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Astros-Padres: The Best Offense Is...a Good Offense

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The vaunted Houston Astros offense came to life Wednesday night. Came to life against Greg Maddux, of all people. But that wasn’t the most amazing thing to happen in last night’s game. No, that would be when Lance Berkman stole third base in the top of the eighth inning.

That’s right, Lance Berkman stole a base. And this stolen base put him in position to score on a sacrifice that allowed the Astros to tie the game. But Berkman wasn’t done being amazing as, after the Padres had regained the lead, and after my man HUNTER PENCE had knocked in a run to tie the game, again, Berkman deposited a Trevor Hoffman pitch deep into the bowels of Petco Park for a three-run home run and a 9-6 lead.

The Astros starting pitching, however, sucked. Wandy Rodriguez went five innings, while giving up eight hits (two homers) for four earned runs. Dave Borkowski gave up a run for his one inning of work, and closer Jose Valverde, who gave up a run in the eighth to put the Padres back on top, got the win thanks to Berkman and Pence. The Astros had the lead several times, but except for the ninth inning, the Astros pitchers gave back every lead.

This is what has been expected of the Astros. Lots of offense. Lots of crappy pitching. Last night, for the first time this season, the formula worked. But Shawn Chacon gets the start this afternoon as the Astros close out the series with the Padres, so that offense better keep working if the Astros want to have any chance of getting win number two on the season.

But for now, I’m just going to enjoy the work of my man HUNTER and his pal Lance Berkman.



It should also be mentioned that, as part of the vaunted offense, Carlos Lee hit a home run (his 1,500th career hit), and Geoff Blum and Ty Wigginton homered back-to-back in the second inning. Berkman also has two doubles, and HUNTER PENCE also had a double.

It’s long been my contention, even before the steroid/HGH allegations against Roger Clemens, that Greg Maddux was the superior pitcher – that he, not Rocket, is the best pitcher of their generation. Those arguing for Rocket have talked of how incredible he’s been in his later years, about his incredible fastball and the low ERAs.

But these people have never really bothered to look at the numbers. For his career, which is still going strong, Maddux’s numbers look like this (not counting last night): 347 wins, 3.11 ERA, 109 complete games, 4814 innings pitched, 3273 strikeouts. The Rocket’s numbers look like this: 354 wins, 3.12 ERA, 118 complete games, 4916.2 innings pitched, 4672 strikeouts. And Clemens hit the majors in 1984 while Maddux didn’t make it up until 1986. So, strikeouts aside, their numbers are nearly identical. And if you take into account that Maddux has never had an exceptional fastball he could just blow by batters if nothing else was working, then his numbers are far more exceptional than Rocket’s. Plus, Maddux has never demanded contracts in which he didn’t have to travel with the team, or didn’t have to show up if he wasn’t pitching. He’s just never been the prima donna that Rocket is.

So, the next time someone tries to say that Rocket was the greatest pitcher of his generation, just throw out the numbers of Greg Maddux. That should shut them up.

Now I know we’re only three games into the season, but really, did anybody out there expect the Washington Nationals to open the season at 3-0? And their pitching has been exceptional – damn, I mean, Tim Redding of all people pitched seven innings last night and gave up only one hit. Tim frakking Redding. Amazing.

This though, is even more shocking. The Royals won for the second time yesterday, to improve to 2-0 on the season. This is the first time since April 2004 that the Royals have been two games over .500.

But here’s the most shocking thing of all, if there are no weather problems tonight, Mike Hampton will make his first start – will play in his first game – in over two-and-a-half years when the Braves battle the Pittsburgh Pirates. And I say good for Hampton. I always enjoyed Hampton in Houston. I liked his hustle. His determination. I’m glad he’s back.

The Cubs just erected a statue of Ernie Banks. First, what took them so long to honor Ernie Banks? Drayton erected statues of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell when they were still playing, but the Cubs waited over 30 years after Banks’ retirement to erect one in his honor. And here’s the punch line, the damn thing has a typo. The Cubs are still owned by a newspaper company, so weren’t there any spare copy editors to make sure all of the words were spelled right?

And Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa has been suspended for three games for arguing with, and bumping, an umpire on Tuesday night. The argument arose over the fact that Bowa refused to stand in the third base coach’s box. You may have noticed in the past that most coaches don’t stand in the coach’s boxes, but after the death of a minor league base coach last season, the powers that be decided to enforce this rule. Bowa, even after being warned, refused to get in the box, so he was ejected.

Here’s the thing about Larry Bowa. He’s one of those assholes like Bobby Knight. He demands that players follow the rules, and he demands respect; however, as with Knight, he refuses to respect those in authority, and he is set in his belief that the rules do not apply to him.

And you’ll be pleased to know that I got my MLB Extra Innings package to work last night. So I’ve got a word of advice for the good folks at the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network: Pod up the sound on Jim Palmer’s mike, huh? I could hear Gary Thorne fine. And I could really hear the non-existent Camden Yards crowd, but I could barely hear Jim Palmer, and I like Jim Palmer.

That is all. – John Royal

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