added 4/26/2004 by Willie B. Lakey
Sometimes the baseball gods giveth, and sometimes they taketh away. But this last week, it seemed at times more like the Astros were willing to giveth yet unwilling to taketh.
Houston played the part of generous hosts to the Cardinals to open the week, returning the sweep the Astros managed on the road the week before in St. Louis and slamming on the brakes to what had been one of the team’s best starts. Some of the blame for those three losses has to go to the Cardinals lineup that includes the likes of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria and Reggie Sanders.
But the inability to win at least one of those games at home against the Cardinals, especially the series finale, and the inability to sweep the series in Colorado, that culpability falls on the Astros’ bats. Nothing against Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan and Joe Kennedy: all three are pretty good hurlers and probably real nice guys. But even if the opposition has Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and three more Hall of Famers scheduled against you during a six-game stretch in the hitter-friendly Houston and Colorado environs, there’s really no excuse for any offense to go moody on you.
Even the greatest of hitters have will tell you that the art of hitting a baseball is a streaky and inexact undertaking. And just as I mentioned it was still very early in the season last week when things were going well; it bears repeating that there is still a whole lot of baseball left after things didn’t go too well the past seven days. Maybe we should look back at this little dip in the path as just that -- a small dip on the way to the playoffs.
As much publicity as the pitching staff enjoyed entering this season, the offense still has to produce the runs in the other half of the game. If this team is really going to take the Houston franchise to the next level, the bats and gloves simply can’t waste solid outings by the arms like they did on two occasions this week.
FOR THE WEEK: The Astros had Monday off before taking three marks in the Loss column at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. Reggie Sanders homered and then robbed Jeff Bagwell of a long ball in Tuesday’s 5-3 Cards win in Houston. Sanders homered again on Wednesday as part of a 5-HR St. Louis onslaught in the Cards’ 12-6 victory. And Astros bats wasted a great pitching performance by Roy Oswalt in the series finale on Thursday as St. Louis nipped Houston 2-1 in 12 innings for the return sweep.
The Astros then took off for the thin air of Colorado and a 3-game set against the Rockies. Houston halted their mini-skid with a 13-7 thumping thanks in large part to Mike Lamb’s career-high six RBI. Lamb contributed four of Houston’s 11 hits on the evening, including a double and a triple. Brad Lidge closed the game out by striking out the last four Colorado hitters.
Roger Clemens picked up his fourth win in as many starts in an 8-5 Astros triumph on Saturday. Clemens allowed nine hits in just less than six innings of work, including three homers. But the Rocket also contributed a key 2-run single in Houston’s big 5-run third inning to help make up for what was his worst outing so far in an Astros jersey. Dan Miceli provided some very strong relief before Octavio Dotel closed things out for his second save of the young season.
Lefty Joe Kennedy baffled Astros bats in the Sunday finale in a 4-1 Rockies win. Houston starter Wade Miller was almost equal to the Kennedy’s effort in a rare Coors Field pitchers’ duel.
INJURY REPORT: Andy Pettitte tossed five innings in a rehab outing over in Florida on Friday, and all signs pointed to him being ready to come off the DL next week. The Deer Park southpaw gave up just three hits while striking out seven, and unless something drastic changes, Pettitte should get the nod to start next Thursday’s game versus the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
Jeff Kent missed the final two games in Colorado with a right quad injury that is considered minor. He should be ready for the series in Pittsburgh beginning Tuesday.
The only other injury news is that I believe I’m having Bagwell sympathy pains in my right shoulder. A few scoops of Blue Bell each evening is helping, but not much.
STAR OF THE WEEK: I was all ready to give it to Brad Lidge by himself until he imploded on Sunday to wrap up the week. So I’m giving it to the entire bullpen instead. The group made 20 relief appearances in the six games last week, allowing earned runs in only three of the calls from the pen. Granted, those three bad appearances surrendered nine earned runs to the enemy ledgers. But the relief corps did have to work almost 22 of the 56 innings the team pitched last week, striking out 24 and walking just 12. Besides, when you go 2-4 on the week, sometimes you have to dig to come up with something positive.
CH-CH-CHANGES: Houston started and stopped the week with the same 25-man roster.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU: Former and present Astros celebrating birthdays this next week include:
Mon (Apr 26): Leon McFadden, INF-OF (born 1944, Little Rock, AR; with Houston 1969-71) *** Michael W. “Mike” Scott, RHP (born 1955, Santa Monica, CA; with Houston 1983-91, one of the franchise’s top players) *** Stephen P. Lombardozzi, INF (born 1960, Malden, MA; with Houston 1989-90) *** Geoffrey E. Blum, INF (born 1973, Redwood City, CA; with Houston 2002-03, currently with Tampa Bay)
Tue (Apr 27): Raul A. “Tony” Eusebio, C (born 1967, San Jose de los Llanos, DR; with Houston 1991, 1994-2001; last Astros player to homer in the Astrodome during the final game of the 1999 playoff series loss to Atlanta)
Wed (Apr 28): John G. “Jackie” Brandt, OF-INF (born 1934, Omaha, NE; with Houston in 1967, final 41 games of his career)
Thu (Apr 29): Ronald Washington, INF (born 1952, New Orleans, LA; with Houston 1989, final 7 games of his career; best known for being called upon to pinch-run for Cal Ripken on May 28, 1988, ending Ripken’s record 8.243 consecutive innings played streak) *** Michael R. “Louie” Meadows, OF (born 1961, Maysville, NC; with Houston 1986, 1988-90) *** Charles G. “J.R.” Phillips, 1B-OF (born 1970, West Covina, CA; with Houston 1997-98)
Fri (Apr 30): Michael R. Barlow, RHP (born 1948, Stamford, NY; with Houston 1976) *** Philip M. Garner, INF (born 1949, Jefferson City, TN; with Houston 1981-87; went on to be part of Art Howe’s coaching staff with Houston before managing the Brewers and Tigers)
Sun (May 02): Edward F. "Eddie" Bressoud, INF (born 1932, Los Angeles, CA; Never played a game in a Houston uniform, but in many ways he is the original Colt 45 when Houston made the then-Giants infielder their top pick in the 1961 expansion draft before dealing him to Boston for SS Don Buddin) *** Patty May Caggiano, Fan (1956, Long Island, NY)
NEXT VICTIMS: Houston opens the week taking Monday off before traveling to Pittsburgh for a 3-game series against the Pirates (Apr 27-29). The Astros then return to Houston for a 7-game homestand that begins next Friday. First up are the Reds for a 4-game set (Apr 30-May 03), followed by the Pirates (May 04-06) for a 3-game series.
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