Tagged: Roy Oswalt

Written on the Wall

capt.10d8eb787e204194a62600edfd3dcda4.astros_cubs_baseball_cxc104.jpgBefore today’s game on this very blog, we were wondering about the possible fate for Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz. We knew that the upcoming matchup for today would be hard, in the final episode of a crucial series against the Chicago Cubs, which we hope doesn’t come back to haunt the Astros at season’s end.

Hampton had a not-quite-flattering start and Ortiz, sadly, followed suit with yet another terrible start. The numbers kept on piling up, beyond 9 earned runs in 2.1 innings this Thursday.

It was much more than that. It was his 0-5 record in his last 10 outings, a 12.23 ERA in July. It was seeing that, in those few occasions in which Ortiz could do the job, needed a huge amount of pitches.

So Ed Wade had to pull the trigger. There wasn’t much to do. Ortiz was placed on waivers on an unconditional release.

We regret to see Ortiz leaving by the backdoor. He had a chance, and he worked trying to get his career back on track. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

This is the first step in trying to correct the strange case of a rotation in which the glass is either half full or half empty and there are no in-betweens. We go from the sublime with Wandy Rodriguez (10-6, 2.65) and Roy Oswalt (6-4, 3.61) to… the not that good with Brian Moehler (7-6, 5.16), Hampton (6-8, 5.36) and Ortiz himself (3-5, 4.75).

With a rotation with problems such as these, and a bullpen which has to keep on adding mileage because of so many iffy starts, so the winning path can look as quite dark and winding.

Does Bud Norris have what it takes? He does have a fastball. You saw it yesterday in his brief stint against the Cubs. He got his dream now and he is part of a Major League pitching rotation. The case is that now, he’ll have to prove every five days, that he indeed has what it takes. It’s time for definitions.

Definitions for Norris. And for the rest of the starters. Houston tries to stabilize a situation which, even with Ortiz departing, still looks quite complicated.

House of cards

capt.1f2da73c6ac84036ab6ec27848015afa.astros_padres_baseball_cali101.jpgWhen we started to realize the Astros possibilities on this West Coast roadtrip, we saw they weren’t so bad. But this start has been good enough, all the better to forget the frustrating Sunday loss against Detroit. Many agree with us that it was the saddest lost this year (which is a lot to say if you ask me).

Well, the best thing Houston could do was giving the ball to Roy Oswalt, the reliable one. It’s true this hasn’t been Roy-O’s best year so far, but he’s always a man who inspires respect around him. He dominated the Padres tonight, pitching a complete game (nothing amazing, he’s an innings-eating hurler), fanning eight and taking his fourth win this year, leveling his record.

An Ivan Rodriguez homer, a Sac-fly by Geoff Blum and a Carlos Lee single drove in the Astros runs, for a team who could beat a weak opponent, offensively speaking. A team which wasn’t able to decipher Oswalt’s delivery.

All of this happened in a day in which the Astros are starting to formalize the end of their relations with Brandon Backe. The Galveston-born pitcher didn’t accept his demotion to the Minor Leagues, so he becomes an unrestricted Free Agent. We hope, and we are sure, he will find a new team very soon. He has the heart for it. He proved it several times here with us.

Mike Hampton is back, so the front office sends Wesley Wright to the Minors, while Cecil Cooper will use a six-man rotation. This is a quite delicate balance, because he now has many pitchers who are doing well. But they also look like a frail house of cards. You don’t dare to take any piece off because it might tumble down.

You can also follow us on the Astros official Spanish-Language site, astrosdehouston.com, in our Spanish blog at lacarreraespacial.mlblogs.com and in our Twitter @rafaelrojasc

A springtime full of questions

jDbGX8bS.jpgWelcome once again to a new season with your Houston Astros. As always, we’ll try to give you information and notes in a different way. There’s one thing which I’m really glad about, and is that I won’t be holding the fort all by myself this time: Besides good friends such as Thomas, Bernardo and other bloggers, we are joined by people who are known by all of you: Alyson Footer, someone who really knows her Astros, and the voice of the Houston Astros in Spanish himself, my good friend Francisco Romero.

So there’ll be a little bit something for everyone this time around.

We saw Roy Oswalt last night in a game which became so painful for us, in which Venezuela was mercilessly pounded by the US offense. Roy O proved himself why he is one of the premiere starters in baseball, and that’s what matters most. He won’t return to Kissimmee just yet; in the meantime Carlos Lee is taking the plane back to Florida after his team Panama’s elimination from the World Baseball Classic.

This is been a Spring Training quite interesting to see. And a hard one as well. We know there isn’t anything more worthless than Grapefruit League scores, but it’s true that it would be so much nicer to see a win every now and then at Osceola County Stadium.

I’m sure Cecil Cooper will try to energize the troops back again to see if bats start swinging the right way and things change a bit. But we know that’s not the main goal.

It’s all about breaking down performances and seeing which players will survive all cuts and stay in the 40-man roster. It’s time to see if prospects (which there are plenty to see) can stay or they could be well-kept in the Minors for a September callup. That’s a positive effect of Tejada, Lee and Oswalt being absent for the WBC if you ask me.

Are there reasons to panic yet? Not quite. Most especially if your main players are somewhere else. But it’s true that, despite we know that is not what it’s all about, a win every now and then would make this spring a bit more joyful.

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.

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.

Closing in on a dilemma

311xInlineGallery.jpgEarly today, everyone who greeted me, called me, even those who sent me SMS or emails, said hi to me with two words.

Josť Valverde.

I believe everyone remembered me about what happened at Philly on Tuesday. A friend of mine said he could only think of my face watching that meltdown. Why describe it, right? The ballgame was going 3-0 Astros. Shawn Chacon pitched one heck of a ballgame. Obviously, Cecil Cooper relied on his closer to finish things off.

But finishing things off was the least thing for Valverde. The Phils took advantage and ended up with a walk-off victory, leaving the ‘Stros looking for answers.

Talk radio was almost explosive today. Many people trying to make sense of what happened. Many will tell you Valverde’s amazing 2007 was a fluke, so he’s returning to his usual, iffy self.

Tonight, Roy Oswalt did what he’s expected of him. Pitched wonders. Cooper went this time with Doug Brocail. A perfect excuse: Valverde threw too much last night, the guy’s arm must be tired. The experiment ended up nicely. Brocail got his first save in approximately 3 years. Astros win.

Tuesday was Valverde’s second blown save this season. Let’s be clear about this. This is just beginning. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played. Valverde will bounce back. I can almost assure you that.

But it is also true that if Valverde keeps on failing, now the Astros have something they haven’t had in ages: Options. Cooper has chips to gamble this time around. That makes me breathe a bit easier tonight.

So bad that talking and worrying so much about Valverde will make us stop thinking about what a great ballplayer Michael Bourn is, and how great starting pitching for this team has become, instead of being that huge burden they were supposed to carry.