While sitting through the rain delay at Cougar Field on Sunday, I was following the Astros game on MLB.com and on Twitter. One thing I couldn't miss, besides the Astros losing again, were the number of tweets coming from the Astros beat writers about what was happening with Lance Berkman on his rehab assignment in Round Rock. And while the Berkman news was encouraging, the strange thing was just how they all seemed to be ignoring what was happening in Wrigley Field.
Things like Carlos Lee going hitless...again. And manager Brad Mills being so desperate for a guy to fill the eighth and ninth inning slots -- and probably not wanting to ruin Chris Sampson for the season -- that he was using Brian Moehler and Tim Byrdak instead of Ed Wade's big off-season free agent acquisition Brandon Lyon, who had been torched so badly on Saturday that he nearly cost the Astros a game.
Then the Cougars started again, and I didn't really return to the Astros until later, until they had come from a 2-0 deficit to start the eighth inning and ended up winning the game 3-2 in extra innings. The win was nice, any Astros win is nice. But it was made better by the simple fact that the Astros actually won a series, taking two of the three games this weekend from the hated Chicago Cubs.
There is some very good news for Astros fans heading into tonight's game against the Florida Marlins. The Astros have now actually won three games this season, and with a 3-9 record, they are now no longer the worst team in baseball (thank you Baltimore Orioles). Further good news is that it appears that Mills has found a rightful spot in the lineup for Kazuo Matsui -- the bench. Matsui has been awful this season -- almost, but not quite as bad as Carlos Lee -- and Jeff Keppinger, who is taking over at second base, has been one of the few Astros, along with Michael Bourn, who has been getting on base on a consistent basis. Bourn and Keppinger at the top of the lineup is one of the team's few bright spots at this moment.
Then there's Berkman, who after killing the ball in Round Rock this weekend, is supposed to be returning to the starting lineup tonight. This improves the lineup by sending Geoff Blum back to the bench. And hopefully, since Chris Johnson has not been awful, Mills will give up, for a while, on the Blum-Pedro Feliz experiment and just let Johnson take a shot at keeping the third base job. The lineup also improves because suddenly, the top of the Astros order is legit again.
There are still a lot of problems. Carlos Lee is downright awful, and while the talk is that he's in a slump that he'll snap out of soon, possibly with the return of Berkman, the truth may be far worse. David Pinto, at the stat head Baseball Musings blog makes the entirely convincing argument that Lee is hurt or entering a career freefall.
Don't forget that Geoff Blum, Pedro Feliz, J.R. Towles, and Hunter Pence aren't hitting, though Pence and Towles have show signs of life the past several games. And would it hurt too damn much for somebody on the team besides Keppinger and Bourn to take a walk every now and then? Through 12 games, the Astros have drawn exactly 12 walks, and five of those were drawn by Keppinger and three were drawn by Bourn. Roy Oswalt has drawn more walks than most of the rest of the team.
Despite all of that, the Astros actually won a series. Lance Berkman is returning. The Astros appear to have finally realized that Matsui should not be playing second base everyday. But don't get fooled, the Astros face a tough week of baseball. They face the mostly anonymous but much better Florida Marlins for three, then the Pittsburgh Pirates for three games starting on Friday. Amazingly, the Pirates are playing good baseball, so the easy wins the Astros would normally have expected in past seasons don't appear to be there.
And here's to hoping that the Astros beat writers will start spending more time tweeting about what's actually happening on the field than with what's happening in Round Rock.
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