Results tagged ‘ Cubs ’

Days like this

bud-norris.jpgSome days are good, others are not that good. That’s how things are for your Houston Astros. On one hand, they stil have a shot on the NL Central pennant race. The Stros have won 5 of their last 10 contests, and now they are three and a half games behind the Cardinals. Sadly, there are situations like yesterday’s 12-0 blowout courtesy of their closest rival, the Chicao Cubs. With a result such as this one, any symptom of optimism might go down the drain.

It’s true that it’s a bit hard to figure out how the Good Guys can pull it off with performances such as that of Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton. Now, to top it all off, Lance Berkman is on the DL and we don’t know for certain if Roy Oswalt will join those ranks as well. He is waiting to see how he reacts to an injection for his back injection. He still doesn’t even know whether he’ll pitch or not this Sunday.

Key moments, no doubt. They are in the midst of series against their closest divisional rivals up to August 9. Of course that, if we look a bit closer, there are still reasons for excitement. Since May 29, the Astros have surpassed their Divisional opponents 12-6.

Some might even call it “Second-half syndrome”. It has hit Houston for as long as I can remember. From May 30, the Astros have a 32-21 record, jumping from being 9-1/2 games out to the current 3-1/2 game distance.

Can they keep on climbing? That’s the question.

Despite injuries, many key stars producing offensively are still there. That’s the case with Miguel Tejada. But, even with people such as Carlos Lee cranking up the heat (.323 BA in July), this game is still about Pitching.

That’s where doubts abound. Ortiz and Hampton show  us, that they seem not to have what it takes for the time being.

The Astros are forced to play a major card, due to Oswalt’s back issue. The organization’s second best prospect has appeared for the first time in the Major Leagues.

Bud Norris left everyone with a good taste, proving that he might be as good as advertised. His smoking fastball (93-95 MPH), and despite some moments in which he let nerves take over him (as it should be. He’s human after all), he kept his poise during practically his whole outing.

So what will happen next with this pitching staff with their good and bad days? Can Ortiz and Hampton justify themselves? Will Norris stay and live up to the hype? Will this be the end of injuries and pain for Oswalt?

After all, it isn’t the end of the world. Look toward Queens and then we’ll talk.

They need to move on. Now.

capt.495d10655e9040b3abd9f7728ee9d7d0.astros_cubs_baseball_widh109.jpgFirst of all, please don’t think I didn’t want to write while the Astros were on a roll. Time was short, duties were plenty. The Astros were breaking through, or arrasando, like the jingle from the Spanish radio network says. Ty Wigginton was smashing the ball, Lance Berkman followed suit. Wandy Rodriguez was pitching beautifully.

Things are rather different today. When things were looking great, and the Wild Card was so close you could almost taste it, everything started to complicate.

I should put things into its proper context. What comes next should be inferred and read as my personal opinion, and nothing else. And I think those living in Houston, or with relatives and friends living there, will know what I’m talking about.

Hurricane Ike was something that really got all of us in our toes. We all had to be cautious, take emergency measures. This weekend was a very trying moment for all of us. Many people could not get in touch with each other. Friends, family, you name it. Try contacting anyone living in Houston if you are abroad. Initially was a nightmare. Many of our usual readers cannot get in touch with us because they have no power and they will have to wait for days until they get it back.

And I won’t even talk about those living or with relatives in the Galveston area.

Many Astros players had no idea of the whereabouts of many loved ones before flying to Milwaukee. Could their minds be set for playing baseball? Hardly. We know they are professional players, but they’re no robots either. And you and I have seen all throughout this season is that they have a lot of heart for dealing with obstacles.

But this was something definitely bigger than anything else they have ever faced. I don’t know how they could have taken their minds off Ike and into baseball. Your correspondent had a very hard time trying to do just that. Tired, burned out and with a lot of things in their minds, Astros players went to Miller Park. Many did not know what had happened to those close to them. And they had to play ball.

What did they find? Carlos Zambrano pitching at the top of his game, no-hit the ‘Stros, something quite noteworthy and remarkable nonetheless. After that, they found a Ted Lilly who also tied them up at ease. Off to Miami. Roy Oswalt, who had been Mr. Consistency itself, wasn’t consistent at all.

Getting the Wild Card spot is not impossible after this, but it is a lot harder than it was on Saturday. I can’t blame the players, I really can’t. I don’t want to point fingers at anyone. I don’t know if this was the best alternative in dealing with the logistical nightmare that represents rescheduling a MLB game. I don’t know if they could have waited 24 more hours.

All I know that today the Astros have to avoid demoralizing themselves, by all means possible. They have a lot of heart to overcome this. Time, well, that’s another story.

After Ike

As we all know by now, Hurricane Ike left a terrible mark on the Houston Area. Despite the fact damages are less than originally expected, they’re important enough so they’re changing everyone’s plans substantially. Most areas are without electric power, authorities are advising residents to boil water. Debris and broken glasses are everywhere to be found in the Downtown area, that’s why authorities advise people not to go to that area until further notice.

Minute Maid Park was especially built for resisting severe weather. I’m pleased to say that it performed beautifully under those conditions. Astros Business President Pam Gardner told media that the ballpark had only minor damages but none to the building’s core and structure.

This is pleasant to know not just because of the fact baseball can be played there as soon as conditions on the surrounding areas allow it, but because many Astros employees spent the night in the ballpark looking to stay safe under Hurricane Ike. Some others were with their families at their residences. To all of them my word of appreciation and my thoughts and prayers are with them at all times.

Despite the fact Minute Maid Park is almost on top-notch condition, this is not the only requirement for baseball to be reassumed. That’s why Major League Baseball and the Astros were looking for alternatives so they can play the crucial series against the Chicago Cubs. Because holding a sporting event in Downtown Houston is almost a ludicrous thought at the moment, and the threat to fans’ safety, two games will be played at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. Those games will be held Sunday and Monday. The final game would be played only if it has playoff implications.

Fans with tickets to those games are advised to keep them until the Astros inform of ways how those tickets can be reimbursed.

Personally, and despite the fact the Astros are in the midst of a wild and exciting Wild Card race, my mind has been a bit away from baseball, concerned with the fate of all my friends and coworkers in Houston. I hope we can meet again at Minute Maid Park very, very soon.

Leaving Arlington

capt.b42d556d1fcf4e58ad729af687f49d2c.astros_rangers_baseball_arl107.jpgThese have been some very good days to keep an eye on your Astros, haven’t they? Many things are floating around our heads after this final game against the Rangers:

– It looks like the Rangers will always pound the Astros no matter what. It was different today, though. It was to be expected to see one or two losses in a row for the ‘Stros after this latest roll. We don’t think losing will become a new pattern in the near future.

– Lance Berkman, Lance Berkman, Lance Berkman. He finished this game very near the .400 mark (just one tiny point). This run by the Houston first baseman has been unbelievable. He has always been a top-notch ballplayer, but what he’s done these past few days defies description. It’s a 17-game hitting streak now, folks. You’ll see something we wrote on him very soon at Cronicas de los Astros, the Spanish-language official magazine.

– We hope Roy Oswalt’s pain is not an indication of anything too big. Oswalt has been a factor of stability among a very shaky starting rotation. And there are a few days left for Wandy’s return.

– Josť Valverde has picked up the pace. Thank God. This team is not Berkman alone, they have  “a truck full of lumber” as they say where I come from. But the pitching is always a reason for concern.

– Some interesting series we have coming up. Astros, Cubs, a division rivalry, Berkman on fire. What else can you ask for? The Juicebox should be packed.