Great win for Houston last night over a great San Diego club. Given Houston’s performance against the first-place Yankees and Rangers last month (1-8), I wasn’t too optimistic going into this series, but with Roy pitching tonight, they’ve got a chance to take the first two. That is, if they can solve San Diego ace Mat Latos; the Astros haven’t done so great against opposing aces this year. Regardless, if they can pull off a split of this four-game set, I’ll be pleased.
The Astros ended up splitting the month of June at 14-14. That’s unspectacular for any team, but for a team that was 17 games under .500 by the end of May, to remain 17 games under .500 by the end of June means they’re making progress. Much has been said already about their 12-4 record against NL opponents in June, but unfortunately you can’t selectively ignore portions of the schedule, so the 2-10 in Interleague remains. That 1-8 v. NYY and Texas underscores that these Astros cannot compete with the elite, but I think that their 13-6 record against everybody else reinforces that this club is not as bad as their first two months. They may actually be set up for a pretty good July: after this weekend in San Diego, they’ve got nothing more challenging this month than one series each in Houston against the Cardinals and Reds. Who are virtually tied for first in the NL Central, granted, but the NL Central is baseball’s weakest division this year. And these Astros have already swept St. Louis once. Not that I expect another late season run – I don’t – but I don’t expect these Astros to lose 100 games any more either.
A trade! A trade! Only July 1, and Ed Wade is already dealing! Nothing of nearly the magnitude that we were (and still are) expecting, however – swapping Kevin Cash to the BoSox for AAA SS Angel Sanchez. Sanchez reportedly joined the Astros in San Diego yesterday, which implies that he’s being brought up to the big club, but no corresponding roster move has been announced yet. Zach Levine analyzed the possibilities and concluded that the unlucky victim will be either Pedro Feliz or Oswaldo Navarro, which seems logical. I doubt that Houston is ready to cut Feliz loose yet, though, especially after his recent 3-for-5 game. It’s more likely they’ve decided that Navarro’s .063 batting average isn’t likely to improve much, which is perhaps unfair after only 19 plate appearances. I would rather they give Navarro an extended trial than increase Geoff Blum’s time at shortstop. I believe this move is in response to the same problem I blogged about when discussing Adam Everett: neither Blum nor Navarro is a natural shortshop. Sanchez is, so he figures to be a stopgap until Tommy Manzella is ready to return next month, and unlike Everett, Sanchez can be expected to accept a minor league assignment later on. Cash was not going to make it back to Houston this year, so I like the move.
Tonight’s game will be #81 in the books for 2010. I know it’s been a “long year,” but are we really halfway done already?
It was the kind of play that keeps you watching even after hope is nearly lost. Your team is down in the 9th inning, two outs, and the final batter lofts a fly that’s destined for an opposing glove. For as long as the ball is in the air, you’re thinking, “Drop it! Drop it!”, even though you know that you’re hoping against hope. 99.5% of the time, it’s game over, good guys lose. But it’s that 0.5% chance, a baseball fan’s undying optimism, that keeps you watching.
Thank you, Cristian Guzman. Sorry, Nationals fans.
I think that yesterday afternoon was the first time in my 30 years of watching baseball that the opposing outfielder actually has dropped the ball with two outs in the 9th, allowing my team to go on to win. It’s even more amazing (and ironic) that Carlos Lee got the winning hit, half an inning after Guzman got the coulda-been winner following an equally embarrassing defensive gaffe by Lee. To quote Astros broadcaster Milo Hamilton, it’s why “baseball is the most UN-predictable game in the world.”
Don’t look now, but Houston is 5-4 in their last 9 games. That doesn’t seem like much, but a team that manages to go 5-4 in every 9 games all season will finish with 90 wins. The last-place Astros, believe it or not, have three such 9-game stretches so far this year (two 5-4’s plus a 7-2). The problem is that they only have 3 wins in their other 27 games combined.
For now, the 2010 ‘Stros are still keeping pace with the 2005 World Series team – they matched 15-30 records, and now they’re matched again at 20-34. It’s still unrealistic to make serious comparisons between the two years, but Houston’s bugaboo all year has been the hitless heart of the order. Hunter Pence began turning that around a while ago, and now it looks like Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee are finally following suit. I’d still like to see Pedro Feliz pick it up some more too (or else – Chris Johnson, anyone?), but if the Big Three keep swinging well, these Astros won’t stay in last place for long.