Saturday, July 25, 2009

Recap for G97 - Mets @ Astros

So we stop the win streak at four games, because of Russ Ortiz' clunker in a 10-3 defeat to the Mets tonight.

The Astros gave up three homers (though none by Ortiz), and six of the Mets' 12 hits were for extra bases. Let's do the thing:

Ortiz: 4.1IP, 5H/6ER, 3K:4BB, 14/21 first-pitch strikes, 25/62 non-contact strikes (18 called:7 swinging)
Byrdak: 0.2IP, 1H/1ER, 1K, 0/3 FPS, 3/6 NCS (1c:2s)
Paronto: 2IP, 4H/2ER, 1K, 6/10 FPS, 8/22 FPS (4c:4s)
Wright: 2IP, 2H/1ER, 2K, 4/8 FPS, 10/17 NCS (7c:3s)

It was 3-0 before the Astros even came up to bat. And offensively, not much happening, despite the Astros eight hits. Two of them came from super-sub Chris Coste, and 3-4-5 went a combined 1x8. Jon Niese looked like a stud out of Triple-A: 7IP, 4H/1ER, 3K:2BB. Hunter Pence did hit a 2-run shot off K-Rod in the 9th, though.

Man of the Match: Chris Coste, filling in admirably for Lance Berkman with a 2x4 night.

Goat of the Game: Sorry Russ, the Astros didn't even have a chance.

Matchup for G97 - Mets @ Astros

Russ Ortiz
Russ Ortiz takes the hill for the Astros tonight in game 2 of this series with the Mets. After an eventful six days before the All-Star Break where he got rocked by the Giants for 8ER in 5.2IP on July 4, and then got yanked after 3IP against Washington - and subsequently ripped Cecil Cooper - Ortiz threw another quality start, his third in five starts. Let's see how it rolls out:

Last three starts:

7/4 @SF5.29/87:58/10111/63
7/9 vWAS36/41:26/668/36
7/19 @LA65/24:211/7104/64

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 45x153, .294/.379/.418, 26K:18BB
vs Lefties: 36x145, .248/.351/.386, 33K:23BB

When swinging at the first pitch (26): .333/.360/.792, 5XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (161): .257/.331/.347, 42K:14BB
After First-Pitch Balls (160): .277/.400/.392, 17K:27BB

RISP: 17x75, .227/.294/.293, 17K:5BB
Runners on: 38x138, .275/.346/.391, 29K:13BB
2OwRISP: 10x36, .278/.366/.389, 12K:4BB

'09 At MMP: 3-3, 3.61 ERA/1.51 WHIP, .262/.369/.366 against
Career vs. NYM: 9-7, 5.20 ERA/1.56 WHIP, .270/.361/.461 against

Jon Niese

Niese will be making his 6th career start, third of the season and first since May 13, tonight. He walks in with a 5.91 ERA/1.50 WHIP.

Last two starts:

5/8 vPIT67/25:010/1095/67
5/13 vATL4.27/55:28/773/48

Let's do the splits, albeit with a limited sample:
vs Righties: 6x24, .250/.296/.375, 6K:2BB
vs Lefties: 8x19, .421/.421/.526, 4K:0BB

When swinging at the first pitch (7): .571/.571/.714, 1XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (24): .304/.333/.391, 9K:1BB
After First-Pitch Balls (16): .231/.267/.385, 1K:1BB

RISP: 5x11, .455/.417/.545, 2K:0BB
Runners on: 8x20, .400/.400/.550, 3K:0BB
2OwRISP: 1x4, .250/.250/.500, 9K:8BB

What our friends in New York have to say

The New York Daily News:
Even Mike Hampton can outslug the Mets

New York Post:
Santana didn't get any help from third-base coach Razor Shines, either, as Shines stupidly waved home the lumbering Jeff Francoeur on a single to short right by Daniel Murphy in the seventh.

We are the Astros. Not the Cubs. Not the Cardinals. Not the Brewers. The Astros.

Just because the Cardinals went out and nutted their future, doesn't mean the Astros will do the same.

Ed Wade:
We're not the Cardinals. The Cardinals and the Cubs may make a deal. The Brewers may make a deal. The Pirates may make more deals. There's not much we can do about that. But we're not in the business of trying to match other clubs move for move. I look at our team right now and see the way we're playing right now. I think we can sustain this level of play, and if we can sustain this level of play, I don't think it makes a lot of difference what's happening around us. If we go play our game, we got a chance to go be in this thing.”

And Wade, through JJO (who knows more than you):
"Just from the standpoint we would love to be aggressive. We would love to be out there doing something of great magnitude. But our economic situation is not going to change in the span of a week although fans are excited.

"But when fans get excited midway through a season you're selling single-game tickets. You're not selling season tickets. So put that in perspective a little bit. And we're also going to be protective of the prospects who we have in our system. There's a lot of dynamics at play. There are going to be some significant deals out there, but I don't want people to think; one, I don't want them to think that we're not willing to be aggressive.

"But you just have to face your situation against the backdrop of reality, and the reality from an economic standpoint and from a talent standpoint is that we're committed basically to the players that are here. Now if something comes along that we think is too good to pass up and fits what we're capable of doing then we're willing to do something like that. Last year LaTroy Hawkins came along that we traded a kid from the system and the Yankees took back a bunch of money and that worked out very well for us.

"We'll continue to make the calls to other clubs and have the dialogue and have internal dialogue with our scouts to see if there's something sensible out there. But, again, I don't want to raise expectations because the club is playing better right now that, that necessarily changes the overall dynamics."

Sampson's balls are down and right

Ha ha! Juvenile humor - it never gets old. Chris Sampson is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday, and I'm guessing it'll be Chad Paronto who gets sent back down.

After a simulated game that Sampson says went well, he'll be back in the bullpen sooner than later.

"I feel a lot better. The rest did some good. I was having good action on my two-seamer and my slider. I threw a couple bad curveballs, but all in all it felt good. I was throwing strikes and hitting my spots...

...The hitters said I had life on the ball and it had movement that was late and down, which is key for me. The main thing was that it was moving late, which is good, because when my arm was bothering me it wasn't moving at all. If it was moving, it was just kind of rolling up there and not having any sharp break. Hopefully all will be well [Saturday] and I'll be ready to go Sunday."

Berkman's calf strain is half as bad as Valverde's

By the numbers, anyway. Valverde's calf strain was listed as a Grade 4, and he missed 41 games.

"I wish I wouldn't have played the last couple of days. That way I would be a little quicker to get back on the field. But I think at some point you have to try it and I just wasn't making a whole lot of progress. ... I'm disappointed and I don't think it's going to take the whole two weeks, but you don't have many options when you're talking about the disabled list...

...If we were in September or even late August, and we were still right there, I doubt I would have seriously even missed a game. But having gone through something like this earlier in the year with Jose, you sit there and you think, 'Well yeah, you can try and push through it,' but then something like that might happen and then you're done for the year. That's the last thing I want and the last thing the organization wants...

...Certainly this is an inopportune time, and clearly not the way I would draw it up. But sometimes you have to do something unpleasant for the overall good of the team. Hopefully this will take care of it and we can move on down the road."

It's also pointed out that Coste will start at first against left-handed pitching, and against the RHPs Blum, and even Pudge, can play first. With Pudge at first, Coste can take up behind the plate and keep his currently hot bat in the lineup.

Recap for G96 - Mets @ Astros

Astros make it four in a row and six of eight since the All-Star Break to keep pace with the Fightin' Hollidays after a 5-4 win over Johan Santana and the Mets.

The Astros tagged Johan for 12H/5ER in 6.2IP, and Mike Hampton got his 6th win of the season after hitting a two-run shot to the Crawford Boxes. Here's the thing (gotta do this quick-like)

Hampton: 5.2IP, 8H/4ER, 7K:4BB, 18/27 first-pitch strikes; 29/64 non-contact strikes (16 called:13 swinging)
Fulchino: 0.1IP, 0H/0ER, 1/1 FPS, 1/6 NCS (1 swinging)
Arias: 1IP, 3H/0ER, 3/5 FPS, 6/13 NCS (6 called)
LaHawk: 1IP, 2H/0ER, 3/5 FPS, 6/12 NCS (6 called)
Valverde: 1IP, 0H/0ER, 2/3 FPS, 3/6 NCS (3 called)

As you can see the bullpen had some issues, giving up five hits, but they did just enough to preserve the win.

The defense was stellar. Another outfield assist by Hunter Pence nailed Jeff Francoeur at the plate, and the Astros turned three double plays on the night.

Offensively it was a good night. Only pinch-hitter Geoff Blum didn't get a hit, with Bourn, Tejada, and Pudge providing multi-hit games. Chris Coste pitched in with a two-run double, and Mike Hampton's home run provided four of the five runs, with Carlos Lee getting the other RBI. Michael Bourn stole his 37th base of the season, and rack it up - that's a win.

