So surely July is going to be better. Right?
The Astros start the month off by playing the final three games of a four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The scary thing about these NL West Division teams is that, if the Astros were in the West, they would be in contention for first place. So no matter how bad the Astros are playing, there are actually some teams around that are playing worse. And the Dodgers happen to be one of those teams. This is Joe Torre’s first regular season visit to Minute Maid, but I’m sure he’s still asking everybody about what the thing is with that damn choo-choo train.
The Astros get to spend the Fourth of July weekend in Atlanta. This is the first time these two rivals have played this season, and the good news for the Astros is that John Smoltz and Tom Glavine are on the disabled list and Greg Maddux is in San Diego. But Chipper Jones is still around, though he’s been battling injuries and might not play. The Braves are battling to stay around the five hundred mark, but thanks to recent collapses by first place Philadelphia and second place Florida, the Braves are still very much in contention for the NL East title.
From Atlanta, the Astros head out to Pittsburgh. The last time the Astros faced the Pirates, back around the first of the month, the Pirates started a pattern that killed the Astros in June – the Astros would win the first game of the series, then lose the final two games. The Pirates vaunted offensive machine is third in runs scored in the National League, but their pitching staff makes it look as if the Astros staff is composed of nothing but Ryans, Youngs, Koufaxes and Seavers.
Then the Astros head out to the nation’s capital to take on the hapless Nationals. The Nationals will probably be without centerfielder Lastings Milledge who was put on the DL on Saturday. The Nationals have trouble scoring runs, but they’re pretty good about giving them up. The Astros won two of three from the Nats back in May, and should repeat that. I think the only question about this series will be whether Teddy Roosevelt gets his first-ever victory in the Presidents Race.
Luckily, the Astros won’t have to worry about losing on the four days following the Nats series as that’s the All-Star break. But then the Chicago Cubs, the current holder of the best record in baseball will come to MMP. The Cubs have good pitching, good offense, good defense, and a very good manager. I don’t think the Astros stand a chance during this weekend series.
And following the Cubbies, the Pirates make their first visit of the season to MMP. The Pirates always give the Astros a hard time. I don’t expect it to change during this series.
The home stand over, the Astros head off to Milwaukee to take on the Brewers. The Astros were swept the last time they were in Milwaukee, and the Brewers took two of three the last time they played the Astros. The Brewers have been one of the hotter teams in baseball since last facing the Astros, and I’m sure they’re looking forward to once again facing the Astros pitching staff. And there’s no truth to the rumor that Bernie Mac’s suiting up to give it another shot for his 3,000 hit.
The Astros finish out the fourth month of the season by hosting the Cincinnati Reds for three games. Get used to the Reds, because these will be the first of 13 games in just over two months against Cincinnati. The Astros won two from the Reds way back in April, but since these games will be coming at the time of the trading deadline, there’s a good chance that you won’t recognize this team. But while it’s possible Bronson Arroyo, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Adam Dunn might be gone, young studs Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto will be around to watch and admire.
I predicted the Astros to go 10-16 for June. And I think I did pretty damn good with that prediction. For this month, I’ll pick the Astros to go 12-12. – John Royal