If it’s possible for me to be shocked by an Astros game, then last night it happened. Who would have thought that with home run magnets Randy Wolf and Barry Zito starting in a game that, going into the sixth inning, the Giants would be winning the game 1-0. Especially after the Giants were able to load the bases with none out in the top of the sixth, yet only got one run.
Barry Zito, believe it or not, was once a very good pitcher. He wasn’t great, but he was good, and he actually won a Cy Young Award when he pitched for the Oakland A’s. Except for his curve ball, which I’ve always thought was exceptional, Zito’s stuff was average. Yet it was enough to get him a huge free agent contract with the San Francisco Giants, and he’s been so bad that, at times, he’s been moved into the long relief role in the bullpen. But early on last night, it appeared to be vintage Barry Zito pitching.
Until the sixth inning. A sixth inning where the Astros scored six runs. Two of the runs scored on sac flies. Two runs scored on bases-loaded walks, and two more scored on bases-loaded batters hit-by-pitches. Before you know it, the game was over and the Astros had won 6-2.
Also, from out of nowhere, Randy Wolf actually did something he’s never done as a Houston Astro – he pitched a quality start, tossing seven innings while giving up only one run. And also from out of nowhere – really, I can’t figure it out – the Astros have won seven straight games to better their record to 61-59. The series with the Giants ends this afternoon as Brian Moehler (8-4, 3.83) pitches against Kevin Correia (2-6, 5.61).
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
Yeah, yeah, I know fans, the Astros are rolling and are now 11-2 for August. But do you know what, it doesn’t do any good to keep winning games if you can’t gain any games. And you can’t gain any games if the teams that you need to catch up with don’t lose games. The NL Central first place Cubs swept a double-header from the Braves yesterday. The NL Central second place (and wild card leader) Brewers demolished the Padres, and the NL Central third place (and second place wild card team) Cardinals beat the Marlins. The Astros are down to 40 games in the season, and not only do they have to make up significant ground on the Brewers, they’ve also got to find a way to pass up the Mets, Marlins, and Cardinals.
I’m going to continue to be the voice of reason and tell you that this is not going to happen. The Astros don’t hit good pitching, and they’ll be facing Brandon Webb on Friday, Randy Johnson on Sunday, and then they’ll see Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia early next week before heading to New York to possibly face Johan Santana and a healthy John Maine – two more good pitchers. They’ll get a break after that as they have three games with the Reds – if they’re lucky, the Astros will again miss Edinson Volquez. Then there will be three games against the Cardinals who have a good, underrated pitching staff followed by three games with the Chicago Cubs – if lucky, the Astros will miss Carlos Zambrano, Rich Hardin, and Ryan Dempster.
So what I’m saying is don’t expect this winning streak to continue – the opposition the Astros are facing is a huge improvement over the opposition of the past week or so.
***************** I would like to congratulate Gene Elston who yesterday was named as the second inductee onto the Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor. Elston was the original play-by-play voice of the Houston Astros/Colt-45s, and he served in that position from 1962 through the end of the 1986 season for a total of 25 years. Last year, Elston – one of the finest play-by-play announcers ever with a fantastic voice and the ability to paint vivid pictures with a minimum of words – was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award by the National Baseball Hall-of-Fame.
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The first inductee onto the wall was pioneering female sportscaster Anita Martini, who was inducted last year. The plaque celebrating Elston will be placed next to Martini’s on the broadcast level of Minute Maid Park, and the Astros will honor Elston in a pregame ceremony on September 24 before the game with the Cincinnati Reds (and anybody who knows of the bitter relationship between Elston and Milo Hamilton has to be awaiting that night so as to see how childish Milo will act).
And now I want to ask a favor of Drayton McLane. I have read in other places – Ken Hoffman, I think – that Milo Hamilton plans to stay on the job as the Astros play-by-play voice until he has surpassed Elston in years behind the microphone as the voice of the Astros. As one who grew up listening to Elston broadcast the Astros – and he broadcast this team for many, many bad years – I want to ask you, Drayton, to please not let this happen.
It was a travesty that Elston was let go in the first place, and it’s an even greater travesty that Hamilton, who has never been close to being the broadcaster that Elston was, has the opportunity to surpass Elston’s tenure with the Astros. Elston was the voice of the Astros. So do us a favor and let Milo go after this season – he doesn’t know what’s going on most of the time anyway, though it is kind of funny to listen to Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan cover for him. Let Gene Elson go down in history as the radio voice of the Houston Astros. It was meant to be that way.
Please. – John Royal