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Astros-Giants: Big Puma Takes It Easy, Only Gets One Hit

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Damn that Lance Berkman. The bastard only went one for three last night, and the Astros lost to the Giants 4-2 as a result. Okay, it’s not Berkman’s fault. San Fran’s Matt Cain shut the Astros down. But unlike Barry Zito on Monday night, Cain did not wilt under the pressure, instead continuing to throw 94-96 MPH fastballs through the eighth inning.

As has been the case for the Astros lately, they fell behind early, with the shoddy defense helping the Giants get a 3-0 lead after one inning. But this night, the Astros just couldn’t get the vaunted offensive machine going in the late innings.

Brandon Backe gave up a homer to Giants pitcher Matt Cain in the fifth inning, but unlike in his past appearances, Backe was still going strong late; his defense just killed him.

The key to this game, though, is the pitching of San Francisco’s Matt Cain. The baseball adage is that good pitching shuts down good hitting – no matter how vaunted the offense. And Cain is one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and despite the Astros loss, he was fun to watch last night. And except for Carlos Lee who was responsible for both Astros runs, Cain shut down the Astros offense, and it’s that offense which has been the key to Astros victories.

Brian Moehler gets the start for the Astros tonight. Same bat time, same bat channel.

***************** This should tell you how hot Lance Berkman has been. He got one hit last night, to extend his hitting streak 12 games. Yet he only got one hit, and the hit streak just feels like a disappointment.

I noticed that the Giants gave Berkman an intentional walk in the first inning. I’m surprised that more teams haven’t been doing this lately. Walk Berkman and let Carlos Lee bring the runners home. This was the key to Jeff Kent’s great years in San Francisco. He hit behind Barry Bonds in the lineup. Teams would walk Bonds and Kent would make them pay for the mistake. And until Lee can do that on a consistent basis, I’d walk Berkman to face Lee.

But damn, the Big Puma got another frigging hit. All hail the Big Puma.

***************** To move off of Lance Berkman for a moment, did any of you pay attention to Giants outfielder Fred Lewis? The guy went three for four last night: a single, a double and a triple. He was a homer shy of hitting for the cycle. What almost made things really special was, one year ago last night, Lewis hit for the cycle. So on May 13, 2008, Lewis nearly hit for the cycle after hitting for the cycle on May 13, 2007.

***************** I’m not sure how many of you watched the game last night, but if you were up in the eighth inning, you probably saw Hunter Pence and Kaz Matsui run into each other trying to catch a pop-up. The replays showed that they both bumped knees, which can be really painful. Greg Lucas reported after the game that the Astros were telling everyone that both of them were fine.

However, with Matsui’s injury history, I’m skeptical of his health after the play. Jim Deshaies was speculating that both Matsui and Pence would get the game off tonight. I guess that’s all something that we’ll find out later.

**************** The Jim Deshaies moment of the broadcast had to be when Deshaies went Ogden Nash on us all and started doing his analysis by way of poetry. The guy continues to amaze me. I really wish the Astros would just start simulcasting the television audio on KTRH. Brownie and Deshaies do such a superb job that nothing would be lost by just having to listen to them on radio.


And here’s today’s discussion topic. Over at the Chron, my favorite Astros beat writer, Brian McTaggart (and I’m serious here, McTaggart is really, really good at his job and deserves the number one spot being held by Ortiz), has

a little post

on whether Lance Berkman will be considered the Best Astros Player ever by the time he has retired.

The consensus of the comments indicates yes. But I say no. It’s nothing against Berkman. But I seriously think Jeff Bagwell is the greatest Astro of them all, even more so than Craig Biggio. Berkman may well surpass Bagwell’s power numbers, but I want to remind all that Bagwell spent the majority of his career hitting in the Astrodome, which isn’t the best of places for power hitters.

And while Berkman is improving defensively, I just don’t think he’s ever going to be the great defensive player that Bagwell was. He was one of the best ever at starting the 3-4-3 double play, he had fantastic range, and he was fearless when charging the plate on bunt attempts. And as big a fan of Ken Caminiti that I am, I doubt Caminiti or Biggio would’ve been so well regarded defensively were it not for Bagwell digging throw after throw out of the dirt.

Don’t take this as my being against the Big Puma, but Bagwell’s just the best position player I ever saw wear the Houston Astros uniform.

**************** Before I go, please allow me a personal note. I note that Ron Stone died yesterday. In the year that I took off between finishing college and going to law school, I worked for Channel 2. And while I didn’t get down to the news department too often, the few times I came across Mr. Stone he seemed to be a real gentlemen. And in something rare, to anyone who’s worked in TV, I never heard anybody say a single negative thing about Ron Stone. So I want to extend my condolences to his family. Houston TV hasn’t been the same he left, and it will definitely never be the same with his passing. – John Royal

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