Monday, May 24, 2010

Jose Lima's Five Greatest Games as an Astro

Jose Lima was 46-42 in 4+ seasons with the Astros, with a 4.77 ERA/1.33 WHIP. He went 21-10 for the '99 Astros, with a career-best 3.58 ERA, finishing 4th in the Cy Young voting - behind Randy Johnson, teammate Mike Hampton, and Kevin Millwood.

In the wake of the news of Jose Lima's passing yesterday, let's look at the five greatest games Lima pitched as an Astro.

#5: August 1, 1998

Astros at Pirates. Lima allows a Collier double to left, scoring Jose Guillen and giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Jason Schmidt strikes out and Tony Womack pops up to end the inning. Derek Bell drives in Biggio to tie it up in the 5th, and Lima gets the next eleven batters to throw a complete game, 5H/1ER, 10K:1BB performance. Ricky Gutierrez draws a bases loaded walk in the 8th to give Lima the CG win.

#4: August 16, 1999

Brewers at Astros. It didn't start out so well. Lima walked two batters in the first inning before getting Geoff Jenkins to strikeout swinging on four pitches, but after allowing a leadoff single to catcher Dave Nilsson, Lima got 15 consecutive batters before walking Rich Becker and turning it over to Billy Wagner with a 2-0 lead, who preserved the win (striking out the side on 10 pitches). Lima's line: 8IP, 2H/0ER, 4K:3BB.

#3: June 6, 1998

Royals at Astros. With the Cubs having already defeated the White Sox in inter-league play, the Astros needed a win to get back to a tie for first in the NL Central, and Lima came out dealing. He got the first seven Royal batters, and an inning-ending double play to face the minimum through three. Lima drew a one-out walk, and Biggio brought him in with a homer to left to give him a 2-0 lead. Lima scattered five hits and a walk over the complete game shutout and threw 90 of his 127 pitches for strikes.

#2: October 2, 1999

Dodgers at Astros. The Reds and Astros were tied going into G161 at 95-65. The Reds and Brewers played at 12:15pm, the Astros at 3:05. The Astros would have known that the Brewers put up seven runs on Juan Guzman in the 3rd inning, and needed a strong performance from Lima. So Lima comes out and gives up a leadoff single to Eric Young, and walks Todd Hollandsworth - but gets Eric Karros to strikeout swinging and end the inning. Lima got the next eight straight - striking out four in a row at one point. Lima and Chan-Ho Park traded zeroes until Biggio hit a leadoff first-pitch homer in the 6th to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Lima got two outs in the 8th before giving up a single to Hollandsworth, and with Karros on deck, Lima was lifted for Wagner. The Astros got a second run in the 8th. Lima got his 21st win and Wagner his 39th save.

#1: May 16, 2001

Astros at Cubs. I was a big U2 fan, and had a buddy in college who bought and sold tickets for a broker in Austin and got screwed by Ticketmaster. So he comes to me and asks if I can go to Chicago to see U2 the Tuesday after finals. I sold two guitars to pay for the trip, and we took off. In every state we bought a food that was appropriate to that state. Pork Rinds in Arkansas. In Tennessee I had Red Man and almost got hit by a semi, causing me to swallow my dip and puke down the side of my car at 70mph. I got buzzed at the Jim Beam Distillery in Kentucky. In Chicago, we had front-row seats to U2 and the show was incredible.

In the hotel after the concert, we watched SportsCenter and saw that Sammy Sosa had hit his 399th career homer that night against the Astros. So we spent the last of our money on left field bleacher seats for the following game. We got there two hours early, and Jose Lima was shagging flies in left field in front of us having pitched the night before. Wearing our Astros jerseys, we yelled, "Lima Time!" Lima turns around, looks at us and yells, "You wearing an Astros shirt in the bleachers at Wrigley Field! You gonna get your ass kicked, man!"

Sosa hit his 400th career HR to right field off Shane Reynolds. We ran out of money, and went to a riverboat casino in Joliet, and in 15 minutes turned our last $15 into $225, slept in the parking lot of a Methodist church, and drove back to Texas.

My point is this, and it sounds like we all have a story like this: my favorite memory of Jose Lima wasn't him winning a game. It was him interacting with me, an Astros fan at Wrigley. I had never been talked to by a player from the field, and I will - obviously - never forget that.