April 2007

Happy to be here

Captbceff604a5b542849dd9804368fa39bfbrewAnd with plenty of reason for that. Hunter Pence has received an eagerly-awaited promotion to the Majors, and now most eyes are on him. So far, the kid has not disappointed. He shot his first Major League hit on a sellout game this Saturday; going 1-for-3. On Sunday, he went 2-for-4.

But one guy does not make a team alone. And the Astros need plenty of hitting such as Pence’s to avoid things such as Woody Williams losing and not showing a win yet for the season, despite having a solid start, with 5 hits and 3 runs allowed in 6 frames. Roy Oswalt can tell you he’s had more than just one start wasted due to this offensive drought.

In today’s defeat Vs. Milwaukee, which ended 3-1 (the only run being produced by a Mike Lamb PH homer), the Astros left 13 men stranded.

So we don’t know for real who the 2007 Astros are: Are they the club which shot 13 hits and scored 10 runs on Saturday? Or is it the the Sunday version, the one being most recurrent these days; having a lot of trouble trying to get their runners at least advancing closer to home.

Bringing Pence up is a welcome first step on the right direction, but there’s a long way to go.

Well…

ASTROS PURCHASE CONTRACT OF PENCE

Randolph designated for assignment

 

HOUSTON,
TX \u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003c/b\>\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\” face\u003d\”Arial\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial\”\>? The\nHouston Astros announced following tonight?s game that the club has\npurchased the contract of outfielder Hunter Pence from Triple A Round Rock. The\nAstros also designated left-hander Stephen Randolph for assignment. The\nannouncement was made by General Manager Tim Purpura.\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003c/p\>\n\n\u003cp\>\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\” face\u003d\”Arial\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial\”\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003c/p\>\n\n\u003cp\>\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\” face\u003d\”Arial\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial\”\>Pence, 24, is appearing in the Major Leagues for the first\ntime in his career. He hit .341 (29×85) with three home runs, 10 doubles and 19\nRBI in 22 games for the Express. Pence played in 19 Spring Training games for the\nAstros this March, hitting .571 (16×28) with two homers and nine RBI. A\nsecond-round selection by the Astros in 2004, Pence earned Texas League\nAll-Star honors in 2006, batting .283 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI at Double A\nCorpus Christi.\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003c/p\>\n\n\u003cp\>\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\” face\u003d\”Arial\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial\”\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003c/p\>\n\n\u003cp\>\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\” face\u003d\”Arial\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial\”\>Randolph\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\” face\u003d\”Arial\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial\”\>, 32, appeared for the Astros in two\ngames this season, logging a 9.00 ERA (1ER/1IP) in two relief\nappearances. In five games for Round Rock this year, he is 2-0 with an\n0.84 ERA (1ER/12.1IP), walking one and striking out 18.\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003c/p\>\n\n\u003cp\>\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\” face\u003d\”Arial\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial\”\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003c/p\>\n\n\u003cp align\u003d\”center\” style\u003d\”text-align:center\”\>\u003cb\>\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\” face\u003d\”Arial\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial;font-weight:bold\”\>?\nASTROS ?\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003c/b\>\u003c/p\>\n\n\u003cp\>\u003cfont size\u003d\”2\” face\u003d\”Times New Roman\”\>\u003cspan style\u003d\”font-size:10.0pt\”\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/font\>\u003c/p\>\n\n\u003c/div\>\n\n\u003c/div\>\n\n\n”,0]
);

UNLOCK TABLES;

–//–> 
? The
–Houston Astros announced following tonight?s game that the club has
–purchased the contract of outfielder Hunter Pence from Triple A Round Rock. The
–Astros also designated left-hander Stephen Randolph for assignment. The
–announcement was made by General Manager Tim Purpura.


 


Pence, 24, is appearing in the Major Leagues for the first
–time in his career. He hit .341 (29×85) with three home runs, 10 doubles and 19
–RBI in 22 games for the Express. Pence played in 19 Spring Training games for the
–Astros this March, hitting .571 (16×28) with two homers and nine RBI. A
–second-round selection by the Astros in 2004, Pence earned Texas League
–All-Star honors in 2006, batting .283 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI at Double A
–Corpus Christi.


 


Randolph, 32, appeared for the Astros in two
–games this season, logging a 9.00 ERA (1ER/1IP) in two relief
–appearances.  In five games for Round Rock this year, he is 2-0 with an
–0.84 ERA (1ER/12.1IP), walking one and striking out 18.


 

Escape from PNC Park

Capt191a27ae93dd45f7a658aeb79b2cbdd1astrWhere do we start? This has been a series in which Astros bats went AWOL, pitching had both sublime and ridiculous moments, sometimes even some of both at the same game; and stranding men on base was turned into an art form. The Astros left 13 men on base today.

And when suddenly, an usually erratic Wandy Rodriguez starts to pitch in an efficient fashion, Houston gives up to the rule of a Tony Armas with a bloated 11.57 ERA.

The Astros stand at six straight losses now; they will try to turn their odd luck around against the Brewers at Minute Maid. There was a remarkable lack of clutch, and we don’t know what happened to that team which started a winning streak that was stopped cold at Milwaukee.

Will there be any moves? Tim Purpura has resources, and he knows he has a certain amount of pieces he can deal with. It might be too soon but, let’s face it, if this pace (or lack thereof) keeps on going, there will be plenty of people on the hot seat.

Tell me why

Capt205372615a744148a3e4ad96aa79f5a9astrThis series against the Brewers has been interesting, to say the least. Last night, Craig Biggio jacks a Grand Slam and gives Houston their advantage for a win against Milwaukee.
However, Brad Lidge appears at the ninth frame with a somewhat comfortable advantage, and walks become his cross to bear. Phil Garner tried, we think, to put him yet again in a final inning situation to set him loose; the fact is there’s something (we don’t know what yet) that doesn’t allow Lidge to feel good with himself when handling the ninth. What is it? We’ll wait and see. Just don’t put him in there for the 9th yet.

