to discard for nothing. A 35-year-old reliever with a 1-1 record and 5.71 ERA. This guy’s now a Houston Astro? And not only that, but the Astros traded for him. The Astros traded a Class A minor league infielder – that tells you how much the Yankees thought of Hawkins in that they were willing to take a Class A minor leaguer for a major league relief pitcher – who was the team’s tenth round draft choice in 2007.

I’m not the only guy puzzled by the deal. Zachary Levine, the stat guy over the Chron, is trying to figure it out as well. And Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies are professionals, but I could swear I heard stifled laughter as Brown read a statement from general manager Ed Wade saying that the Astros were looking for another experienced arm in the bullpen.

I don’t understand this obsession of Ed Wade’s with the Astros bullpen. The problem with Doug Brocail is that Cecil Cooper doesn’t know how to manage, and now Brocail’s worn out. But Chris Sampson and Geoff Geary have been lights out recently, and either of them could handle the eighth-inning Doug Brocail role. I wish that Wade had this same obsession with acquiring young arms for the starting rotation.

With the non-waiver trade deadline quickly approaching – it’s at 3 p.m. Central this afternoon – one can’t help but wonder about what other ridiculous deals Ed Wade has up his sleeves. And why do I have this feeling that Gerry Hunsicker just forgot about making a deal for Jason Bay and just offered up Cliff Floyd for Hunter Pence.

Now excuse me, I’m going to go bang my head on the table a few more times. -- John Royal


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