There was a time, not too many years ago, when Milwaukee Brewers closer Eric Gagne saved 84 games before blowing one. But he was with the Dodgers then. He was doing HGH. And he was yet to get injured.
The Eric Gagne of the Brewers is nowhere near the Gagne of the Dodgers. He’s more of a Brad Lidge from the Astros-era than he is a Brad Lidge from the Phillies-era (Lidge is 1-0 with 7 saves and a 0.00 ERA so far this season). And Sunday afternoon, with the Astros trailing 6-4 coming into the bottom of the ninth, and Gagne on the mound, there was just this feeling that the Astros could still win this game and sweep the series with the Brewers.
The Astros did tie the game, the sixth run coming on a bases loaded walk to Berkman. Which in itself was appropriate being that if it were not for Lance Berkman’s bat, the Astros would not have been in the situation to tie the game. Berkman, with a homer and two doubles, had accounted for three of the four runs going into the ninth, and his walk accounted for the sixth.
The Astros were in their familiar trailing-in-the-ninth-inning position because, once again, the starting pitching failed. Starter Chris Sampson was charged with five runs in his 3.1 innings of pitching, and reliever Dave Borkowski was charged with the sixth run. But somehow or another, the bullpen, which had to put in a lot of innings to preserve Friday and Saturday’s victories, somehow found a way to keep the Astros in this game long enough for the vaunted offense to momentarily come to life..
The Brewers didn’t go down easy, and were able to load the bases in the 12th, yet were unable to score. Berkman would then reach on an infield single and my man Hunter Pence, zero for five on the day with three strikeouts, connected and sent a pitch into the concourse behind the Crawford Boxes for a walk-off two-run home run, his fourth homer of the season.
The 8-6 win moved the Astros back to the five hundred mark for the season at 16-16. The Astros are still in fourth place, but they’re only a half-game behind the Brewers for third.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS BASEBALL NOTES:
I can’t figure this team out. I’m not trying to be funny because I’m serious. A team whose starting pitching is this bad shouldn’t be playing five hundred baseball. They can never depend on the vaunted offense to come alive, and they’ve shown that they have real problems with hitting good pitching. I guess I should just sit back and enjoy this, but a team that must have home runs to win a game just really worries me.
******************* I know it’s been a while since Channel 20 has had the rights to broadcast the Astros. But the station’s got to get its act together before it faces an FCC fine.
Once again, Bill Brown threw to a commercial break as Dave Borkowski came trotting in to replace the struggling Chris Sampson. And the guys in the truck switched to a shot they were going to use for framing the scene when they came back from the commercial. Only Channel 20 didn’t go to commercial. We got to hear Jim Deshaies speaking to his producer about where they were going to insert a taped clip about Chris Sampson. Then Deshaies talked about how he couldn’t go to the Astros page on ESPN.com without finding a story from Roger Cossack dealing with Roger Clemens.
Luckily, neither Brown nor Deshaies said anything on their mikes that would get anyone in trouble – and for my old job I used to listen to them during commercial breaks, and I can’t recall either one ever letting lose with a profanity – but broadcasters can be quite profane when they think no one is listening. So Channel 20 really should make someone is in the master control room at all times to push the commercial button.
****************** Another example of why Jim Deshaies is one of the best in the business: Milwaukee’s Ben Sheets was thrown at home plate for the second out of the top of the second inning. Looking at the replay, Deshaies calmly said he thought Sheets was safe, and after looking at several different angles, he remained convinced that Sheets was safe – not something that most announcers would do when the opposing club was involved.
Then later in the game, Jose Cruz, Jr. was thrown out at second base after a Michael Bourn pop up fell safe. Deshaies was convinced the umpire was right, but after looking at the replay several times, he thought the umpire might have been out of position and probably got the call wrong. Then, looking at it a final time, he notes that the umpire was correct and tells us why.
Most commentators don’t go to these lengths. They instead choose to rant about how bad the umpires are. So, once again, Houston, I hope all of you appreciate just how good Jim Deshaies is.
****************** Brandon Backe’s fifth inning homer on Saturday night was his third career MLB home run. That puts him at number seven all-time on the Astros list of home runs by pitchers.
Backe’s homer was followed by a Michael Bourn home run. Friday night, Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee went back-to-back-to-back. This was the first time the Astros had consecutive games of back-to-back homers since August 11-12, 1981. The number of homers is probably one of the reasons the Astros have scored 30 runs in their last five games.
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The sweep of the Brewers came about because of the Astros hitting home runs. And for each victory, the Astros had to come from behind to get the win.
****************** I know that I pick on Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman about how they’re out of shape. But watching Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder this weekend, I’m now convinced that they’re in a lot better shape than they look. That said, I’d really like to see Lee hustling as much as Fielder. Fielder always seem to be going full out, while Lee continues with his slow jog to balls hit down the left field line.
******************* The Astros are off Monday, but they return to action as they finish out this home stand with three games against the Washington Nationals. The Nationals are not the pushovers they were earlier in April. Their record is 14-18, and they have won eight of their last ten games.
Shawn Chacon (0-0, 3.50 ERA) gets the start Tuesday, and he faces Shawn Hill (0-0, 3.32 ERA). Roy Oswalt (3-3, 3.57 ERA) gets the nod on Wednesday night, and he faces Odalis Perez (0-3, 3.18 ERA). The series finishes up on Thursday as Brandon Backe (2-3, 4.42) gets the start against Washington’s John Lannan (2-3, 3.74 ERA). – John Royal