Man of the Match: Mike Hampton. Did enough to keep the Astros in it, didn't throw the ball into the dugout, and provided two runs on offense.

Goat of the Game: This one's going to Alberto Arias. Single, GIDP, HBP, Single, Single. Had it not been for Pence's assist, this game might have gotten out of hand - and it would have been on Arias.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Astros minor-leaguer suspended for steroid use

Six players in the Dominican Summer League have been suspended 50 games for using a banned substance. One of those players is DSL Astros pitcher Felix Ramirez.

44 minor-leaguers have been suspended this year for using a banned substance, and to my knowledge, Ramirez is the first one in the Astros organization this season.

Ramirez tested positive for boldenone, described as such:

Like most anabolic steroids it increases muscle mass over time by increasing nitrogen retention and positively influencing protein synthesis or re-synthesis. An action that is not necessarily supported by an androgenic mediator as was shown with nandrolone. What boldenone has that other steroids don't is that it indirectly supplies the necessary means for that protein synthesis because it drastically increases the appetite. Thereby facilitating the high nutritional intake (especially protein wise) needed to book the best results when using anabolic androgenic steroids. Its more of a benefit than you think as a lot of people have theorized that it is this increase that is responsible for the great results booked when using boldenone.

Way to go, jerkface.

Justice is such a tease...

In a blog post this afternoon, Justice titled it "Astros may pick up a third baseman and a starting pitcher."

Where will these mystery men come from?

3B: Aaron Boone
Boone rejoined the Astros this afternoon and plans to play in the big leagues again this season. He'll take batting practice for the first time this afternoon since undergoing heart surgery last spring.

He'll make the week-long road trip to Chicago and St. Louis, and if all goes well, probably will do a rehab stint in the minors before returning to the big leagues.

SP: Bud Norris?
Bud Norris might just be ready to take his place in the rotation or the bullpen as well. The Astros have resisted the temptation to bring him to the big leagues before now, and there doesn't seem to be a real need for him at this point.

He may be relegated to middle relief, but that could be a perfect way to allow him to get his feet wet in the major leagues before he takes his place in the rotation next season.

C70 at the Bat responds to the Holliday trade

So many of you have read the exchanges between Astros County and my favorite Cardinals' blog, C70 at the Bat. I asked Daniel from C70 what the heck happened. Think they're happy? Think again...

AC: What the heck just happened?
C70: Once I figure it out myself...Basically, from what I understand, the Cards traded their top prospect, Brett Wallace, plus two other prospects (including Clayton Mortensen, one of their top pitching prospects) for Matt Holliday.

The thought is that they can get him to St. Louis and do the McGwire/Rolen/Edmonds bit on him, have him fall in love with the city and want to give a reasonable deal on the extension.

Fanbase opinion? At least what I've seen so far, they are wondering if John Mozeliak has completely lost his mind. Wallace for Holliday was untenable enough--check out this post from yesterday at Future Redbirds-- but to add to the deal and still not get an extension signed ahead of time? Sure, they got back $1.5 million, but that's hardly anything.

Check out C70's full post here.

Matt Holliday vs Houston

Big story of the day is obviously how the Cardinals put it in Win Now mode and traded three prospects for rent-a-player Matt Holliday. What does this mean for the Astros, other than the fact that they'll have to run through Pujols-Ludwick-Holliday nine times (at least) next week?

Let's do the splits for Matt Holliday against the Astros:
29x81, .358/.409/.580 with 2HR, 7K:5BB

FanGraphs on the Holliday trade

While a 3-4-5 of Pujols, Ludwick, Holliday might be enough to push the Cardinals back as the front-runners in the NL Central, in the long-term, it may not be such a great deal.

Holliday's agent is Scott Boras, and how often do Boras' rentals actually stick around for the long-term?

Going to Oakland is 3B Brett Wallace, who FanGraphs says... not projected to be a big-time power threat, but rather a 15-20 homer guy who hits for a high average and takes his fair share of walks; somewhat of a Kevin Youkilis before he found his power stroke."

They break it down as such:
Mozeliak is also faced with the fact that after Brett Wallace, his farm system will be a lot thinner, no pun intended. Flags fly forever, and Wallace may never quite pan out and is probably not the greatest fit for his parent club.The Cardinals should be buyers at this point, but I wonder if they can’t get a better return than a rental for their top prospect.

Cardinals to look a lot different next week

St. Louis is reportedly finalizing a trade for Oakland's Matt Holliday. Could be worse. Could be Roy Halladay.

UPDATE: And that's it. Top Cardinals prospect 3B Brett Wallace, OF Shane Peterson, and RHP Clayton Mortensen are now headed to the Bay Area.

Matchup for G96 - Mets @ Astros

New York Metropolitans in town this weekend, and what I'm looking most forward to is checking in with the NY tabloids after each game. Believe this, if the Astros sweep the Mets as they did the Cardinals, the New York Post might be the first periodical (The Onion, notwithstanding) to print the F-word. The Mets come in 44-50, 10 games behind the Phillies, and four games behind the Marlins for 3rd place in the NL East. They're 19-30 on the road, and after a 19-9 May, have gone 16-29 since June 1.

Mike Hampton
Mike Hampton takes the hill for the Astros tonight. In six June/July starts, Hampton is 2-3 with a 3.93 ERA, 21K:12BB. But it's been a rough couple of starts his last two times out, throwing a combined 9.1IP, 16H/9ER, 5K:3BB...

Last three starts:

7/6 vPIT73/13:312/798/57
7/11 vWAS3.29/51:112/670/44
7/18 @LA5.27/44:29/992/56

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 69x245, .282/.361/.420, 33K:30BB
vs Lefties: 24x91, .264/.289/.462, 24K:4BB

When swinging at the first pitch (46): .317/.310/.659, 8XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (177): .263/.291/.395, 36K:6BB
After First-Pitch Balls (158): .281/.408/.406, 21K:28BB

RISP: 24x81, .296/.381/.494, 15K:13BB
Runners on: 40x140, .286/.368/.479, 28K:20BB
2OwRISP: 15x39, .385/.467/.692, 5K:6BB

Johan Santana

"Hampy," as he is ridiculously called, faces a tough task one-time Astros prospect Johan Santana, 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA, and having allowed just 2ER in his last 21IP.

Last three starts:

7/5 @PHI73/23:28/12101/65
7/11 vCIN75/05:15/16114/77
7/18 @ATL75/05:212/10115/75

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 71x332, .214/.277/.316, 85K:29BB
vs Lefties: 37x139, .266/.320/.532, 32K:10BB

When swinging at the first pitch (48): .333/.333/.444, 5XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (287): .205/.252/.347, 85K:15BB
After First-Pitch Balls (183): .241/.339/.418, 32K:24BB

RISP: 18x101, .178/.248/.218, 23K:10BB
Runners on: 35x190, .184/.249/.274, 41K:16BB
2OwRISP: 8x46, .174/.296/.174, 9K:8BB

Former Astro prospect Josh Anderson designated for assignment's Jason Beck is tweeting that former Astros OF prospect Josh Anderson was designated for assignment by the Tigers.

Anderson was the Astros 4th round pick in 2003, and spent four seasons in the minors, hitting .308 with 43 steals in 130 games for Corpus in 2006 (and 50 SB in 2005). Anderson was traded in November 2007 to Atlanta for Oscar Villareal (and we all know how that worked out). Atlanta flipped him this past March for minor-leaguer Rudy Darrow.

Tommy Manzella is raking

Down at The Rock, Tommy Manzella is posting a .281 average, and after going 0x7 in the last two games of a set with Nashville before the All-Star Break, he has come back with 13x34 with 7XBH-10RBI for a .382/.432/.794 line.

His 107 hits this season puts him in a tie for seventh in the PCL. and versus RHP, he's 84x275: .305/.363/.422

Eddie's Farm: July 23

Round Rock
Yordany got two of the Express' six hits in a 5-1 loss to Albuquerque. Tommy Manzella clocked an RBI triple for the lone run. Polin Trinidad suffered his first loss at The Rock with 7IP, 9H/5ER, 5K:3BB. The big story was Albuquerque starter Charlie Haeger, who threw a complete game, striking out 12 Express batters, including John Gall's three Ks.

Lake Elsinore scored six runs in the top of the 9th to defeat Lancaster 9-5. Ronald Ramirez had three hits and 2RBI, while Koby Clemens was 2x4 with 2RBI. Jack Shuck and Marcos Cabral also had two hits on the night. Chris Hicks threw 7IP, 7H/3ER, 7K:1BB and was in line for the win until Ashton Mowdy and Chris Salamida combined for 1IP (Mowdy: three batters faced, no outs), 3H/4ER (5 total), 0K:3BB.

