PREGAME: Here are some of the basics that must be known before tonight’s game with the D-backs gets started. The D-backs possess the best record in major league baseball. The Astros, well, they’re not the worst. The D-backs have scored a MLB high 153 runs, for an average of 5.9 runs per game. The Astros are 13th ranked with 118, for an average of 4.4 runs per game. The D-backs lead MLB with a staff ERA of 3.03. The Astros are 27th in MLB with a staff ERA of 4.43. And the Astros last win in Phoenix was August 5, 2006.
The Astros have benched Hunter Pence in favor of Jose Cruz, Jr. I know Hunter is slumping again, but Cruz is only batting .087, which ranks him at number 489 in MLB. The only player with a worse average than Cruz, who has more at bats than Cruz, is Brad Ausmus.
Our pitchers tonight are Jack Cassel (1-0, 5.40) for the Astros and Edgar Gonzalez for the D-backs (1-1, 4.65).
FIRST INNING: Kaz Matsui walks…and he’s thrown out trying to steal second. And of course Michael Bourn singles. Way to waste the base runner. Bourn scores from first on a Miguel Tejada double. And Carlos Lee hits a single to score Tejada. Geoff Blum grounds out. Astros up 2-0.
Stephen Drew drives a Cassel ball deep to right, but Cruz makes the catch at the wall for out number two. Conor Jackson drives the ball deep into the left field stands for his fourth homer of the season. Orlando Hudson, who had reached on a bloop single, also scores. Tie game after one inning.
INNING BREAK: A couple of Dallas shock-jocks did an ambush interview with a wife of Kansas City’s Alex Gordon during spring training. During the interview, and without her knowledge – she wasn’t in the studio and couldn’t hear the thing – they were calling her a stupid bitch. Alex Gordon asked for an apology. It has yet to come.
Our sister paper up in Dallas doesn’t seem to have a problem with this. I do. I think this was a moron stunt pulled by a bunch of no-talent idiots who couldn’t get laughs otherwise.
SECOND INNING: Cruz pops up. Towles grounds out. Pitcher Jack Cassel gets a hit – he has two hits in three at bats. Hey, Cecil, maybe you should put him right field instead of Cruz. Matsui powers a shot off of the left field wall. For some reason, they try and score Cassel from first. It isn’t close as Cassel is nailed at the plate for out three.
Justin Upton opens with a single. The next batter grounds into a double play, and catcher Chris Snyder strikes out. Score 2-2 after two.
INNING BREAK: Greg Maddux went for victory 350 against the Phils. He didn’t get it, though he pitched another good game. And Frank Thomas just missed hitting for the cycle Monday night. He had all parts of the cycle but the home run.
THIRD INNING: The Astros load the bases due to shoddy D-back fielding. And Geoff Blum doubles down the left field line to score three runs. Cruz strikes out. J.R. Towles doubles off of the wall in the left/centerfield gap, but replays shows that it hit the yellow line, making it a homer. Umps don’t change call. Blum still scores. 6-2 Astros, and still only two out. New pitcher for the D-Backs. Cassel strikes out.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: Fox Sports needs a new promo commercial. I like hearing Bob Ford’s voice, but I’m really tired of that carnival thing they’ve been doing for several years now.
BOTTOM THIRD: D-backs go down in order.
FOURTH INNING: Astros go down in order. It’s still 6-2 Astros.
Orlando Hudson triples to the right/centerfield gap. That’s a total of 101 extra base hits for the D-backs this season. Conor Jackson grounds out to second to score Hudson. 6-3 Astros. Cassel gets out of the inning without giving up more hits.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: I don’t care how often they show that Afflac commercial with Yogi Berra. I still laugh just as hard as I did the first time. Does that say something strange about me?
FIFTH INNING: Berkman looks ugly striking out. Max Scherzer, making his MLB debut, has now struck out four of five batters. Lee fouls a ball off his groin. I’m cringing in pain. Lee’s on his knees and in way more pain than I am. And he pops out. Blum grounds out. Still 6-3.
Suddenly, the D-backs have two on and two out and Cooper pulls Cassel from the game. Here comes the new pitcher. Now that Afflac commercial with the duck driving for NASCAR, that one I don’t like. And Tom Byrdak is on to face Stephen Drew. And Drew flies out to Bourn in deep center. Still 6-3 Astros.
SIXTH INNING: Cruz strikes out and is now 0-3. Are we sure Pence wouldn’t have done any better than that? Now Schurzer strikes out Towles. That’s six strikeouts in his debut performance. Byrdak flies out. It’s still 6-3 Astros.
Byrdak walks Orlando Hudson. Byrdak pulled. Time for another annoying Southwest Airlines commercial. Oh crap, it’s Oscar Villarreal. Wow. Blum at third dives to grab the ball, tosses it to Matsui at second, who throws to Berkman – double play. And Villarreal gets a strikeout to end the inning.
TOP SEVENTH INNING: Astros down in order. Max Scherzer has now retired the first 13 MLB batters he has faced, including seven by way of strikeout.
SEVENTH INNING STRETCH: The Boston Red Sox like to play Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” during the seventh inning stretch. But with the way David Archuleta butchered it on American Idol tonight, I think they’re probably out burning every copy of the song they can find.
BOTTOM SEVENTH INNING: Justin Upton gets a bloop single. Jeff Salazar walks, but Villarreal strikes out Chris Snyder for the first out. Here comes Cecil Cooper, and there goes Villarreal. Oh, great, Doug Brocail. Was Dave Borkowski busy? Pinch hitter Miguel Montero singles to left field. Upton scores. Salazar to second. 6-4 Astros, one out. Chris Young pops out. Two outs. Stephen Drew pops up to Tejada – what do you know, Brocail got out of the inning.
EIGHTH INNING: Berkman with a shot behind second for a single, oops, Hudson with great range throws Berkman out at first. And Hudson, now ranging to shallow right field, catches the Carlos Lee pop up. Blum flies out to Chris Young in center. That’s 16 straight Astros retired. What happened to the vaunted offensive machine?
Doug Brocail gets Orlando Hudson to fly out to Hunter Pence – now in right field, as Jose Cruz moves to left to replace Carlos Lee. And Brocail strikes out Conor Jackson and Mark Reynolds. It’s still 6-4. Is Jose Valverde about to get a chance to pitch against his former club?
INNING BREAK: Has anyone else noticed that the Detroit Tigers are clawing their way back into the AL Central race? After starting the season at 0-6, the team is now 12-15.
NINTH INNING: The D-backs get the first two Astros, but Darin Erstad gets a pinch hit single with two outs. He’s the first Astros base runner since the third inning. And Matsui pops up to end the inning. It’s 6-4 Astros heading to the bottom of the ninth, and in trots Jose Valverde for the save.
Valverde strikes out Justin Upton. But Jeff Salazar hits a laser down the first base line – oops, the old guy working as a ball boy grabs the ball – ground rule double. Chris Burke is pinch hitting. And Burke has a flashback to his Houston days as he strikes out. That’s two outs. Eric Byrnes comes into pinch hit and strikes out.
The Astros win 6-4. The win goes to Doug Brocail since Jack Cassel didn’t make it through five innings.
The Astros are now 13-15 on the season. The series with the D-backs ends tomorrow as Shawn Chacon goes up against Randy Johnson for a day game starting at 2:40. – John Royal
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