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We've Got a Man-crush on Hunter Pence

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Well, the Astros started off the second third of the season in the same manner that it ended the first third of the season, by losing two of three this weekend to the St. Louis Cardinals.

But, before I get to the Astros wrap-up, I’ve got two things with which I want to deal. First, can someone please explain this Jesus Ortiz column to me? I’ve read it several times, and I still don’t get it. What does Craig Biggio looking in the mirror have to do with the Astros following up on my suggestion from March to trade Brad Lidge?

And the second matter is something for my editor: Keith, this is Ashley Judd. And this is Charlize Theron. Ashley. Charlize. Got it? Thanks.

So, on to the important matter, the Houston Astros.

The Astros lost two of three to the Cardinals this weekend. Friday’s night loss was by a score of 8-1. Sunday’s loss was in 10 innings by a score of 8-6. And the Saturday win was by a score of 8-3. Yep, who knew the number 8 was so magical in the game of baseball?

And did you guys see that home run that Albert Pujols hit in the top of the 10th inning on Sunday afternoon? It brings back memories of Pujols vs. Lidge. Only this time, the poor tormented pitcher beat up on by Albert Pujols was Dan Wheeler. Which leads to the question: Did Pujols destroy another Astros closer yesterday?

Roy Oswalt kind of went off of the reservation after Friday’s loss, a game in which he gave up only one unearned run before the bullpen collapsed.

“It’s just hard to throw up zeroes,” Oswalt told the Chron. “You get out there and you get in a situation where you feel like you got to throw a perfect game and go up there and throw up zeroes every inning. And if you give up one or two (runs), it's an uphill battle the rest of the game, and it's just tough.”

I agree with Oswalt, and he’s definitely my favorite player on this team, followed closely by young phenom Hunter Pence (more on him later), but Roy, you really need to be careful. Drayton doesn’t like guys who speak out from the clubhouse. You could end up being traded like former closer Billy Wagner.

And nothing pissed me off more this weekend than listening to the Fox Sports studio crew calling me an idiot time after time during Saturday’s Astros victory. Essentially, the great minds at Fox Sports feel that Craig Biggio, being the icon that he is, deserves to play whenever he wants, and wherever he wants, and to bat at whatever spot in the lineup he so desires. Because he’s been a loyal guy. Because he’s been the ultimate team player. Now, one of these great minds is Kevin Kennedy, a guy who’ll never get another managing job because he ruined the career of his team’s best slugger because he let the guy pitch in a game that was a blow-out and, in turn, Jose Canseco messed up his elbow and was never the same. (It can also be argued that the steroids just no longer gave him the right amount of juice.) And the other great mind belongs to former Major Leaguer Eric Karros, who, as far as I could tell, has only a great head of hair.

Now, Karros and Kennedy both called the NL Central a mediocre division that can still be won by the Astros – and you guys know how I feel about that stupidity – but even though the Astros can still win it, it’s more important that Biggio gets his hits.

Let me try and defend my idiot actions one more time: Biggio is going to get his 3,000 hits. And I want Biggio to get his hits. I think that Craig Biggio is a great player. But great players are benched. Jackie Robinson was traded. Willie Mays ended his career coming off of the bench. Hank Aaron ended his career as a DH. Steve Carlton finished up by bouncing around from the Phillies to the Giants to the Twins and to the Indians and the White Sox. Being a formerly great player doesn’t insure that you get to keep playing everyday. And if Biggio was such the great team player that he claims to be, then he wouldn’t be insisting that he bat lead off every day.

Now, some words on my man-crush, Hunter Pence. Did you see that catch that Pence made on Tal’s Hill Sunday? That was a great play. Which leads me to one of those things that I hate most about Minute Maid Park, that stupid hill. Why is it there? What purpose does it serve? Is someone’s career going to have been ruined before that thing is bulldozed? But I’m getting off of my soapbox now.

The Astros are now going on the road for seven games, three in Denver against the Rockies, three in New Comiskey against the White Sox, and one in Wrigley against the Cubs – making up for a rain out in April.

The Astros are now 8.5 games back of the Brewers. The team’s also fallen into fifth place, and is only a game and a half ahead of the Cincinnati Reds. And the St. Louis Cardinals, that team that’s been devastated by injuries, has moved all of the way up to second place. But the Astros are making the big moves. Eric Munson got called up Friday night, and Chris Burke got called back up yesterday.

The Astros are off today. So I’ll once again be submitting myself to the torture that is the Astros on Tuesday night, so come back for a wrap-up on Wednesday. – John Royal

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