G1: Lexington gets a walk-off win over Lake County 2-1. Small-balling it, the Legends only got two hits, but drew four walks on the night, with Chris Jackson's RBI single scoring Jorge de Leon, who was running for Reinaldo Pestana (who reached on an error) providing the GWH. David Duncan pitched brilliantly again, scattering 7H/1ER over 7IP with 7Ks. Kyle Godfrey threw a scoreless 8th for the win.

G2: Not as fun. Lake County scored twice in the top of the 7th, Lexington got one back, but still lost 3-2. Andrew Simunic got two hits and Brian Pellegrini hit a solo homer while Jeff Hulett's RBI double in the 9th came up just short. Robert Bono threw 5.1IP, 7H/2ER, 2K:2BB, but two errors provided an unearned run - and a loss.

Well. Oneonta pounded out 13 runs on 19 hits (nine for extra bases) for a 13-2 win over Tri-City. Brandon Wikoff and Renzo Tello had two hits, with Tello providing both RBI. Brandt Walker: 4IP, 9H/6ER, 4K:1BB; Antonio Noguera: 3IP, 5H/3ER, 3K:0BB: Scott Migl: 2IP, 5H/3ER, 2K:4BB.

A win! Greeneville scored two in the 7th and one in the 8th for a 6-4 win over Bluefield. Jiovanni Mier, Ryan Humphrey, and Carlos Mojica had two hits each. Nathan Metroka got two RBI in the win. Gabriel Garcia threw 4.1IP, 7H/3ER (4 total), 4K:1BB, and Joan Belliard got the win with 3.2IP, 1H/0ER, 2K:1BB. Jeiler Castillo threw a scoreless 9th for the save.

GCL Astros
The GCL Astros recorded their 8th win of the season with an 8-7 win in 10 innings. Luis Bryan was 4x6 with 3RBI, Kody Hinze was 3x5, including a 2-run 10th inning shot, as the Gastros rapped out 16 hits. 2nd round pick Tanner Bushue threw 5IP, 3H/1ER, 6K:1BB in the ND. Mike Schurz got a blown save and a win with 1.2IP, 2H/2ER, 0K:2BB.

Notes on Oswalt/Wandy

JJO checks in with a counter-point focus on the front end of the rotation.

“We’re fortunate enough to have two guys that can pitch at the top of any rotation in baseball. Roy’s reputation for the lion’s share of his career has been that he’s a true ace. Clearly, he’s still an ace. Wandy has always been viewed as a guy with a lot of weapons who should put it together. Now, he’s put it together with the way he’s pitched this season. The way he’s pitched this year it’s just been phenomenal. Selfishly, I’m glad he didn’t get used in the All-Star Game, but I thought he deserved to be an All-Star.”

“I think it’s great for the organization to have two guys in the rotation where they’re doing well. The other guys have been throwing well, too. It’s not like they haven’t been throwing the ball well. I think the biggest thing is everybody is trying to feed off each other. If one guy does well, the other guys want to do well. It’s not just one guy. Hopefully you can pick up three and four and five and then hopefully you have everybody go as one.”

Carlos Lee:
“All the pitchers have done well. I think our team’s rotation has done a tremendous job, not as much reflecting on wins and losses, but in the majority of the games they’ve given the offense a chance to win the game. That’s the most important thing. ... They’ve given us a chance to win most of the games.”

Solomon: It's all on 3-4-5

Jerome Solomon puts the onus on the Law Offices of Hampton, Moehler, & Ortiz, who must have a good series against the Mets in order for the Astros to keep this rolling. Disconcerting note:

But the last time a trio of starting pitchers that didn't include Oswalt or Rodriguez threw out the first pitch for an entire series (Felipe Paulino, Moehler and Hampton on May 22-24), the Astros were swept away by the Rangers at Minute Maid.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Astros are the gum on your shoes

Bizarrely, I'm not even making that up.

It's complimentary to the Astros, and their being given to second-half surges, but they are described as:

-The aformentioned gum on your shoes
-Ants at a picnic
-A screeching neighborhood brat

In our defense, they make it easy. They start each season as if baseball was a new endeavor, as foreign to them as curling or synchronized swimming. They kick ground balls, miss cutoff men, groove fastballs and strand runners...

...Beyond all of that, they're the Astros, which seems to count for a lot the deeper you go into any season.

They are gum on our shoes.


Dempster to return late next week

This is important to us as Dempster, who broke his toe in a freak gasoline fight accident after a win is expected to return either next Thursday against Houston, or Friday against the Marlins.

Ebert Rosario promoted

Quick transaction of note:

Lexington IF Ebert Rosario has been promoted to High-A Lancaster

Rosario was hitting .272/.307/.372 for Lexington with 21 extra-base hits and 31 RBI in 88 games (320 ABs). And 26 errors.

Tri-City DH Jeff Hulett was also promoted to Lexington.

In 53 ABs for the ValleyCats, Hulett was hitting .189/.246/.208

Post-Dispatch on the Cardinals landing Halladay

Morning roundtable blog from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the chances St. Louis gets Halladay:

Rick Hummel:
I don’t think the Cardinals have the prospects, notably young starting pitchers, to get Halladay.

Joe Strauss:
The odds of getting Halladay: 9-1. The odds of getting any starter: 3-2.

Bernie Miklasz:
The problem is offense. The Cardinals don’t have enough of it.

Gerry Fraley:
The Cardinals have no shot at Roy Halladay because their player-development system is more a collection of spare parts than impact players.

Jeff Gordon:
I can’t imagine the Cards have the young starting pitching, sans Wainwright, to make such a deal. Other teams will offer blue-chip starters capable of stepping in quickly.

And sure enough...

This is not good. Lance has, indeed, been placed on the DL, and Edwin Maysonet has been called up to take his roster spot.

"It's for the best. I want to be on the field, so I'm not happy about it, but it's for the best. I look forward to getting it right and getting back on the field in a couple of weeks. It's better to be out a couple of weeks than a couple of months."

"I spoke with Dr. Lintner today, and we are in agreement that keeping Lance active will only put him in a position of wanting to help the club and reaggravating the injury. I also spoke to Lance, and he understands. It's not easy to disable one of your key guys, but we want him strong for the stretch drive, so it's the right move."

There's no mention of a retroactive date, so he should be activated August 7 vs. Milwaukee. He'll miss series' against the Mets, Cubs, Cardinals, and Giants.

Here's your infield until that point:
1B: Coste (Erstad's still on the DL. So, good pickup of Coste by Wade)
2B: Matsui, Maysonet
SS: Tejada
3B: Blum, Keppinger

Richard Justice points out that, since the All-Star Break, the Astros are 5-2, and Lance only had 9PAs. The early part of the second half was tough, but it just got a little tougher.

Justice's Berkman update

Richard Justice is tweeting that the Astros are about to place Lance on the DL. More as it comes in.

Off-Day Argument: Is Lance a Hall-of-Famer

This is appropriate, as the Hall of Fame's Induction Weekend starts tomorrow in Cooperstown, New York. Some numbers, if you'll allow:

Career offensive line: .300/.413/.558
OPS+: 148
1530 hits
306 homers
1016 RBI
All-Star: Five times
Top-5 in MVP voting: Four times
Postseason offensive line: .321/.425/.566
Fielding percentage: .990
Top-ten in batting average: four times
Top ten in on-base percentage: Eight times

So the question is, is Lance a Hall of Famer?

Pudge's Three Keys to Success

Missed this yesterday, but Pudge sees three things that nobody else has seen as the key to winning:

"The pitchers have done a far better job, and we're playing good defense and getting the offense going. We're playing good right now, but we have to keep it going and not take anything for granted. We just have to go out there and stay positive and play hard every day."

So to recap:
1. Pitching is better
2. Defense is better
3. Offense is better

Who knew! Fox should run a special on it.

"I see something very special in this team. In '03, I remember we had a bad first half and then we came back and finished 10 games over .500 and were able to go to the playoffs and eventually won the World Series. That's baseball. It doesn't matter if you're winning by 10 or losing by 10, you have to keep playing the game hard."

Coop actually makes a management move

In today's Notes piece from the Chronicle, we see that Coop is setting up his rotation like a big-league manager.

He's keeping his rotation in the same place, throwing Hampton tomorrow, in order to give Roy and Wandy a start against the Cubs next week.

“Our main focus was to make sure we had Roy and Wandy coming out of the chute in the second half, and have it where they would also face Chicago. It's worked out that way. We'll reassess it once we get through St. Louis next week.”


Sampson has a little Sampson! Congrats to Chris Sampson and his wife, who had a baby on Tuesday, and appeared at Minute Maid Park yesterday to throw a bullpen session.

