What a Weekend

Bummer.

I hate to disappoint everybody, but this is news you all have to know.

The Astros did not win the Silver Boot this season. The hated Texas Rangers have once again won this vaunted symbol of baseball superiority in the state of Texas.

What a difference a week makes. This time last week, the Astros were waking up in Anaheim, preparing to take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the West Coast of the United States of the Western Hemisphere of the Planet Earth. The Astros had just completed a sweep of the Seattle Mariners – the second-place team in the AL West. The Astros bullpen would then blow games on Monday and Wednesday nights, and the Astros weren’t even in competitive in the first two games against the Rangers (an 11-3 loss on Friday and 7-2 loss on Saturday). Sunday night would see the team be competitive, only to have the bullpen act like it was still in Anaheim (the ‘Stros would lead 7-3 going into the eighth inning, only to have the Rangers score four runs to tie the game. The Astros would score two runs in the top of the ninth to go up 9-7, only to watch Dan Wheeler surrender his second and third home runs of the game to tie the game at 9-9. The Astros would then score three runs in the tenth to go up 12-9 – Chad Qualls would then actually have a good performance and close out the game).

(And speaking of the Friday night debacle against the Rangers, I would say that it’s about time that the Woody Williams experiment be ended, but really, what are the other options? Chan Ho(me Run) Park? Matt Albers? There are people who are high on Troy Patton, but he hasn’t really shown much this season, and I think everyone out there knows the Astros hate to rush players to the majors.)

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It is also to nice to know, as I learned from the Fox announcers on Saturday, that Kenny Lofton still hasn’t forgiven the Astros for trading him way back in the early 90s.

As last week started, there was still discussion going on about the wisdom of using Brad Lidge as the closer. But that discussion was ended after Lidge went on the DL with an injury. Frankly, as anyone who watched the Astros last week can attest, it’s not like the closer was really needed. And after watching Dan Wheeler implode – yeah, I know, that’s a given – on Sunday night, maybe it’s time the Astros try to use someone reliable in that closer spot, like, I don’t know, maybe Trever Miller.

(Oh, and I’ve got an idea for betting pool: When is Chris Sampson going to go postal and take out a member of the bullpen for blowing a win? Last night’s game was the third straight game of Sampson’s in which he has left the game with a nice lead only to have the bullpen work its special kind of magic. You got to know that Sampson just loves that Dan Wheeler gave up three home runs and four runs, yet was the one to get the win.)

But while the Astros bullpen was blowing up again on Sunday night, my man Hunter Pence was just having another four-hit night, including a double and a home run and a key hit in the tenth inning.

The real shame of losing the Silver Boot is that it is felt like the Rangers team is one of the worst in baseball. Yet the Astros had difficulties with the team. Which raises the question: Except for the Mariners, can anyone give me a team with which the Astros have not had problems?

The Astros play the next three games in Milwaukee against the NL Central leading Brewers. I know everyone likes to talk about how mediocre the NL Central is, but there is only one team in the National League with a higher winning percentage than the Brewers. It should also be noted that the Brewers have won eight of ten and that the Brewers are the only team in the NL Central with a winning record in its home ballpark.

Jason Jennings will get the start for the Astros tonight, with a game time set at just after 7:00. Wandy Rodriguez gets the start on Tuesday, and Woody Williams should be the starter on Wednesday afternoon. Following the Brewers series, the Astros return home to start an 11 game home stand, the first four games of which will be against the Colorado Rockies.

(Further aside: If you want to see Craig Biggio get his 3,000th hit – and according to the Chron that’s everybody on the Planet Earth – then, with Biggio now four hits short of the magic number, you will probably want to fly up to Milwaukee or get to one of those games against the Rockies. (Personally, I’m betting that Drayton puts in a phone call and Biggio finds himself sitting out a few of the games in Milwaukee so as not to ruin the little party that Drayton’s got planned for MMP.))

The Astros head into the last week of the first half of the season working on another losing month and falling further behind the Brewers. Going into tonight’s game, the Astros are 11 games out of first, but have moved into sole possession of fourth place. The team’s 10-12 for June, and is now 32-43 for the season (and, to keep with the taunting, Jesus Ortiz predicted the Astros would go 18-9 for June – that definitely ain’t going to be happening).

This will not be an easy week. The Brewers are hot, and the Rockies are coming off of beating up on the vaunted New York Yankees last week. Oh, and for anyone with tickets to the Saturday game with the Rockies, make note that the game time has been switched to 6:05. – John Royal

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