Archive for August, 2008

Reunited And It Feels So Good

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2008 by beckeesh

With last night’s win over the San Francisco Giants, the Astros reached the .500 mark for the first time since June 11.  Here’s a look back at the road from and to .500.

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First of all, on June 11, we actually lost our game to Milwaukee.  We had been doing a lot of losing.  Although the month of May was in large part a fun one, with the ‘Stros winning seventeen out of twenty-eight games (for an overall wining percentage of .607), they lost four in a row at the end of May and began June by winning only three out of their first seven games (through June 10th).  On June 11, we were either going to stay above .500 or drop to just .500.  We did the latter, and went on to lose the next seven games in a row.  In June, we won only ten out of twenty-five (for a winning percentage of .400).  Yikes!

July was also a tough month to be a ‘Stros fan.  We kicked it off by losing four straight, and won only ten out of twenty-four games total.  July would also be the first month of Lance Berkman’s career in which he did not hit a homerun.

This August, we are trending up.  Having won nine of eleven to begin the month we are finally back to .500 ball.

Here’s a list of ‘Stros-related events that have occurred since the last time we were respectable:

6/11 Astros lose to Milwaukee, drop to .500.

6/12 – 6/19 Astros lose seven in a row, ending with a sweep by the Baltimore Orioles, and our winning percentage drops to .452

6/22 Shawn Chacon is moved to the bullpen.

6/24 Kaz Matsui strains hammy, is put on the 15-day DL.

6/25 Ed Wade confronts Shawn Chacon, Shawn Chacon throws Ed Wade to the ground, Shawn Chacon suspended, later released (here, here, here… and opinion here, here…)

7/1 Humberto Quintero is hit on the head  by Dodger Luis Maza’s bat, diagnosed with a concussion, and placed on the 15-day DL.

7/6 MLB All-Star rosters  are announced.  Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada are voted onto the NL team.  Carlos Lee is on the ballot for the final fan vote. 

7/8 The Astros make an All-Star fan vote campaign video for Carlos.  (If you have never seen this, you should check it out!)

7/10 Oscar Villarreal  is designated for assignment, eventually released.  Matsui returns from the DL.

7/15 MLB All-Star game.  (Carlos Lee did not make the team.)

7/19 Roy Oswalt is placed on 15-day DL (left hip adductor).

7/21 Humberto Quintero returns from the DL.

7/23 Astros acquire Randy Wolf  from San Diego. 

7/28 Roy Oswalt returns from the DL, starts, defeats Reds.

7/31 Astros acquire LaTroy Hawkins  from the Yankees.

8/4  We all almost die in a tornado / lightning storm in Chicago, but survive to get the win.

8/11 Astros defeat Giants, return to .500!

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Postcard from a Disaster, aka Monday Morning Quarterbacking in the Summer of Brett Favre

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2008 by beckeesh

Well, we survived the tornado, but not the disaster.  Cecil Cooper lost two games for us this week, and he should have to answer for it.

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Case One:  Tuesday, 8-5-08, Astros v. Cubs

Wandy gave up six, and the Cubs surged to an early lead after two innings played.  However, the momentum began to shift to the Astros’ favor later in the game.  We scored two in the fifth, two in the sixth, and three in the seventh to jump to a one run lead. 

Then, the bottom of the seventh.

Sampson was on the mound after pitching an effective but shaky sixth inning.  He started off the seventh by giving up back to back hits followed by a sac fly from Fukudome.  With the eighth spot due up, Lou Piniella sent in Daryle Ward to pinch hit.

And then, with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh, Cecil Cooper made the call to have Sampson INTENTIONALLY WALK DARLYE WARD. 

I’m sorry, WHY?  Daryle Ward is a career .264 hitter, and this season he’s only hitting .227.  He’s only 1-for-4 against Sampson with two strikeouts, and he’s never faced Wesley Wright.  In fact, I can’t believe Cooper didn’t salivate at the idea of getting the lefty-lefty matchup there.  Why not bring in Wright to face Ward and force Pinella to manage his way out of it? 

WHAT WAS COOPER THINKING?!

I can tell you, I was sitting very close to this action at the time, in a group of ‘Stros fans, and all of us were asking, “What’s he doing here?  Why is he walking Ward to face another pinch hitter?” and  “Wait, doesn’t that mean we’ll see Soriano this inning?” and finally, “Do we have this right?”

We did have it right, and Cecil Cooper had it all wrong.  It would not be his first mistake.

Fontenot (lefty) had been announced to pinch hit for the pitcher, Howry, but Coop went to the bullpen again.  Wesley Wright came in for the Astros, so Pinella burned Fontenot and turned to Geovany Soto (righty) for a better matchup. 

This makes it bases loaded, one out in the bottom of the seventh, Astros 7, Cubs 6, Geovany Soto v. Wesley Wright. 

The count went 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2… Strikeout!  

Strikeout! Strikeout! 

Now it’s bases loaded, TWO outs!  TWO OUTS!  “Maybe things will turn out OK after all.  Go ‘Stros!” we’re thinking.

We temporarily forgot that coming to the plate was… Alfonso Soriano.

Well, Wright is DEALING, so bring it on, Soriano!

<<<PA Announcement:  Pitching change for the Astros.  New pitcher Doug Brocail.>>>

MISTAKE NUMBER 2, COOPER, SIR.  We fans in the stands were deflated.  Weren’t you?

I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of what happened next:  grand slam, left field.  Grand slam on a 1-2 count! Brocail would give up another run that inning, and we would not be able to come back. 

Eleven, eleven, eleven, 11 runs Cubs, 7 runs, Astros. 

Of the fateful moment, Cooper had this to say:  “It was a pitch that [Brocail] didn’t get where he wanted,” Cooper said. “He wanted to bounce a slider and ended up hanging it. When you hang it to guys like [Soriano], they’ll make you pay.”

I have yet to hear any explanation for walking Daryle Ward.

[We got] down, and I felt like the Cubs, a first-place club and a talented club like that, it’s kind of tough to come back. But we got some big hits and everybody played well.”

Everybody, Coop?

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Case Two: Wednesday, 8-6-08, Astros v. Cubs

This case is a lot simpler to make:

Brandon Backe, EIGHT earned runs in the third.

No one up in the bull pen.

Two earned runs in the fourth.

Who is that, Byrdak out there?

Eleven, eleven, eleven, 11 runs Cubs, 4 runs, Astros.

What made this loss really hard to take was the fact that once out there, Brydak threw 2 2/3 scoreless, and LaTroy Hawkins, who pitched the eighth (to boos from the Cubs audience) STRUCK OUT THE SIDE!

I’ll call this a WAY #2 loss: bad starting pitching.  But in my mind this game, like the one before it, was lost by Cecil Cooper.

Astros at Cubs, 8/5/08

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , on August 6, 2008 by beckeesh

I’m back to post photos from yesterday’s tough loss.  WAY #1 again, Cubs 11, Astros 7. 

Scenes from a Tornado, aka On the Road with the ‘Stros

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2008 by beckeesh

I’m on the road with the Astros this week, catching their three game series at Wrigley.  And I have great seats!!! 

One of the things we’d really like disastros.com to offer readers is a fan’s look at the team.  For this reason, I’ll be blogging with all the insights and pure speculation I can gather based on seeing the team up close and personal. 

What went down at Wrigley yesterday:

1.  Humberto Quintero goofed around with both Matsui’s interpreter and his massage therapist.  Check out these photos!

        

2.  Erstad and Pence practiced their swings outside the dugout:

    

3.  The game started.  Matsui started us off by grounding out to first.  At least he looked appropriately ashamed afterwards:

 

4. Following Matsui’s out, Tejada got a single, tagged up on a fly ball by Berkman to advance to second, and  then Lee drove him in with a double to right.  I cheered, and a crazy Cubs fans sitting near me (70 years old?  80?) yelled that I “stop putting my hands together.”  (No photo)

5.  The game continued.  Moehler pitched well.  He only allowed 4 baserunners, while striking out 4.  According to the Chicago radio experts, this was due to the home plate umpire (Laz Diaz, I believe) giving him too much on the outside corner.  Whine, whine, excuse, whine.  The Astros scored again in the 4th on a bases loaded RBI walk by Humberto Quintero.  Drayton McLane, who was sitting very near me, cheered loudly for “Q.”  I’ve never seen him cheer on TV, so I found that interesting.

Oh, here are some more shots from the game in progress:

        

6.  I went to the ladies room in the bottom of the 5th and heard some announcement about a tornado warning.  I returned to my seat in the top of the 6th and sprinkles fell.  They quickly turned into full-fledged drops as a drizzle came down. We abandoned our uncovered seats and went up to the upper deck, where I took this photo:

7.  An announcemet came over the PA.  We couldn’t hear it very well, but it ended with “get to the main concourse.”  Even the bleacher bums headed out.  Check out the trash they left behind!