“I felt good. I felt like I was pitching on no sleep, but the arm felt fine. In L.A., I needed like one or two days of rest, so it was only fair for them to put me on the DL. But today I really had no (arm) issues in the bullpen."

He's in line to come off the DL on Sunday.

Fernando Vina on the bandwagon...

Make room, make room: Fernando Vina has jumped on the Astros' 2nd-half, return-only bandwagon.

The Astros have an advantage over the other teams competing in that division; they have a prolific leadoff man. Michael Bourn, who came to Houston in the Brad Lidge trade, quickly is becoming one of the game's most enticing players. He has a .354 OBP and is leading the National League in stolen bases (35) and triples (8). His presence on the bases gives RBI men Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman chances to put up big offensive numbers. We've seen guys such as Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins bring a jolt to teams; it's without question that Bourn can do the same for Houston.

But then he just gets stupid:
We've seen the Killer B's in Houston, but imagine if they had Killer Roys in the front of their rotation? If Drayton McLane and Ed Wade are looking for a boost, they need to involve themselves in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes. Having the righty Roys pitch on back-to-back days will guarantee you at least one win, if not two. Add in Rodriguez and Brian Moehler, and things are looking pretty good. Houston does have a history of trading for an ace at the deadline. Randy Johnson was brought in as a rental in 1998. Even if a team such as the Phillies lands Halladay, there is always a chance to get into talks with the Indians for Cliff Lee. If McLane is willing to take the chance on either guy, it certainly would be worth it.

And breaks it down as such:
Unless the Astros can make a trade, their chances for October are slim. They will continue to push along like they always do. Their middle-of-the-order hitters (Berkman, Lee, Tejada) are among the best in baseball. Then you add in veterans such as Ivan Rodriguez and Darin Erstad, and scrappy youngsters Hunter Pence and Bourn, and this team was bound to get hot any minute.

While I sincerely appreciate national publicity, to think of trading what few major-league ready prospects we have, and even prospects with an ETA of 2012-2013 for a rent-a-pitcher is asinine. Their chances for October may be slim, but they'll be even slimmer in the future if they trade for Halladay.

Cardinals trade for Lugo

The Cards have swapped Chris Duncan and a PTBNL for former Astro Julio Lugo of Boston. More later,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Get your Brooms

Lineup for G95 - Cardinals @ Astros

No matchup post for tonight as we'll have the Live Blog with Deputy Jason beginning shortly before G95:00. But here's your lineup, courtesy of McTaggart:

1. Bourn CF
2. Matsui 2B
3. Tejada SS
4. Lee LF
5. Blum 3B
6. Pence RF
7. Pudge C
8. Coste 1B
9. Oswalt P

Transaction time

Some transactions of note over yesterday:

July 21
RHP T.J. Burton promoted to Round Rock from Corpus Christi
C Brian Esposito assigned to Corpus from Round Rock
RHP Jeremy Johnson released by Round Rock

The Johnson move is something of a scratcher, as he was 5-8, but with a 3.51 ERA/1.29 WHIP in 21 games/13 starts for the Express. However, he had given up 21ER in his last 41.1IP. Bummer that it came two days after his 27th birthday, too.

Eddie's Farm: July 21

Eddie's Farm goes 4-2 yesterday; double-header with Round Rock, Lexington and Tri-City didn't play.

Round Rock
Game 1 of the double-header, a completion of a suspended game back on June 11, saw Round Rock finish the game off with a 5-1 win over Albuquerque. Jason Smith had a two-run homer, while Abercrombie and Bogusevic had two hits. Josh Muecke threw 5.1IP, 5H/1ER, 3K:3BB while Geary got his first save for Round Rock.

Game 2 was a 7-inning affair in which Albuquerque was held to five hits, yet still won the game 3-1. Two of Round Rock's three hits were from Tommy Manzella, who raised his average to .281, two points behind Bogusevic, who was 1x3. Mark McLemore threw 6IP, 3H/2ER, 4K:2BB and Capellan gave up 1ER in 1IP.

Corpus jumped out to a 7-2 lead after two innings, and held on for a 10-7 win. Wladimir Sutil, Jason Castro and Jimmy Van Ostrand each had three hits, Castro enjoyed a single, double, and a triple for 4RBI, while JVO had 3RBI, and the Hooks were 8x18 with RISP. Wilton Lopez took the win, despite getting popped for 5IP, 12H/6ER. Evan Englebrook got his first save for the Hooks with a scoreless 9th.

Lancaster finally got one over on Stockton, winning 5-1. Jon Gaston did what Jon Gaston does, and that's hit another pair of homers - his 26th/27th of the season. Leandro Cespedes seems to have found his groove again, tossing 6IP, 6H/0ER (1R), 3K:2BB, and Jordan Powell threw 3IP, 0H/0ER ball for the save.

Despite allowing three runs in the final two innings, Greeneville bent but didn't break in a 5-4 win over Bluefield. Frank Almonte hit a two-run shot in the 6th, and Jonathan Meyer was 2x4. Jose Cisnero threw 5IP, 2H/0ER (1R), 4K:0BB for the win. Three errors - one by Jiovanni Mier (his 6th) and two by Jose Altuve (his 4th/5th) led to three unearned runs.

GCL Astros
The Gastros got absolutely smoked yesterday, losing 15-0 to the GCL Marlins. The Gastros got five hits, and committed six erros in the loss. Euris Quezada dropped to 0-5 despite giving up 2ER in 5IP on 1H/1BB. That means the bullpen took over for 4IP, 11H/13R (11ER). 4th rounder Telvin Nash was 0x4 and is hitting .140 on the season. Good stat, though: Nash is hitting .375 in night games...

And why should they care, really?

Who cares if Chris Carpenter and Roy Oswalt will be pitching against each other tonight? No one at ESPN does, especially when they can bring you the Legendary Matchup of 7-5 Vicente Padilla and his Texas Rangers hosting 1-0 spot-starter Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox of Boston?

Wednesday Night Baseball! Catch the Fever!

Just a reminder: Jose de Jesus Ortiz has better access than you

In the previously mentioned bandwagon piece from Jose de Jesus Ortiz, we see this throwaway line, purportedly designed to exemplify the unity of this team:

Still, with a rotation that many so-called baseball experts ridiculed, the Astros are on a roll. These players have a ton of pride, and you can bet that many of them are playing with chips on their shoulders, including Miguel Tejada and Ivan Rodriguez.

Tejada and Rodriguez don't want to get traded, which is why they often ask me what I'm hearing.

So just to be clear: When Miggs and Pudge need information, they go to Jose de Jesus Ortiz. Not you.

Major outbreak of Belief sweeping through the clubhouse

Pudge started the love-fest:
I see something very special in this team, which, to be honest, reminds me of '03."

2003 would be the year the Marlins finished the year 57-32 and won the World Series.

Then Tejada got in on it:
“I think we have the same energy and the same belief as when I played for Oakland. It happened last year, and I hope we can do it again this year.”

Levine notes that Oakland won 102 games in 2002, and went 63-18 in the second half.

Then Richard Justice does his thing:
Do you believe in them yet? It’s getting harder and harder not to. This isn’t about last month or next month. Good teams focus on now.

And rounding out the impressive Quad, JJO jumps on:
Could the 2009 Astros be destined for something special? I believe so. I think they might. Think about it for a second. They've dealt with everything short of death this season, yet they've survived and are now just two games away from the NL Central-leading Cardinals.

Berkman will take his time with this calf injury, thank you

Lance isn't going to rush back from this Grade 2 strain of his calf:

"If this is the playoffs or the World Series, which, given the opponent and our standings, I feel like it's kind of a playoff-type game, I would certainly be in there.

Ed Wade:
The reality is this is July, and there's a possibility that he could aggravate it and be out for an extended period of time. So if the choice is take a couple more days and let him get back to 100 percent, then that would be the appropriate thing to do.”

Zachary Levine is quick to point out that Berkman's calf strain isn't as bad as Valverde's was, where it cost him 41 games. Berkman is expected to be out 2-3 more games, but available in a pinch-hit role.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Recap for G94 - Cardinals @ Astros

Be honest. You were nervous, weren't you? I know I was. Despite the Cardinals scoring 5 runs in the top of the 8th, thankfully a half inning after the Astros got five of their own, and made sure they won this series with an 11-6 win. Wandy got his 10th win, tying a career-high, by the way.

