Despite Sweep, All's Not Well With Astros

Congratulations are in store for the Houston Astros who, this weekend, got their first three-game sweep of the season by beating up the moribund San Diego Padres. Of course, the Astros didn't have to face Padres ace Jake Peavy in this series, and they struggled in all three games.

But despite a season-best record of 14-17, things aren't all fine and dandy with the Astros. After being bumped from third to fifth in the batting order before Friday's game, slumping slugger Lance Berkman suddenly developed a wrist injury which caused him to miss all three games of the San Diego series. And off-season free agent acquisition Russ Ortiz wasn't exactly pleased with management when he was bumped from the rotation and assigned to long-relief duties.

Closer Jose Valverde is probably out until mid-June, which leaves the closing duties to LaTroy Hawkins, who has failed as a closer for just about every team he's pitched for. Doug Brocail is out until July. Roy Oswalt is pitching with a bone bruise -- though he managed to hang on for the victory yesterday despite the bullpen doing everything possible to let the Padres get back into the game. And Oswalt, the team's supposed ace, just got his first victory of the season yesterday.

Kaz Matsui is still a bust at second base. Pudge Rodriguez is finally beginning to hit a little, but his numbers are still hanging around in Brad Ausmus territory. With the exception of Wandy Rodriguez (of all people), the starting rotation generally has trouble making it through the fifth inning. The bullpen is disappointing, but that's probably something that comes from overuse.

And for even further proof of the team's suckitude, how about the fact they just re-signed Jason Smith four days after designating him for assignment to Round Rock. After Smith passed through waivers, he refused to report to Round Rock and became a free agent. But with Berkman and his mysterious wrist injury, the Astros were short a bench player, and lacking any worthy minor leaguers, the team went and re-signed Smith despite the mediocre 31-year-old batting a healthy .000.

Hell, even Jose de Jesus Ortiz has given up on the Astros. When he gives up on the Astros, then you know the team is bad.  And to show how things have reversed, it's now Brian McTaggart who's writing the heartfelt and sappy blog posts about how lucky the city is to be associated with various people -- in this case, Lance Berkman (of course, it's possible that this blog post is the result of McTaggart being exhausted because, with the Chron's house-cleaning back in March, the poor guy's having to fly all over the country and cover every team in the city of Houston). Not that that forgives the fact that Berkman, who's out with this sudden wrist injury, is batting just .184 with a meager .325 on-base percentage and 16 RBI.

But despite all of that, I've got to confess that I wouldn't be surprised to see the Astros return to Houston with at least a break-even record. That's because they get to play three games with the Colorado Rockies who are making the Padres look like a good team, then get to follow that with three games in Chicago against a Cubs team that is suddenly beset with injuries.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal