So the 14-hour drive was pretty brutal, but the worst part of it - the last three hours - were taken care of by being able to listen to the Pirates/Astros game in its entirety. Highlight of the night: When Milo used the word "shillelagh" as a verb. No, I did not need to check the spelling.
The season is officially halfway over, and my preseason prediction of 81-81 looks solid as of now. Of course the Astros can put a huge dent in the NL Central by winning a bunch of games this week, with the Pirates and Nationals in town.
And it got started off with Mike Hampton's gem last night, a 4-1 win over the Pirates. It took two swings of the bat for the Astros to score all four runs, and Mike Hampton did what Mike Hampton does against the Pirates, and that's shut them down. Since 1995, Hampton is 14-3 against Pittsburgh, and has won his last ten starts.
Hampton: 7IP, 3H/1ER, 3K:3BB, 12/25 first-pitch strikes, 24/57 non-contact strikes
LaHawk: 1IP, 1/3 FPS, 2/6 NCS
Valverde: 1IP, 1H, 3K, 3/4 FPS, 7/14 NCS
Hampton got in and out of trouble in the first, walking the first two batters he faced, and then getting Young to line one at his head and doubling Jack Wilson off first for the DP. The three hits? An infield single in the 2nd, and a double and single in the 7th. LaHawk came in for a perfect 8th, and in what sounded like a bizarre move, looked like he was hurt, and waved the trainer back into the dugout. Valverde struck out the side to preserve the save and the win. Nice play from Hunter Pence to end the 7th by nailing Diaz trying to turn an RBI single into an RBI double.
Offensively, it only took two swings of the bat to get all four runs. A two-run triple by Geoff Blum in the first, and a two-run double by Miggs in the fifth were all Hampton needed to get the win. Matsui and Quintero were your only starters to go 0-fer, and even Erstad got things rocking with a leadoff triple in the 7th (that the Astros completely wasted). Four of the Astros eight hits were for extra bases, and they managed to draw five walks - two of them by Berkman.
Man of the Match: Mike Hampton. 5-5 on the year, and now has a 4.16 ERA.
Goat of the Game: It's hard to say, Matsui made a couple of good plays at second, despite again not getting a hit (now batting .228). How about Quintero? 0x4, and only saw 12 pitches at the plate, and had a passed ball in the game, as well.