Wandy: 7IP, 4H/1ER, 5K:0BB, 20/26 First-pitch strikes, 31/71 non-contact strikes (23 called:8 swinging)
Paronto: 0.1IP, 3H/4ER, 0K:1BB, 4/5 FPS, 3/14 NCS (1c:2s)
Wright: 0.2IP, 1H/1ER, 2/3 FPS, 2/7 NCS (1c:1s)
Arias: 1IP, 0H/0ER, 1/3 FPS, 0/3 NCS

Hmmm. Welcome to Houston, Chad Paronto. He and Wesley Wright will again be teammates, but in Round Rock, if they keep that up. After Wandy held the Cardinals' offense down for seven innings, needing 104 pitches to run through 21 batters, they needed 34 pitches to get through the 8th, and made it more interesting than was called for. Arias needed just six pitches to finish it off in the 9th, and there you have it. Wandy only got to a 3-ball count four times - two of those were hits, and one of those was DeRosa's homer in the second that gave the Cardinals the briefest of leads.

Because the offense had it going. The Cardinals had a 1-0 lead for half an inning. Pitching with the lead, he got Lee to strike out swinging, walked Blum on four pitches, and gave up a Hunter Pence homer to left. Tejada singled in Bourn - who had previously singled and stolen 2nd; Chris Coste, starting in place of Lance, got himself an RBI double in the 4th; Tejada again singled in Bourn in the 5th. Then you had the 7th. PJ Walters gave up a double to Wandy (!), walked Bourn, Matsui sac'ed the runners over, intentionally walked Tejada (?), and gave up a granny to Lee and a homer to Blum consecutively.

This isn't a place where we question the wisdom of another team's manager, and far be it from me to question future Hall-of-Famer Tony LaRussa. I guess he was playing for the double play by walking Tejada. Tejada was also, at this point in the game, 2x3 with 2RBI. Lee was 0x3 with 2K. So I guess it makes sense, but I also remember last night, when Carlos Lee hit a 3-run homer. So what are you gonna do? Tejada would go on to hit a sac fly scoring Q in the 8th. The 3-4-5-6 of Tejada-Lee-Blum-Pence was 6x13 with 3 homers, 6 runs and 10 RBI.

Man of the Match: Even though Wandy made it 18+ scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 2.72, this one is going to Miguel Tejada. 3RBI on the night, including accounting for two of the first five runs of the game, really getting it going after Pence's 2-run shot.

Goat of the Game: I really don't want to give a Goat to a guy making his first appearance of the season. But that's exactly what I'm going to do. Chad Paronto, bring your 108.01 ERA down! The only out he recorded still scored a run for the Cardinals and made a laugher not so funny.

Update on Berkman's calf

From McTaggart:

Berkman diagnosed with Grade 2 strain of left calf muscle and will be rested for two to three days. He is available to pinch hit.

Grade 2? Huh?

Well, let's look:
Grade 1: Minor degree of microscopic tearing with no permanent defect
Grade 2: Incomplete disruption of muscle fibers, which is also called a partial tear
Grade 3: Complete rupture of muscle, with nearly complete or complete loss of muscle function

And this site says a Grade 2 strain means...
between 10 to 50% of the muscle fibers are torn. While the muscle is not completely ruptured, grade 2 muscle strains are still serious and will take time to heal.

There you have it (quiet sobbing).

Lineup for G94 - Cardinals @ Astros

Courtesy Astros Blast and Fox Sports Midwest:

1. Bourn
2. Tejada
3. Berkman
4. Lee
5. Blum
6. Pence
7. Matsui
8. Quintero
9. Rodriguez

St. Louis
1. Schumaker 2B
2. Stavinoha LF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Ludwick RF
5. DeRosa 3B
6. Rasmus CF
7. Larue C,
8. Wellemeyer P
9. Ryan SS

Matchup for G94 - Cardinals @ Astros

Astros get a surprising win last night, and a favorable matchup tonight in the Sixth Annual Second-Half Race for the Playoffs...

Wandy Rodriguez
Wandy has allowed one earned run in his last three starts, totalling 22IP, and has 0ER in his last 17IP. Yep, that's an 0.41 ERA.

Wandy has pitched against the Cardinals this season, in G6 @ St Louis, and threw 6IP, 5H/3ER, 4K:3BB, and of course getting the loss in a 3-0 defeat.

Last three starts:

7/2 @SD77/15:211/10108/70
7/8 vPIT95/011:110/9125/85
7/16 @LAD65/06:27/9108/68

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 88x342, .257/.325/.401, 86K:33BB
vs Lefties: 21x96, .219/.286/.323, 26K:9BB

When swinging at the first pitch (43): .395/.395/.535, 4XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (247): .197/.238/.266, 75K:11BB
After First-Pitch Balls (198): .283/.396/.506, 37K:31BB

RISP: 26x98, .265/.327/.378, 26K:9BB
Runners on: 48x173, .277/.349/.370, 39K:18BB
2OwRISP: 13x49, .265/.345/.388, 15K:5BB

Todd Wellemeyer

Wellemeyer comes in to this game 7-7, but with a Moehlerian 5.56 ERA and is basically pitching for his job. He has 64Ks:47BBs in 100.1IP, and has given up 13 homers so far this season. Wellemeyer threw a quality start on July 2, but that was his first one since May 22 vs Kansas City - a span of seven starts.

Last three starts:

7/2 vSF7.17/26:16/1599/65
7/8 @MIL47/43:48/685/52
7/12 @CHC0.11/0 (3R)0:21/112/2

Wellemeyer was used in relief that last time out - hence the weird stats...

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 69x232, .297/.384/.435, 42K:31BB
vs Lefties: 57x163, .350/.406/.546, 22K:16BB

When swinging at the first pitch (55): .373/.365/.490, 3XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (215): .228/.259/.366, 48K:6BB
After First-Pitch Balls (184): .430/.554/.641, 16K:41BB

RISP: 33x98, .337/.414/.510, 18K:14BB
Runners on: 63x185, .341/.405/.530, 29K:20BB
2OwRISP: 18x50, .360/.458/.620, 7K:9BB

Questioning the "overall weakness" of the NL Central

I'm getting pretty sick and tired of "major" media outlets comparing the NL Central to the retirement home's bowling league. ESPN and Baseball Prospectus both had pieces about the Cubs today questioning the competitiveness of the NL Central (basic gist: "The Cubs suck, yet are still 2GB"). So I did some looking...

The NL Central, outside of the division, but within the NL, has a winning percentage of .517 (109-102).

The NL East? .462 (90-105)
The NL West? .522 (95-87)

Or how about the American League, again: outside the division but within the League?

AL East: .525 (105-95)
AL Central: .428 (89-109)
AL West: .528 (94-84)

So basically we see the breakdown as follows, in order of winning percentage:
AL West: .528
AL East: .525
NL West: .522
NL Central: .517
NL East: .462
AL Central: .428

So we see from here that the NL Central is 4th among the six divisions in winning percentage outside the division, but still well above .500. The weakest division? Looks from here to be the AL Central, trailing the NL East. But don't tell ESPN, they won't like that.

I will say this: If you think this is flawed, let me know why, and we'll rework it. I don't want to be accused of using numbers to suit my own purposes...

The Astros didn't beat the Cardinals...

Minute Maid Park did. A couple of phrases, taken from Derrick Goold's G93 recap: rally was all the Cardinals' lineup could muster against Houston starter Brian Moehler and the odd dimensions of Minute Maid Park.

Cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick hit a blast that would have cleared the wall in most National League ballparks. But at Minute Maid, with its pinball influences, the ball was tracked down by center fielder Michael Bourn...


Levine's profile on C-Lo

Off-season signee Chia-Jen Lo has been off to a great start, rising to Corpus Christi in half a season, but Levine points out that he is too reliant on his fastball.

“In Lancaster, the coaches told me to get my fastball under better control with location. But now, when I came up here and can control the fastball, they want me to work on my breaking ball so I can have more weapons."

Pounding fastballs doesn't always work. Ricky Bennett:
“That's something we're trying to get him to work on. (His breaking ball) is a plus pitch. He just doesn't have complete confidence in throwing it when he should. That's part of his development; he can't just continue to pump fastballs. He can get away with it in A ball and AA, but when he gets to the big leagues, he's going to have to be able to throw the breaking ball over for strikes in any count.”

Eddie's Farm: July 20

2-5 night for Eddie's Farm with wins from Round Rock and Lexington.

Round Rock
The Express broke out the bats, hitting three homers (Yordany, Bogusevic, Manzella), defeating Albuquerque 9-2 last night. Bogusevic's 3-run shot capped a 3RBI, 3x5 night, while Jason Smith, Chris Johnson, and Brian Esposito each had multi-hit games. Yordany's HR was a 2-runner, and Manzella's was a 3-run homer. That means eight of the nine Express runs came on homers. Yorman Bazardo threw 7IP, 5H/1ER, 4K:4BB for the win, and Brocail threw a perfect inning with a K in his first rehab assignment since being injured in Atlanta.

The Hooks were the victims of a walkoff at the hands of Midland. After tying the game with two runs in the 8th, Midland's Matthew Spencer scored Josh Horton for a 5-4 win. Jhon Florentino committed an error, allowing Joshua Horton to reach 2nd in what seems like could have been a double play. But he did commit that error, and Ryan McKeller was saddled with an unearned run, and the loss. Even so, the 3-4-5 of Locke, Castro, and Van Ostrand were 6x12 with 3RBI (all JVO's). Andy Van Hekken threw 6IP, 7H/3ER.

Stockton rode a 5-run 5th, followed by a 3-run 6th to ride out an 11-6 win over Lancaster. Jemile Weeks, younger brother of Rickie Weeks, was 5x6. Stockton got 10 extra-base hits off the JetHawks' pitchers. Jon Gaston hit two homers, and Koby Clemens had two hits to account for four of Lancaster's 10 hits. David Flores also hit a 2-run HR. Bryan Hallberg threw 4IP, 10H/6ER, while Ashton Mowdy threw 2.1IP, 6H/3ER, and Chris Salamida allowed 2ER in 2.2IP.

Lexington got three runs in the top of the 11th to defeat Lakewood 5-2. Brian Pellegrini and Eric Suttle had four of the Legends' seven hits. Michael Diaz' two-run single in the 11th, followed by Ebert Rosario's sac fly sealed the win. Brad Dydalewicz threw 7.1IP, 4H/2ER, 7K:3BB, Kyle Godfrey threw 2.1IP of scoreless relief, and Pat Urckfitz threw 1.1IP for the win.

The Auburn Doubledays beat Tri-City 9-3 to extend the ValleyCats' losing streak to five games. They're now 4-16 in July, thanks to a three-game sweep of State College. Brandon Wikoff and J.D. Martinez had two hits each, while Nick Stanley and Rene Garcia provided the only other hits. Martinez hit a three-run homer in the 8th for all the ValleyCats' runs. And it was a rough night for the pitching staff. Zach Grimmett threw 5.2IP, 7H/4ER; Antonio Noguera threw 1IP, 2H/2ER, and Scott Migl gave up 3ER in 2.1IP.

Greeneville scored a run in the bottom of the 1st, but that was it as they lost to Kingsport 4-1. Jose Altuve hit a leadoff homer for the run, and Ryan Humphrey provided the only other hit in the loss. Greeneville has lost six straight. Kingsport retired 15 straight between Altuve's homer, followed by Hogue's HBP, and Ryan Humphrey's 6th inning single. Carlos Quevedo threw 5IP, 2H/1R (0ER), and Joan Belliard got the loss with 1.1IP, 1H/2ER, 0K:1BB. Nathan Pettus and Dan Sarisky threw 2.2IP of 3H/1R (0ER), 3K:0BB relief.

GCL Astros
And the GCL Astros completed the day with a 6-3 loss to the GCL Nationals. Pedro Feliz (not that one) was 2x4 with an RBI, and Kody Hinze got the only XBH with a double. It got away from SP Ricardo Batista with 3IP, 5H/5ER, but Rafael Pio and Carlos Gil threw 5IP, combining for 2H/1ER, 5K:0BB.

Pudge changes his number to make it easier for everyone to see

Not kidding.

Pudge changed his number to 77 for last night's game, after wearing 7 for most of his career.

That's my number. I've used that number all my career. I respect I cannot wear No. 7 here because (Craig) Biggio retired the jersey. But it's always a good thing to have two sevens instead of one. You can see seven from the left and seven from the right. You don't have to turn too much. Just seven all over the place.”

Chris Sampson, with his sore neck, is grateful.

Lance Berkman = Willis Reed

"It feels terrible. But like I told Ed Wade, ‘If I don't play when I've got bumps and bruises, I won't play many games.' They tried to take me out of the game in the first inning, but I wouldn't come out.”

Berkman will have an MRI today on his calf to see if there is a chance of doing long-term damage by continuing to play on it, but he is expected to stay off the DL. And then it all comes back around to the Founding Fathers:

If I can go, I'm going to go. It's the legacy Bagwell and Biggio left here. Those two guys played with all kinds of injuries, but if they could walk, they played. When I saw Bagwell in Los Angeles, I thought, ‘Hey, I have to be in there. I don't want to let him down.'”

In other notes, Darin Erstad is on the DL, but probably won't notice much different:
"In my role, it's not like I'm playing every day anyway. Just to be able to pinch hit, I just can't imagine that it won't be ready in two weeks."

Recap for G93 - Cardinals at Astros

Well, well, well. Brian Moehler comes through with 6+ good innings, Berkman comes through with one good calf, and Carlos Lee comes through with one good swing of the bat, and the Astros take the opener of this important series, 3-2.

All the scoring came in the 4th inning. Moehler didn't allow a hit until the 3rd, when he got a groundball with two on and two out. In the 4th, Moehler got Pujols to groundout leading off the inning, then three straight hits - Ludwick single, Ankiel ground-rule double, and Molina single scoring Ludwick and Ankiel. And I bet you were all thinking, "Uh-oh."

In the bottom half of the inning, Tejada reached on an infield single, Berkman drew a walk. The Astros were just 1x3 with RISP, but the one was a big one: Carlos Lee deposited a homer in left field, and that was all that was necessary.

Coop said he wouldn't let Pujols beat them, and that's exactly what happened. Pujols came up in the top of the 5th with two out and Schumaker on 2nd. Moehler gave him the IBB, and Ludwick flied out to end the inning.

Moehler: 6.1IP, 6H/2ER, 5K:2BB, 15/27 first-pitch strikes, 24/64 non-contact strikes (16 called:8 swinging)
Wright: 0.1IP, 1/1 FPS, 0/1 NCS (1 pitch, 1 out)
Fulchino: 0.1IP, 1/1 FPS, 1/2 NCS (1 swinging)
LaHawk: 1IP, 2H/0ER, 1K, 2/4 FPS, 4/12 NCS (1c:3s)
Valverde: 1IP, 1H, 1K, 2/3 FPS, 5/8 NCS (3c:2s)

LaHawk got himself into a little bit of trouble in the 8th. Ryan Ludwick struck out swinging, but LaHawk's pitch got away from Pudge and he was safe at first. That was followed by an Ankiel single, so two on and one out in a one-run game. Yadier Molina up, already with 2RBI, but he grounds into a double play, inning over.

But the big story is how the Astros kept Pujols in check. Four at-bats, two ABs where he led off the inning, and he was walked the only time he was up with a runner on base.

Offensively, we've pretty much already taken care of it. The Astros only had five hits, three of them for extras with doubles by Berkman and Pudge, and Lee's homer. Michael Bourn was again 0x4, and he has 4 hits in his last 22 ABs.

Man of the Match: This is tough, because Lee and Moehler are equally deserving, but this one goes to Carlos Lee. One swing of the bat took care of all the offense needed for the win.

Goat of the Game: Back to Michael Bourn. 0x4, 2Ks, and ended the inning twice.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Berkman in lineup

Word from @brianmctaggart that Berkman is in the lineup tonight, hitting third. And Matsui is in the lineup, hitting 8th.

Astros County's Q&A with C70 at the Bat

Earlier today I posted five questions/answers with C70 at the Bat. This afternoon, they posted their questions with Astros Coutny's answers.

Go check it out. Give 'em some love. Friends close, enemies closer, etc...

Completely out-of-context headline, Vol. 1

From Discover Magazine:

Toilet on ISS Goes Awry, Leaving 13 Astros Using 1 Backup

St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Q&A with Lance

First we find out Miguel Tejada sings Toby Keith. Now we find out that Lance has "Material Girl" on his iPod. While we're sharing guilty pleasures, I might as well list George Michael as mine...

An excerpt:
What is a memorable Christmas or holiday gift you received?
-I got a .22 rifle one Christmas that was pretty nice. Bolt-action .22 to varmint hunt with.

The word or phrase you use too often is …

There it is - Erstad to DL

Alyson Footer just tweeted:

Astros place Erstad on DL; recall Matt Kata from Triple-A Round Rock.

That's the great thing about Round Rock - you might get sent down, but sooner or later (but most likely sooner) someone's gonna get hurt, and you're staying in the Four Seasons.

Matchup for G93 - Cardinals @ Astros

Three game set with the Cardinals at Minute Maid Park - first time all season the Cardinals have been in Houston, where last season the Cardinals were 4-5. The Astros come in 46-46, 4GB of St. Louis (so this is a big series), have won 6 of their last 10, and 14 of their last 22 overall. The Cardinals come into this series having just taken two of three from the Dia'n'back', but who are 12-13 in their last 25 games. To kick it off, the Astros will send Brian Moehler (imagine the fading kazoo here) to the mound.

Brian Moehler
Moehler has thrown quality starts in five of his last six starts, a span that has seen his ERA drop from 6.95 to 5.08. He was on pace to get a QS in the one game that wasn't, but was pulled after errors stopped his progress, and he had thrown 92 pitches in 5IP. In those six starts since giving up 5ER in 3IP against the Cubs, Moehler has thrown 35.2IP, 29H/11ER, 22K:13BB, 2.78 ERA, and opponents hitting .218/.293/.444 off him.

Last three starts:

7/1 @SD64/18:45/9115/74
7/7 vPIT6.13/34:210/886/55
7/12 vWAS6.17/02:213/10103/64

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 55x141, .390/.430/.695, 19K:8BB
vs Lefties: 38x178, .213/.284/.365, 32K:17BB

When swinging at the first pitch (42): .450/.463/.800, 8XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (173): .278/.316/.500, 34K:8BB
After First-Pitch Balls (137): .256/.353/.427, 17K:17BB

RISP: 24x85, .282/.361/.447, 13K:11BB
Runners on: 41x142, .289/.354/.472, 21K:14BB
2OwRISP: 7x37, .189/.250/.270, 8K:3BB

Kyle Lohse

And Kyle Lohse will be starting for the Cardinals! Lohse has been dealing with injuries this season, making just one start between May 23 and July 12, and he got the loss at Wrigley in his first start back.

Last start:

7/12 @CHC58/42:38/1396/60

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 36x128, .281/.324/.438, 23K:6BB
vs Lefties: 25x107, .234/.320/.439, 18K:13BB

When swinging at the first pitch (34): .387/.406/.581, 4XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (124): .237/.266/.424, 25K:3BB
After First-Pitch Balls (102): .244/.363/.407, 16K:16BB

RISP: 13x48, .271/.368/.563, 6K:7BB
Runners on: 24x81, .296/.396/.568, 15K:12BB
2OwRISP: 4x24, .167/.259/.333, 4K:3BB

Transactions of note

A couple of things to note:

J.R. Towles was placed on bereavement leave, which led to Brian Esposito's assignment to Round Rock from Corpus, and Jordan Comadena's assignment to Corpus from Lancaster.

And there's an odd note for today:
Eli Iorg assigned to Round Rock Express from Tri-City ValleyCats.

This is on the heels of Saturday's note that Iorg was released. We'll see if he has been resigned, or what the heck happened.

McTaggart blogs Wade's trade thoughts

And he does it here. Some nuggets:

-Astros general manager Ed Wade reiterated his stance Saturday that he doesn't see his club making an impact trade before the July 31 deadline. Wade said the Astros don't want to give up prospects and aren't in position to add salary.

"We'll have conversations with clubs. I just don't want to raise (undue) expectations that we're going to really be active at the trading deadline because that's not going to be the case. We're not going to be in a position to make a deal of significance. We've talked about where our payroll is at this point in time and we're going to be very reluctant to give up a lot of young players. But we'll continue to have conversations if there's ways to improve. A year ago at this time we had a real pressing need for starting pitching and bullpen help and we went out and got Wolf and Hawkins. The way Roy and Wandy are pitching at the top of the rotation and the way the other three guys have gotten us deep enough into games, puts us in a position where we're not in dire need to go out and add starting pitching."

Sanity, is that you?

Previewing St Louis @ Houston with C70 at the Bat

Cardinals series time, and Astros County traded questions with C70 At The Bat on the upcoming series. I asked five questions, C70 asked five questions. Here are C70's, and I'll get the link to AC's answers later today.

Astros County: Seeing as how the Cubs just swept the Nationals, ESPN is anointing the Cubs as being "back." Of course. What is it going to take for the Cardinals to hold off the Cubs/Brewers/Astros for the division?
C70 at the Bat: I do worry about the Cubs somewhat, if only because as a Cardinal fan, you hate to lose to them. I'd much rather see them closer to Pittsburgh than St. Louis. That said, with Ryan Ludwick starting to find his bat, the Cards are in better shape than they were earlier in the year. Getting a boost out of Troy Glaus or Khalil Greene, both at AA right at the moment on rehab assignments, would help a lot as well. The Cards also need a better fifth starter, as Todd Wellemeyer has been erratic, but mainly bad.

AC: The Cardinals have been linked to Roy Halladay, where the word was "give Toronto the minor-league rosters and let them circle five names." How does the Cards' fan base view trading away five prospects for Halladay?
C70: It's an interesting question. Many people don't necessarily want to see a farm system that right now is just starting to come into its own to be ravished for Halladay, but it seems to me that a lot of people, and I'd lump myself into this group, are willing to give up Brett Wallace (the top prospect in the system) and 2-3 others for an ace pitcher that would be under control for a year and a half. The Cardinal farm system has gotten to where a deal like this would hurt, but wouldn't destroy it. All that said, I'd be surprised if it happened or if Halladay was traded at all.

AC: The Astros have a reputation as being a second-half team. Does that concern Cardinals fans?
C70: The focus has been so much on the Brewers and Cubs this year (added to the fact that the Cards haven't seen the Astros since, what, April?) that I think Houston is a little bit under the Cardinals radar. The longer they hang around, though, the more nervous Redbird fans will probably be.

AC: What has been the most surprising aspect of 2009 for Cardinals fans?
C70: Interesting question. There are a number of them. Skip Schumaker has played a tolerable second base, or at least at a better level than many expected. Colby Rasmus has started to blossom, though that really wasn't a surprise. On the downside, Rick Ankiel and, until recently, Ryan Ludwick were nowhere close to their 2008 forms. I guess probably the biggest surprise is that the Cards are still in first, even with the offensive struggles of the first half.

AC: When is Mozeliak going to stop screwing around and just give Pujols his $300 million?
C70: It's not completely on Mozeliak. While there is some caution in the front office, trying to get a read on what they should pay Pujols, a lot of the hesitation is coming from his side. The feeling is he wants to see if this is going to be a contending team for the future and that management isn't going to gut the team to pay him. I think that's one of the biggest reasons they are seriously considering Halladay. I feel like AP will eventually sign with the Cards at less than people think he would be worth, but it may be as late as November 2010.

Olney turns his attention to Houston

Taking note of Houston's record in the last 44 games: 27-17 (can you believe that?), Buster Olney goes to Roy Oswalt to find out how come the Astros have a history of being a second-half team:

"I think it's because we've got older players. Young guys don't know how long the season is. They might figure there's no way to catch up. But older guys know that all it takes is a good run, winning 10 out of 14, and you're right back in it."

And why did it take 40 games for the Astros' starters to start getting it together (with the exception of Wandy, of course)? It was the signing of Pudge:
"That's a big thing, because there is a different way of playing in the two leagues. Over there, you see a lot of off-speed stuff, and the National League is more of a fastball league. You get ahead in the count 0-2 in the AL and you're going to see a lot of off-speed stuff, but over here, you see pitchers challenge the hitters more. We're just learning each other. People don't have a real understanding of how important the relationship is between a pitcher and a catcher. Every pitcher pitches different, and he had to learn all that. A pitcher might throw four pitches, but he might have two go-to pitches, and (the catcher) has to learn that."

Eddie's Farm: July 19

Round Rock
Big day for a lot of Express players as Round Rock defeats Oklahoma City 7-4. 15 hits on the day, including 4x5 days from Manzella and Gall, and 3x4 from Yordany. Manzella hit his 21st double and 5th homer of the year. Bud Norris got his 4th win of the year, going 8IP, 10H/4ER, 1K:1BB, and raising his ERA to 2.61. Daigle got his 2nd save.

Frisco got out to a 6-2 lead after two innings and rode it out to defeat Corpus 9-6. The Hooks enjoyed just five hits, three of them extra-base hits, and one of those Drew Locke's 13th homer of the season. Sergio Perez didn't make it out of the 2nd, going 1IP, 4H/4ER (6 total), 1K:4BB. Lumsden pitched in with 2IP, 2H/3ER, 1K:2BB. Erick Abreu threw 5IP in relief of 1H/0ER, 2K:1BB.

A 4-run 7th was what it took to provide the difference in Lancaster's 11-8 loss to Stockton. There were multi-hit games from Clemens (3x5), Shuck (2x5), Gaston (2x5), and Weston (2x5). Gaston hit his 23rd homer of the season, and Weston and Clemens - who also had three RBI - had doubles. Shane Wolf had a rough time, going 5.2IP, 10H/6ER (7 total), 2K:1BB. Chris Salamida gave up 2ER in 0.2IP, and Jack Tilghman gave up 2ER without recording an out.

After giving up four runs in the bottom of the 5th, Lexington stormed back to get four of their own in the top of the 6th, but it just wasn't enough as Lakewood defeated Lexington 6-5. Two hits each from Eric Suttle and Steve Brown paced the offense, but it was Brown's 2 RBI (and Jorge De Leon's RBI) that provided the run scoring. Jordan Lyles threw 4IP, 6H/5ER, 3K:6BB, and Brian Wabick got in 3IP, 3H/1ER, 1K:2BB.

