What a week it has been for the Houston Astros. Last Thursday, "Mr. Astro" Craig Biggio became only the 27th player in major league history to collect 3000 hits. Craig did it in typical Biggio style too–trying to stretch a single out to a double. He was called out at 2nd base and since he made the 3rd out of the inning, it was the perfect time to stop the game and honor his accomplishment as his sons and then his teammates and wife and daughter all mugged him and congratulated him.
Always a class act, Biggio went to the dugout where Jeff Bagwell was waiting to congratulate him. Instead of being satisfied with his long time teammate’s congrats, Biggio dragged Bagwell out on the field, inside the lines and let the Houston fans cheer the two faces of the Astros franchise–Bagwell and Biggio.
As if having Biggio reach 3000 hits wasn’t enough, Carlos Lee topped off the night with a walkoff grand slam against Colorado closer Brian Fuentes. Not wanting to disappoint the fans on Friday night who had hoped they would be the ones at the game to see history in the making, Mark Loretta made it exciting by hitting the second consecutive walk off homer off Fuentes. That was the first time in the Astros 45 year history that the club had back to back walk off homers.
Saturday night brought Colorado’s first win of the series with Jason Jennings being the victim of no run support against the Rockies pitcher Francis. Sunday afternoon no one expected much out of Wandy Rodriguez, but he shut out the Rockies and for a change, the Astros scored 12 runs to give Wandy only his 5th win this season. To be fair, Wandy has pitched great at home this year and he too was a victim of little or no run support.
On Monday, it was the battle of the old timers–Woody Williams against Philadelphia’s Jaime Moyer. Moyer has been the better pitcher this year between the two and I fully expected him to win. However, Woody threw one of the best games of the year and the Astros managed to score enough runs to stave off a late inning meltdown by the bullpen and get Woody his 4th win of the year.
Roy Oswalt was expected to pitch great and win the game against Adam Eaton. Alas, Oswalt didn’t have his best outing, giving up 4 runs to the Phillies. For once, a bad call in the bottom of the ninth inning with 2 outs went for the Astros as Carlos Lee was called safe at 1st base, allowing Craig Biggio to score the tying run. It was definitely the week for walk off homers as Hunter Pence sent the Astros fans home happy with the game’s only homer in the 13th inning.
On Wedsneday, the Astros had a chance to sweep the Phillies but All Star Cole Hammels was outstanding. He didn’t come close to no-hitting the Astros as he did in 2006, but, he was on his game and the Astros lost 3-8. Chris Sampson who has been great most of the year had his second bad outing against the Phillies and gave up 4 home runs. The bullpen didn’t help matters by giving up 4 more runs putting the game out of reach.
Thursday’s matchup was expected to be tough and it was. Jennings once again got little run support. He was also not very sharp in this outing, giving up 5 runs in 6 innings. The Astros squandered the few chances they had against the Mets’ John Maine who was brilliant against the Astros once again. The fans at Minute Maid Park still haven’t forgiven Carlos Beltran for choosing New York over Houston in January 2005 as they booed him at every at bat. Carlos finally got his revenge though as he belted out a Crawford Box special in the 9th inning off reliever Dave Borkowski. The only real bright spot of this game for the Astros was that the recently promoted Matt Albers had his second scoreless outing coming out of the bullpen.
I must say, I was really surprised when Morgan Ensberg pinch hit for Mike Lamb in the bottom of the 8th. Even though Ensberg had been 2-2 in his career against Pedro Feliciano, it was a bad move because Ensberg can’t hit the broad side of a barn this year and as expected, struck out to end the inning and quelch the rally started by Biggio’s double and kept alive with Lee’s double and Lorreta’s RBI single. Even if you’re playing the odds because lefties are hitting only .106 against Feliciano, I’d have put Burke in there who can at least put the ball in play.
The Astros odds of winning against the Mets get considerably better starting tomorrow as Wandy Rodriguez faces 0-6 Mike Pelfrey. The key for Wandy will be to control his emotions and pitch his game. Of course, the Astros will need to provide him some run support and hopefully guys like Lee, Loretta and Pence who haven’t been tainted by the "deer in the headlights" syndrome as many of the longer time Astros hitters have will be able to spark rallies to score enough runs to beat Pelfrey and the Mets.