Tonight, things were a bit different. The Astros tried to stage a late-inning comeback but they came up short. J.J. Hardy homered twice and maybe because of that, Carlos Lee stares at his image. The Astros winning streak stops at 5 games, and thinking of it, that’s not bad at all, most especially for a ballclub used to early slumps and is going to play most of its April games away from Minute Maid Park.

Oh, put me in Coach

Captb1b96cd189fd47a0bd122688da1a0acfastrIf there’s something the Astros have shown us these days, is the many resources they have in order to get the job done.

On Wednesday, Jason Lane came off the shadows, and on Thursday, Luke Scott threatened to keep on his torrid pace from last season, jacking a homer in a 2-for-3 evening for him, complete with a double and 4 RBI. Scott was undoubtedly the big factor for Houston’s victory over the Reds 8-6.

This outfield depth sometimes might even be creepy. This competition (involuntary or not) for keeping themselves on the starting lineup is amazing. Just look at what happened during the 2-game Cincy series. Jason Lane has 9 driven in and 4 homers and is not an everyday starter. Just yet.

Things are such that people are not really concerned (hey, it’s still early and plenty to go, so no reason to panic over here) over the fact that Lance Berkman is batting .213 and has only hit a dinger.

Turning things around

Capt08966c8a7be546128b96761472e1bd5castrWhat a great night to be a baseball fan: John Maine flirted with a no-hitter. Mark Buerhle tossed one. I don’t have in my immediate memory (I’m still a young guy, methinks) another evening like this one, in which two pitchers were so close to get that amazing feat, practically at the same time.

Meanwhile, back at Cincinnati, the Astros proved themselves they can turn things around, and in what a fashion. Last night’s 7-2 win was a demonstration of how Phil Garner can move his pieces and you cannot stand still looking for results.

Mike Lamb and Jason Lane are not precisely everyday starters, however, they were included in last night’s lineup, and they were, alongside pinch-hitter extraordinaire Orlando Palmeiro, the ones who brought in the runs for the Astros, driving in runs and getting the job done.

And that’s even better since, if that late reaction didn’t happen, a great pitching outing by Chris Sampson (7 IP, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO) would have gone to waste.

By the way, the Astros are over .500.

How far is heaven

Capta0aa10d5b4e4497d9583e5f6044107edmarlIt was a bit hard for the Astros to get that victory against the Marlins in the first game of this current mini-homestand. After the huge lack of control shown by Florida starter Anibal Sanchez, who had a hard time finding the strike zone, walking 6 in 5 innings. Houston left 13 men stranded for the whole game, against 7 for the Marlins.

Wandy Rodriguez was more efficient than his rival, though. He got 1 run, 3 walks and fanned 5 off 6 innings tossed. But how hard it was for the Astros to get that definitive advantage, which they finally got with a bases-loaded single by Morgan Ensberg on the bottom of the 9th for a final of 4-3.

It was a nice, entertaining ballgame indeed, not boring at all and keeping tension throughout the whole nine frames; but we can’t deny it was somewhat irritating to see how the Astros could produce so little with so many possibilities thrown at them. The Marlins released the leash just enough so they could regain control in the end. Until it was no longer possible, when the Astros loaded the bags.

Tomorrow it’s the final game of this mini-series. Sounds like a nice game to watch.

What diet is he on?

Capt2c52e08979f5475d84122649cfc97d64astrWhen you get to see a ballplayer doing something similar to what Carlos Lee did tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies, you usually say "I want to eat the same thing he’s had". Considering that Panama-born Lee had been under a revised regime in order to shed off the extra pounds, we can only say we’d love to do the same diet he is on.

Lee has shown a lot of pop so far; but this night it was too much: three homers, including a grand slam, for 6 runs batted in; making the difference for a Houston win over Philly 9-6. It was undoubtedly the force needed to keep the ship sailing through after a not-so-hot night for Roy Oswalt.

Probably was the unforgiving weather, cold and chilly; but Oswalt wasn’t as his best: he allowed 6 runs off 6 innings tossed. However, the bullpen was at its best: Brad Lidge (yes, you read right, Brad Lidge), Rick White, Trever Miller, Chad Qualls and the new closer Dan Wheeler combined for nothing but zeros on the scoreboard during their respective outings.

Educating Brad

Capt32951160e46c41c998dd42bdf4caf92ecardYou saw it coming: Dan Wheller is the new Astros closer. Brad Lidge will have a new role on the Astros bullpen; and this is all about giving him more chances to improve his current situation.

We wrote an article on astrosdehouston.com about all of this. It will be posted soon. This will give him a chance to recover, first and foremost, his faith in himself; and to extend his pitching repertoire to a point. That’s the key to any pitcher’s survival, and Lidge is not the exception.

Now it’s Wheeler’s turn at closer. Something quite predictable, and now we’ll see the results; at least he got his first save, in a game in which Houston shout doubles everywhere.

The powder sometimes is late in making combustion; but it always explodes in the end.

Friday Night Frights

It was a short but heartfelt tribute for Jeff Bagwell. Now we cant wait until August when we’ll see his number retired; no one can argue against the merits for that.

However… We’ll leave you with these short tips: There are only two men batting over .300 at the Astros right now; Luke Scott and Adam Everett. One of them, as you can see, is the starting shortstop.

6 men are left on base off 7 hits. Carlos Lee is picking up the pace a bit slowly: he drove in a run tonight via a flyout; going 1-for-3 with a run scored.

It’s still early… But we all remember how winning early can get you a long way later in the season.