End of the phase?
Taylor Buchholz’s stellar performance today, earning the first complete game shutout by an Astros pitcher since Kirk Saarloos back in July 25, 2002; was a superb ending for the first three games of the Lone Star Series between Astros and Rangers this season; undoubtedly it became a sample of Houston’s strengths and weaknesses.
On Friday Roy Oswalt gave up three runs scattered in six innings and a third; and an offensive reaction was needed. It finally came in the eighth, sparked by a three-run double from Adam Everett. Brad Lidge had the chance to return to the closer’s sole; and despite the fact a Gary Matthews, Jr. lead-off single was a prelude of trouble once again for the battered pitcher, consecutive strikeouts to Michael Young and Mark Teixeira and a pop-up from Hank Blalock indicated that Lidge was once again in his game. The final was 5-3 Astros.
The next evening became a new struggle for Andy Pettitte, who hasn’t been able to return to his top form. While Kevin Millwood tied the Astros offense up, Pettitte had to deal with full bases in every inning, for a total of 5 runs conceded in 6 frames. Millwood and relievers Ron Mahey and C.J. Wilson combined for a shutout and a 6-0 score. Millwood never let an Astro runner past first base.
On Sunday it could have been just enough to calm any anxiety, seeing Buchholz shaking off his recent funk, getting the shutout and only giving up six hits for a 5-0 final. Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane provided the powder with a pair of two-run homers in the sixth and eighth frames.
"If we come out of it and play good ball, we’ll call it a phase," Phil Garner told mlb.com. "If we can’t do better than this, then I hesitate to go where that will lead us. But we certainly haven’t played sound defense, we haven’t really hit the ball and we haven’t pitched well.
We hope this is the end of such a phase. It will be tough to prove it, though; with road stops in Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and St. Louis. (Yup, the Cardinals).