Coming into this season, the supposed strength of the Houston Astros was the offense stacked with big hitters Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada. And coming into the season, the supposed weakness of the team was its starting staff, of which only Roy Oswalt was a proven commodity.
The Astros lost 5-3 to the St. Louis Cardinals last night. And the starting pitching came through, once again. And once again, the offense failed to come through, scraping together only five hits off of the motley pitching crew of Brad Thompson, Anthony Reyes, Ryan Franklin and all-star closer Jason Isringhausen.
Shawn Chacon, the Pittsburgh Pirates cast-off, pitched six innings of baseball, and though he was often in trouble, he managed to eek out a quality start by surrendering only four hits and three runs. He departed the game with it tied, only to watch the bullpen, this time in the form of Geoff Geary, fail yet again, surrendering two runs in the eighth inning. And once Cardinal starter Thompson left the game after the fourth inning, the Astros were shut down. Hunter Pence tried to rev things up with a seventh inning two out triple, but was left stranded at third as Lance Berkman grounded out weakly to second. And Geoff Blum doubled in the eighth with two out, but Mark Loretta grounded out to short to end the Astros last attempt to score.
I really don’t know what to say about this team. The starting pitchers delivered – in fact, Roy Oswalt is the only starter on this team who has disappointed. And the starting pitching isn’t supposed to be delivering. The hitters, on the other hand: Michael Bourn was hitless. Pence had the triple, but struck out twice. Berkman managed a double. Carlos Lee did nothing. Miguel Tejada got a double. Geoff Blum, not known for his acumen with the bat, did reach base twice, but Mark Loretta and J.R. Towles were essentially worthless.
It was one thing for the Padres and Cubs to shut down this offense – good pitching beats good hitting after all – but the Cardinals shouldn’t be shutting down this team, yet they are.
I’ve got no answers, except for this: the Astros are a bad team. And this is what bad teams do. They lose, and they lose often.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS BASEBALL NOTES:
I was actually in attendance last night, and I noticed a few things, like how the first time Miguel Tejada came up to bat, there was some bad country song playing with a lyric that went something like this: “I ain’t as good as I once was.” This probably isn’t the type of lyric you want people to associate with Miguel Tejada.
And the Cardinals scored their first run on a suicide squeeze. What’s surprising about this is that pitcher Brad Thompson tried to get the bunt down on the first pitch he saw, but bunted it foul. Yet, several pitches later, the Astros were totally caught off-guard when he put down the bunt and saw Rick Ankiel scamper in to score from third.
There were also two stand-up triples in the game. Skip Schumaker pulled this off in the third, and Hunter Pence pulled it off in the seventh. It’s rare to see one triple in a game, much less two. And it’s even rarer to see two triples where the runner doesn’t have to slide. That’s what happens when the ball bounces around that stupid hill in center field.
The Astros also had an ad up on the scoreboard between innings touting the MMP ballpark tour. As a friend of mine noted, the ad stated that “fans from over 50 states have visited.” Did I miss something somewhere? Did Bush go and annex some country that I don’t know about? Are they thinking that because the Nationals are in D.C. that D.C. must be a state, or did Puerto Rico finally give in and agree to become a state?
And I really wish the MMP scoreboard crew could find some room on that damn scoreboard to flash up whether it was a passed ball or a wild pitch. Some of us fans actually like to know that stuff. And every other ballpark I’ve been to lets the fans know that.
The final thing I noticed: well, Bob Ford really is the best Public Address Announcer in major league baseball, and I should know, because I’ve been to plenty of ballparks.
********************* Speaking of the Washington Nationals… on Monday night, the Nationals played only their second game in their brand new ballpark. Imagine the shock of Nationals management when barely 20,000 fans managed to make it to park that seats about 41,000. I guess that’s what happens when you build a stadium with public funds, and when the stadium doesn’t necessarily have the support of the public.
But at least there weren’t many people there on Monday to witness the scoreboard malfunction throughout the first inning.
********************* Guess who has the best record in the American League, the Baltimore Orioles, who have started off the season 6-1. Gee, I thought Miguel Tejada was the glue that made a team great. I wonder how they’re managing to win games without Tejada around to show them how to play baseball the right way? (Yes, I read what Jose de Jesus Ortiz wrote about Tejada. All I’ve got to say is that Ortiz has some really serious man-love for Tejada, and it’s not fun to watch. And maybe, just maybe, if we all complain to the Chron, maybe they’ll give the job full-time to the excellent Brian McTaggart.)
And Oriole DH Aubrey Huff, who drew the ire of Baltimore fans during the off-season when he trashed the city on the radio show of Bubba the Love Sponge, was booed whenever he came to bat, until he hit a homer to win a game the other night. Suddenly, all was forgiven and he is now a hero.
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********************* The Kansas City Royals have also jumped out to a surprising start, going 5-2 to share the lead in the American League Central. Yesterday they defeated the New York Yankees.
And Yankee team captain Derek Jeter is injured. Jeter’s injury is causing a bit of a problem because while playing third base, Alex Rodriguez is actually one of the best shortstops to ever play the game. Management is considering moving him to short while Jeter is out, but they’re afraid that Jeter might get upset. You see, while A-Rod is supposedly the selfish egomaniac, its Jeter, who is rather a mediocre shortstop, who refused to move to another position when A-Rod joined the Yankees.
******************** And my assholes of the day belong to the U.S. Air Force. I’m sure you noticed that lots of sporting events have what they call a flyover, where Air Force jets come zooming over the stadium as soon as the National Anthem is finished. And though it’s the sports team who requests the flyover, it’s us, the taxpayers, who pay the rather expensive fuel and lodging costs because the Air Force refuses to bill the ball clubs.
Why should I be paying so Drayton McLane can have a few F-16s fly-over MMP? He’s rich; make him pay the damn bill. – John Royal