Batavia got a run in the bottom of the 9th, and that's all they needed as Tri-City lost 1-0. The ValleyCats only got four hits (Kemp, Wikoff, Goebbert, Gonzalez), and Goebbert's double was the only one for extras. Dallas Keuchel extended his scoreless streak with 5IP, 2H/0ER, and again didn't walk a batter, but striking out four. Mike Modica had the hard-luck loss with 3IP, 3H/1R (0ER), 3K.

Kingsport whooped up on Greenevillle in a 13-4 win. Jose Altuve was 2x5 with 2 doubles, and Grant Hogue was 2x3 with 2RBI. Luis Cruz gave up 8ER in 5.2IP, Jeiler Castillo gave up 3ER in 0.2IP, and David Martinez gave up 0ER in 2.2IP (but 2R total).

The Meat Wagon has a few passengers to pick up...

Big series beginning tonight, and the Astros could be without 1B1 and 1B2.

Lance will ask to have tests run on his strained left calf today in Houston:
"I would imagine if it doesn't improve by (today) that we'll get at least some kind of a test done on it. They haven't told me that, but I'm going to request it. If it doesn't start feeling better, I want to know what's going on.”

Yeah...but...uh, it's the Cardinals:
"Cardinals or not, they're paying me a lot of money to play. So as soon as I think I can get out there I'm going to get out there. Certainly that's an important series for us, and I'd like to be able to play.”

And it looks even more likely that Darin Erstad is heading to the DL. Ed Wade:
"We talked (Saturday) night after the game and asked him to be candid with us. If he thinks it's something that's going to linger, let's shut him down. He understands that. His strength was good. His range of motion was good. He had gone about 10 days where I think he had one pinch hit appearance in 10 days before he played the other day. For it to reoccur, you just have to monitor it and ask him to be upfront with us if we think it's something that's going to linger. Obviously (trainer) Nate (Lucero) will give us his feedback as well.”

Maybe if Berkman was 100%, Erstad would get a chance to stay off the DL, but with both options at first base (not counting Chris Coste) hobbled, I'm guessing Erstad goes to the DL, and Matt Kata rejoins the team. Could be totally wrong, though.

In other news, Brocail will begin his rehab assignment tonight in Round Rock, and Kaz Matsui was out of the lineup so he could rest a sore hamstring, as well.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recap for G92 - Astros @ Dodgers

Of course. After giving Arias the Man of the Match, he goes and nuts it with two errors, and had it not been for Coste's scoop, could have been three, in a 4-3 loss. But the heartbreaker here is that the Astros should have come away taking three of four from the Dodgers in LA, and that would have been quite a feat, and it would have been a clutch win with the Cubs and Cardinals both winning today. Let's do the thing:

Ortiz: 6IP, 5H/2ER, 4K:2BB, 10/24 first-pitch strikes, 21/64 non-contact strikes (15 called:6 swinging)
Arias: 1IP, 1H/1ER, 1BB, 4/7 FPS, 4/12 NCS (4c:0s)
LaHawk: 1IP, 2H/1ER, 1/4 FPS, 2/13 NCS (2c:0s)

In three of Ortiz' six innings, the leadoff batter got on base - twice on walks. and it's worth noting that the Dodgers only had six instances, in 150 total pitches, in which they swung and missed the ball completely. This is also the second game in a row in which a pitcher has made a costly error that didn't show up in the box score. Arias' earned run streak is now at 22.1IP, though it's not as fun to keep track of any more after nutting a catch and a throw consecutively.

Brad Ausmus had two RBI doubles that brought the score from 3-0 to 3-2. And LaHawk gave up a big ol' homer to Matt Kemp to put the Dodgers ahead 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th. Broxton didn't have the same problems today that he had last night, getting 2Ks in a perfect 9th.

Offensively, Bourn was der partistarter, reaching on an error in the first and doubling (later scoring in the 3rd). The third is where all the magic happened, with Bourn's leadoff double, Keppinger popped out, Tejada lined out. Lee singled, and Blum homered to account for all three runs - all with two outs. The Astros were 2x12 with RISP, and left nine on base.

Man of the Match: Geoff Blum. 1x2 with 2RBI and 2 walks.

Goat of the Game: Sorry, Alberto.

Erstad likely to DL with preposterous grammar

There's a chance, and it's one I'm holding out for, that he was misquoted. But after Erstad aggravated his hammy running to first in the 8th, Erstad had this to say:

"It doesn't feel pretty good. We'll see. It got it pretty good."

First of all, that is a ridiculous thing to say. Second of all because Sunday's game has a 3:05pm start time, the Astros won't be able to bring anyone up, so he'll probably go on the DL on Monday. Will Matt Kata be rejoining the Astros, as Erstad primarily plays first base? Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion...

Eli Iorg cut

Cap Tip to Zachary Levine to getting this:

2005 first-round pick Eli Iorg has been released by the Astros. He hit .209 in Round Rock, spent some time raking in Tri-City in a rehab assignment, and has been released.

So note to self, Astros: don't go on rehab assignments, you'll only get cut.

Paronto up

Predictably, Chad Paronto is happy to not be in Round Rock.

“I'm very glad. Obviously the only reason I play is to be here. We'll see what happens. I'll take the ball whenever they give it to me. I'll try to pitch well and make it a tough decision when it comes to decision-making time.”

"He's always had pretty good command. He's been primarily a one-inning guy down there. But we know he can pitch more than one (inning) because he did that for us last year. He can be anywhere from the third or fourth inning of the game to all the way to probably the sixth inning of the game. It could be one inning or two innings. It could be situational. It just depends.”


We also see that Lee is still hurting from fouling a pitch off the inside of his knee. The trainer had him wear a wrap overnight on Friday, and he was back in the lineup to start last night.

Recap for G91 - Astros @ Dodgers

Booo. The Astros didn't do much with the chances they had, and lost out on the calls on a couple of close plays, in their first loss of the second half - to the Dodgers 5-2.

Hampton was shaky early, and was stupid once, which led to his getting pulled after 5.2IP. Here's how ESPN described Hampton's error:
Mark Loretta, who came in 16-for-44 lifetime against Hampton, hit an RBI single to left that drove in Blake on a close play.

When Hampton got the ball back from catcher Humberto Quintero, the frustrated 15-year veteran tried to slam it into his glove and missed -- forcing Hampton to retrieve it near the first base dugout as Kemp scored the fifth run. At that point, Cooper replaced Hampton.

Wow. The Dodgers scored three runs in the 6th, extending their lead to 5-0 at that point.

Hampton: 5.2IP, 7H/4ER (though the 5th was on his error), 4K:2BB, 18/24 first-pitch strikes, 22/57 non-contact strikes (19 called:3 swinging)
Fulchino: 1.1IP, 0H/0ER, 2/4 FPS, 4/8 NCS (3c:1s)
Wright: 0IP, 1H/0ER, 1/1 FPS, 1/3 NCS (1c)
Arias: 1IP, 0H/0ER, 2K, 3/3 FPS, 7/10 NCS (5c:2s)

By all accounts, Hampton should have had a good game. 18 of the first 24 batters he faced got first-pitch strikes. 8 ground balls and 4 fly ball outs. 92 pitches in almost six innings. But he didn't. Which shows the limitation of statistics. Sometimes the other team hits the snot out of the ball, no matter what you throw.

Arias has now thrown 21.1 consecutive scoreless IPs.

Offensively - nothing doing against Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw's line:
7IP, 2H/0ER, 5K:1BB. However, once Kershaw left, things got interesting. James McDonald came in and immediately gave up a double to Chris Coste, who advanced to third on a wild pitch. Michaels singled in Coste, and then scored on a Juan Pierror (ha!). Bourn ran for Michaels, stole second, advanced to third on Matsui's out, and Keppinger grounded out to end the inning...or did he? Replays showed that Keppinger beat the tag, and that would have made the game 5-3, and Coop was ejected arguing the call.

In the 9th, it was pretty much all on the Astros. With Broxton pitching...

Tejada walked
Lee reached on an infield single
Pence struck out swinging
Coste struck out swinging
Berkman walked
So the bases are loaded, and Pudge is up, gets ahead of Broxton 2-0, takes the third pitch for strike one, fouls off the fourth pitch for strike two, and swings through the 5th pitch. Game over.

Coste had the only extra-base hit. The five Astros hits were scattered among five Astros. While it was an anemic offensive performance, one out of three is to be expected, especially when you're facing Wolf, Billingsley, and Kershaw in LA.

Man of the Match: Alberto Arias. 21.1 consecutive scoreless IPs.

Goat of the Game: This one goes to Pence. 0x4 with 3K, and 3LOBs. But Hampton was a deserving candidate...