Carlos Lee Still, Somehow, Playing Outfield For The Surprisingly Despised Astros

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This is turning out to be a bad week for the Houston Astros.

With a chance to get their record to the break-even mark, the Astros were instead swept by the Cincinnati Reds. Wandy Rodriguez is injured and has to miss tonight's start in Atlanta -- the team hopes he can return on Saturday.

Carlos Lee got caught loafing in left field last night, allowing Drew Stubbs to advance from first to third -- that should never happen on a ball hit to short left inside MMP. Stubbs then went on to score the game's first run.

But Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence made Lee look so competent on a botched fly ball on Wednesday night that the roof was ordered shut on Thursday. And Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, two guys who have made a history of dominating and humiliating Cincinnati hitters and batters, weren't at their best, with Oswalt getting the loss yesterday.

Here's the most amazing thing of all for the week.

According to a report released this week by the Nielsen Co., the Astros are even more despised by baseball fans than the New York Yankees.

That's right, the Astros are more even hated by national baseball fans than the most arrogant bunch of pinstriped pricks in baseball history. You can read the methodology behind the study here, but in reality, it's a pretty meaningless study.

This is about what should be expected from the Astros. They had a good week last week, especially with the chance to beat up on the Pirates, a team that is amazingly even worse than the Astros. But this week, facing a team with some legit, quality players -- including Drew Stubbs, who is probably cursed because Richard Justice has taken up his cause -- the Astros essentially found themselves unable to compete.

The Astros are in Atlanta for three games with the Braves this weekend, and it should be an interesting series to watch in that the Braves have some very good pitching. The Astros batters will be facing Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, and Derek Lowe.

The good news is that it isn't like the Astros facing the San Francisco Giants staff to start the season -- no rotation in baseball is as good as watch the Giants have -- but the Braves are easily throwing out the three best pitchers that the Astros have seen in over a week. And seeing as how the only pitchers the Astros have really been able to hit have been those with the Pirates, expect the 'Stros to be shut down yet again.

There's a hole in the Astros' rotation at the moment, since it's not really known for sure when Rodriguez will be returning. Myers goes tonight, a night early. And Bud Norris is still slotted for Sunday afternoon's start, but right now, TBA is slated to start for the Astros on Saturday afternoon when the Astros are one of the FOX Saturday games of the week -- which brings us back to that Nielsen report.

If the Astros play like they've been playing, then expect the Astros to quickly move up the rankings to the number-one spot.

Before I go, though, I have a favor to ask of Brad Mills. For the sake of all that is holy, to appease the baseball gods, please, please, please bench Carlos Lee.

The guy is still slumping, and his outfield play has, if anything, gotten even worse. It seems as if it shouldn't even be possible for Lee to get worse in the field, but he's making Manny Ramirez look like Willie Mays.

Who am I kidding? Lee's going to loaf around some more this weekend. Maybe there will be another sign of the apocalypse, like Lee's triple last Sunday, but with the way Lee's playing, it's looking as if it's going to be another month or so before his batting average approaches his weight. Meanwhile, the Astros are going to just keep on floundering and floundering.

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