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Astros-Diamondbacks: Ugly Weekend for Houston

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As I’ve been saying, just because the Astros were able to rip off a streak of wins over the Reds and Giants didn’t mean that they were any good. Good pitching shuts them down. Makes them look bad. And such is what happened on Friday and Saturday nights against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Of course, maybe the D-Back pitching wouldn’t have mattered so much if Wandy Rodriguez and Brandon Backe had actually managed to show up for their starts on Friday and Saturday night, because no matter how much the hitters try to hit good pitching, it doesn’t do any good if Wandy Rodriguez is being pulled after 2.1 innings and, for the second time in three games, Brandon Backe is doing his best Jose Lima impersonation by surrendering 11 earned runs in a game.

Roy Oswalt came out and did his best Roy Oswalt on Sunday, but after getting demolished 12-2 on Friday and 11-5 on Saturday, I think only the most foolhardy of Astros supporters will make the argument that the Astros are still competing for a playoff spot.

Speaking of Roy Oswalt getting the job done, he pitched one-hit ball for eight innings, shutting down a D-Back offense that had hit every pitch thrown its way the previous two games. The Astros got the 3-0 win on Sunday to preserve some dignity – though they might have lost some of that by sending Jose Valverde out to pitch the ninth inning instead of letting Oswalt finish the job. (Sending out closers like Valverde to get these kind of cheap saves when the starting pitcher is just dominating a game and the bullpen has been overworked always bugs me. Always.)

If you thought the pitching on the Astros this weekend was tough, then get a load of what the 63-61 Astros will be facing in Milwaukee starting tonight. Randy Wolf (8-10, 4.56) takes on CC Sabathia (13-8, 3.04 – and 7-0, 1.55 as a Brewer). Brian Moehler (8-4, 3.97) goes up against Ben Sheets (11-6, 3.00). And Wandy Rodriguez (7-5, 4.15) closes out the series on Wednesday afternoon against Manny Parra (9-5, 4.02).


How’s this for ironic? On the same day that Richard Justice writes a blog post about Brandon Backe deserving a spot in the Houston Astros starting rotation for next season, Backe gets beat up on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Backe was able to last 5.2 innings, but in that time he gave up 11 earned runs, nine hits, and three home runs – including two grand slams. This was the first time the Astros had given up two grand slams in the same game since July 4, 2004, when the Rangers knocked two slams off of the Astros – for the curious, it was the first time in Arizona history that the team had hit two grand slams in a game.

I like Brandon Backe. I like his attitude. But the guy is 30, and except for a couple of games in the playoffs, he’s never shown that he deserves a consistent spot in a major league rotation. Of course, this is the Astros, and except for Roy Oswalt, no one has proven that they deserve a spot in next season’s rotation – Brian Moehler has been a nice surprise, but there’s nothing in his history to indicate that he can repeat this success – but because there is no one else he probably will be back next year.

******************* Hey kids, guess what, Kaz Matsui is back on the disabled list. I know that Tim Purpura supposedly didn’t know that Jason Jennings was injured when he traded for him before last season, but how could Ed Wade have not known about Matsui’s injury history? This is just another example of the Astros wasting money for a player that the team really didn’t need – Mark Loretta could’ve done the job for the season for a whole lot less money.

******************* I wasn’t at the game yesterday for the big Craig Biggio number retirement ceremony. So can anybody tell me if Ed Wade was a part of it? And if so, was he booed? As we have learned, Drayton only fires someone after they are loudly booed by Astros fans at a large public ceremony – Jimy Williams after the 2004 All-Star Game; Phil Garner and Tim Purpura after the Jeff Bagwell number retirement ceremony last season.

Speaking of ceremonies, I do know that Biggio’s ran long because the game was delayed in starting by nearly 20 minutes. Just what is it with the Astros that they can never get these ceremonies done on time? I’ve been to many ballparks throughout the country, and I’ve sat through numerous pregame ceremonies, but the Astros are the only ones who regularly let the ceremonies drag on and on and on. If everyone else can do these ceremonies, and still get the game started on time, why can’t the Astros?

******************* And here’s a little thought to contemplate. We all know about what a Christian Lance Berkman is supposed to be. And we all know how obnoxious these guys can be, always thanking God for their hits and homers, etc. So yesterday Berkman argued with the home plate umpire after a called third strike which got me to thinking: hey, Lance, isn’t it God’s doing that you were called out on that strike? So aren’t you really arguing with God?

Discuss amongst yourselves. – John Royal

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