   

8.  I’d just started a fresh beer, and anyway it looked crowded down below, so we weren’t going to leave our seats in the upper deck, but then they set off police sirens across the street, and everyone got kinda alarmed, so we made our way down the ramp.  haha!  Not fast enough, because heavy heavy winds blew in along with the rain, and everyone had to run down the ramp as fast as they could, since being on the ramp left one most exposed to the elements.  It was hairy for a while there.  We took cover on the first deck.  Here was the scene:

 

Of course, concessions were still being sold below:

 

8.  We hung out for about 20 minutes until the rain let up.  I got some good field-level shots on our way out.

 

9.  We made it home safely, thanks for wondering.  The game ended up being continued for a couple more innings, then another delay.   Unfortunately, I saw none of this, as ESPN and WGN conspired to blackout the final innings.  I woke up the next morning to find that the game was called in the 8th.  Astros win!

I’m off to today’s game.  Let’s go, ‘Stros!

Astros Trade Deadline Masterstrokes

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , , , on August 3, 2008 by Cabeza De Vaca

Well, the trade deadline has come and gone, with one “blockbuster” deal getting in under the wire. The Astros, 14 games back in the NL Central, certainly made some moves with an eye to the future, right? Gotta try and restock baseball’s worst farm system, right? Wait, what? We picked up Randy Wolf?… and LaTroy Hawkins?… at the price of a prospect each? Hang on a second, we’re….. BUYERS?

Okay, okay, never say die. Never give up. I just need to give this a chance. Maybe it’s time for the Chronicle’s tombstone, version 2.0. This is a second half team. Always was, always will be. Drayton is a champion, and champions don’t give up.

Y’all ever seen Rocky? Drayton’s just like Sly Stallone in that movie. He’s got the heart of a champion. Probably has the eye of the tiger, too, and he doesn’t know any other way. I reckon he’s pounding on slabs of meat right now. Heck yeah, I’m excited!

Ed Wade doesn’t roll over either. That’s just who he is. He, too, has that “champion” chromosome, hard-wired in his DNA. It’s complicated. Let’s just say that the only thing rolling over in the Astros’ front office will be Ed Wade’s anytime minutes rolling over to next month. Why should he waste them on the Dodgers, who were desperate for a shortstop? Sure, Matt Kemp sounds awfully nice, but we just got Miggy, and trading him would be like telling all those other GMs “I messed up.” Ed Wade doesn’t make mistakes, this team is built to win and win now! So let’s do this!

The first player, Woody Williams, err, I mean, uh, Randy Wolf. Oops. How could I confuse them? The former is a right-handed Petco Park-created mirage, and the latter is a left-handed Petco Park-created mirage. By the way, the only thing that could have made Woody a worse fit for Minute Maid Park is if he were left-handed. Yo, Ed, that 6.63 road ERA didn’t worry you a little?

Aww, shoot. There I go getting negative again. This is gonna be great. We were just one Randy Wolf away from a stretch run. Oh, dang, did you notice that 3 of Wolf’s 10 road starts were in San Francisco and Seattle? Not exactly places were the home team crushes the ball. Does it worry you that his career ERA and BAA are strikingly similar to another post-Tommy John Astros pitcher in his early thirties?

I don’t mean to sound like a naysayer, or worse, a Chad Reineke fan. However, it seems to me that the problem isn’t so much what we gave up, it’s that this doesn’t help the team. It certainly does nothing to help the team’s chances next year. Couldn’t anyone have a 6.63 road ERA? I mean, John Van Benschoten has history’s worst ERA for anyone with 75 innings of work, and his road ERA is 7.36.

Since I’m looking for silver linings, I’ll go ahead and point out that Wolf has a chance to go ahead and suck really bad for us this year so that Wade doesn’t try to sign him as a free agent this winter.

Next up, LaTroy Hawkins, who was designated for assignment by the Yankees a week ago. Hey, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or, I mean, one man’s trash is another man’s Oscar Villareal/Chad Paronto gap-filler. If you like those guys, a 23:17 K:BB ratio and a 5.71 ERA await.

Aren’t we getting older when we need to be getting younger? On the bright side, next year, when we’re talking about the Astros in Spring Training, we’ll be saying, “Sure we don’t have any up and coming talent, but remember how Ed Wade’s moves near the trade deadline kept us from finishing in last place? That, my friend, was a summer to remember!”