It is getting to a point with Lance Berkman where his performance with the bat goes beyond words. I think I’ve hit that point. Yesterday, Berkman was two for four. The first hit was a fourth inning single down the right field line that plated Kaz Matsui and Hunter Pence to make the score 6-2 Giants. The second hit was a ninth inning home run into McCovey Cove that put the Astros up 8-7 and proved to be the game winner.
Berkman had some help yesterday. Matsui was three for four. Pence was one for four. Carlos Lee went three for five, including a homer in the eighth to make the score 7-4 that started the comeback. And Mark Loretta, despite having an awful defensive day, was three for five as a batter. But the hero, if not Berkman, has to have been Darin Erstad, who hit not only his first career National League home run, but also his first career pinch hit homer in the seventh inning, with two men on, to tie the game at 7-7.
The starting pitching failed, once again, though Chris Sampson was able to gut it through six innings, surrendering seven runs (five earned) on ten hits.
The Astros are now 24-18 on the season, and moved into second place in the NL Central.
They face off against the Texas Rangers in Arlington for three games, starting tonight, with Shawn Chacon getting the start against Sidney Ponson.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS BASEBALL NOTES:
I have to admit that Jim Deshaies and Bill Brown have me spoiled. There’s no way that Jim Deshaies would’ve started on how Giants Tim Lincecum looked like Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off without knowing that the guy was named Cameron. Dave Raymond struggled for nearly an inning trying to get that name until he was saved by his partner who probably pulled it up on the computer. And I bet that Deshaies would’ve even known the name of the actor who played him, Alan Ruck.
And Brett and Dave, I like how you’re pushing Lance for the Triple Crown, though he’s behind Chipper Jones in batting average, but you really shouldn’t be shocked that Chipper Jones is the bigger story this season. After all, baseball broadcasters should surely know that there are two magical numbers in baseball: 56, for consecutive games with a hit, and .400, for a batting average. And .400 hasn’t been done since 1941. As long as there’s a guy around hitting over .400, like Chipper Jones, it’s going to be a bigger national story than Berkman. (Speaking of 56, Lance Berkman has now hit in 14 straight games, and Pence is now at 13 straight.)
I also found it rather strange, that, while listening to the game, KTRH was running ads encouraging listeners to switch over to Sean Hannity on 950. I know Clear Channel owns both stations, but I’m betting that Drayton McLane brings in more money to Clear Channel than Hannity, and I’d think you want the listeners staying on the Astros so that Drayton would be happy.
Then again, KTRH apparently thinks Michael Berry is a talented radio personality.
**************** Now I’m about to do something I thought I would never do, but the Chron got me so riled up yesterday, that I’m having to come to the defense of a player that I spent most of last season attacking, Craig Biggio.
For those who didn’t read yesterday’s Chron, or check out Jose de Jesus Ortiz’s blog at Chron.com, the time has apparently come to attack Craig Biggio for being a selfish player more concerned with records than the good of the team. And the chief attacker is Lance Berkman, who apparently thinks Kaz Matsui is actually a good second baseman.
“[Matsui’s] been unbelievable,” Berkman told the Chron. “I don't know what he's hitting (.263), but you have to look at what he does. I feel like the pitcher is exhausted by the time he gets done pitching to him, even if he makes an out. We haven't really had that.
“Bidge was a very good hitter, but usually if he saw three pitches, that was a rarity. He'd either hit a double or make an out by the third pitch of the at-bat. Kaz is a different kind. He takes pitches. He looks, watches, looks a guy over, fouls off lots of pitches, and really does a great job starting things off.”
I don’t have to tell all of you what I think about Biggio’s quest for 3,000 hits last year. I didn’t like that Phil Garner let Biggio and Drayton call the shots. And I didn’t like that Chris Burke was held hostage because of it. But this gets to one of my problems with Berkman: he’s not a team leader, and he is just as selfish, in his own way, as Biggio.
This was something that should have been addressed, by Berkman, last season. Now from what I’ve read about Berkman, he was no doubt bitching about this last season, but Ortiz has proven in the past that he’ll only run hit pieces once the subject is out of town. If Jeff Bagwell would have still been around, he probably would’ve pulled Biggio aside, told him to sit on the bench two or three times a week, and told him the best way to help the team would be to hit lower in the order. And Biggio would’ve probably listened to Bagwell.
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But Berkman’s more concerned with goofing around with his buddies, and he’s more concerned with his buddies being traded. I like Berkman, but he’s not the leader type, because a leader type would have addressed this situation last year, and something would have been done. Instead Berkman just hits back much later.
And this is just another of the reasons I don’t respect Ortiz. You just know Berkman and the guys were bitching about it last season, but Ortiz never wrote anything about it. Because if he did he would have had to talk to Craig Biggio, and Biggio might have kicked his ass.
Berkman (and Cecil Cooper) should’ve been real men and addressed this issue last year. Instead, they’re just being weasels by piling on now. Cooper was actually the manager for awhile last season, so he actually could have addressed the problem, but he apparently slunk away in fear. So at a time when Berkman and Cooper should be earning respect for the way the Astros are playing, they’ve instead chosen to open their big mouths and lose it instead.
But what do I know: I still think Doug Rader was better than Morgan Ensberg, and I think Jeff Bagwell was the greatest Astro of all time. – John Royal