When You're Old Like The Astros, Even Home Runs Can Hurt

How does somebody get hurt hitting a home run? I'm serious. Carlos Lee hit a home run in the fourth inning on Friday night and strained his right Achilles tendon. And I don't understand how the injury could happen.

Sure, I can see him pulling a muscle on a strikeout. And if he were to ever decide to actually run on the bases, then I could understand an injury there. But hitting a home run? Sorry, I just don't see it. That's about the one thing that Carlos Lee can do well, so one would think that he could manage hitting the ball without an injury.  

Then again, hurting himself on a home run swing kind of makes Carlos Lee a perfect fit for a team that has a second baseman that can get hurt just by sitting down. Closer Jose Valverde is pitching on one leg after hurting himself early last week. Back-up catcher Humberto Quintero is on the disabled list after being knocked out of the game on Friday night. Reliever Geoff Geary should be injured so that he can use that as an excuse for losing three of the last 10 games. And one gets the feeling that Lance Berkman would like to use injury as a way to explain his .167 batting average, .329 on-base percentage, and 21 strikeouts.

But injuries aren't the real problem with the Houston Astros. The team's real problem is just that they're bad. Not Washington Nationals bad, but then again, the Washington Nationals do have some actual young talent on the team. The Astros are an old, veteran-laden team of underperformers who, despite playing 13 of their first 19 games at home, were able to win only six games.

The starting pitching, Roy Oswalt aside, has actually been halfway decent, though any team that counts Wandy Rodriguez as their best starter is in trouble. Oswalt meanwhile has struggled, giving up 29 hits and six homers in only 25 innings while failing to win in any of his four starts. The starts of Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz are never pretty, but somehow, they always find a way to keep the team in the game so that the bullpen can come in and self-destruct.

I don't know what I'm complaining about, though. I expected this team to be bad. I thought that they might be one of the worst teams in the league, and at 7-12, they sit in last place in the NL Central and are tied for the third worst record in Major League Baseball. But I actually thought they would be worse. I really didn't see them winning seven games this month. So I'm actually kind of pleasantly surprised.

They have three games left this month as they head on the road to take on the Cincinnati Reds for three games. The Reds have already beaten the Astros in three of four games this year, and the Reds are my pick to surprise the baseball world this season, so I expect them to lose at least two of the three games.  

The Astros will not return to Minute Maid Park until next week. After the three games with the Reds, the Astros will play three games in Atlanta and two games in Washington, D.C. before returning for a series with the Cubs. How bad are the Astros going to be this season? The series with the Nationals, one of the worst teams in baseball, should be a key. If the Astros have trouble in those games, then it's going to be a long damn season.

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