Kaz Is Gone, But The Astros Pain Endures

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Kazuo Matsui is gone. He is no longer a Houston Astros. Things are well with the world. All of the Astros problems are solved. World Series, here they come.

Okay, not really. The Astros still suck. They're going to suck all season, and dumping most of this roster isn't going to help.

But still, you have to be impressed that Drayton McClane is willing to eat the rest of Matsui's salary because you just know that there's no way any team is claiming Matsui off of waivers and taking the rest of that salary. No team is as stupid as the Astros. No team.

(Though, if one thinks about it, it couldn't really hurt for the Astros to put in a call to the Baltimore Orioles and see if they're stupid enough to take his salary off the Astros hands. They were willing to pay Miguel Tejada, after all, and they're one of the few teams in the majors as badly run as the Astros.)

As for those guys still stuck in Houston, tonight finds Roy Oswalt taking the mound for the first time since he called out the Astros last offense after his 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants last week.

Oswalt was angry after the game. Lance Berkman took exception to be called sucky, and nothing much happened.

The Astros then lost two straight to the Dodgers, after losing three straight to the Giants, to go on a five-game losing streak.

They got lucky last night, beating up on the fifth man in the Colorado Rockies rotation and getting to the Rockies bullpen to get the 7-3 win. But if the Astros are hoping to go off on a long winning streak -- nothing that's ever going happen when the team's three, four, five, six, seven, and eight starters are all batting under .255 -- then tonight's probably not going to be the night that the streak starts.

Unfortunately for Roy Oswalt, he's the team's ace, which means he has to face the number-one starter of the opposing team. And starting for the Rockies tonight is one Ubaldo Jimenez.

Jimenez has the kind of numbers that Tim Lincecum longs for -- and Lincecum doesn't long for the numbers of most pitchers. Jimenez is 7-1 with a MLB leading 1.12 ERA. He has also tossed a no-hitter this season, and he's surrendered just one home run this season.

We've all seen countless times this season that the Astros have problems hitting mediocre pitchers. So if Oswalt is hoping his guys will find a way to finally hit a top-notch pitcher, then maybe he needs to seek treatment of some kind.

But things aren't getting any easier for the Astros. Arriving in town for three games this weekend is the best team in major league baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays beat up on the New York Yankees last night, winning 10-6 to improve their MLB best record to 29-11.

The Rays feature one of the best pitching staffs in baseball -- not even the starting rotations of the Giants or Yankees can compete with Tampa Bay -- and the Rays are also the holders of the best road record in MLB at 16-4. And if they can handle the Yankees, then you know they're just salivating at the thought of facing the likes of Astros, who despite last night's wins, are still one of the worst teams in baseball.

Friday night will see the Astros facing Matt Garza, who has the disappointing record of 5-1 with the 2.38 ERA. He's given up one earned run or less in four of his starts, and two or fewer runs in six of his starts.

Rice alum Jeff Niemann (3-0, 2.54) makes his ninth start of the season on Saturday night. And the series will close out against David Price, the fourth man in the Rays rotation. Price is just 6-1 on the season, with a 1.81 ERA.

So Kazuo Matsui might finally be gone. But Carlos Lee is still here. And Pedro Feliz is still here. And Jason Michaels is still here. And Kevin Cash, and Cory Sullivan, and Geoff Blum. It's not a very inspiring lineup, even with Matsui gone.

And after facing the bats of the New York Yankees, perhaps the most explosive offense in baseball, you just know the Rays are laughing at the thought of the threat posed by the so-called offense of the Houston Astros.

Unfortunately for Roy Oswalt, he's still here. Unfortunately for Roy Oswalt, he's just going to have to keep dealing with it.

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