The Astros swept a series for the first time in 2007 when they won all three games against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park this weekend. Great pitching from two of the most unlikely candidates, Wandy Rodriguez and Woody Williams and an offense suddenly come alive gave the Astros a much needed morale boost.
The Astros lost their stellar defensive short stop Adam Everett for 4 to 8 weeks with a fractured right leg when he collided with Carlos Lee trying to field a fly ball in left field on Thursday, June 14th. Eric Bruntlett was recalled from Class AAA Round Rock to fill the roster spot. Manager Phil Garner stated Bruntlett will get quite a few starts at Shortstop as will Mark Loretta. Loretta started two of the three games against the Mariners, with Bruntlett playing the day game on Sunday. Chris Burke may see some playing time at short stop also, but the majority of the playing time will most likely belong to Bruntlett.
Although the defense on the left side of the diamond will suffer with Everett on the DL, it looks like the offensive improvement with Lamb at 3rd base and Loretta at Short is making up for it. In the last three games, the Astros scored 24 runs and only allowed the Mariners 8.
A much tougher test will come starting Monday night as the Astros go on the road to the West Coast and visit the AL West leading Angels. After 3 games in Los Angeles, the Astros conclude their inter-league series with 3 games in Arlington. The Texas Rangers may be one of the worst teams in baseball, but they took 2 of 3 games from the Astros at Minute Maid Park last month. Their return to all NL games begins on the road as they continue on to Milwaukee for a 3 game series with the NL Central leading Brewers.
If the offense keeps producing runs on a nightly basis, the Astros could make some gains against the Brewers and get right back into the NL Central race. The starting pitching seems to have solidified enough to have quality outings again and the bullpen also seems to have righted itself. The key to winning on this road trip will be production from the heavy hitters—Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Luke Scott, and Hunter Pence. If those four guys are hitting at the same time, the Astros will score runs and get back to the winning side of .500 before the All Star Break.
The Astros who didn’t have a draft pick until the 3rd round chose lefty SS/3B Derek Dietrich from St. Ignatius High School out of the Cleveland area. Dietrich was named Rise Magazine’s Ohio Player of the Year for 2006-2007 and was named to the AFLAC All American Team last year. Dietrich’s grandfather Steve Dementer is a former major leaguer who got his start in the Detroit Tigers organization and a retired major league scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dietrich was slated to attend Georgia Tech this fall on a baseball scholarship but may opt to play professional ball instead.
In the 4th round they chose a local kid, right handed pitcher Brett Eibner of The Woodlands High School. Eibner was a right fielder/pitcher in high school and was drafted as a right handed pitcher at #141. Eibner is listed by SEC Baseball as one of the early signees to University of Arkansas, but depending on whether the Astros can sign him, he may be reporting to Greenville for Rookie Ball.
In the 5th and last round for Day 1 of the draft, the Astros chose a Willy Taveras/Josh Anderson clone, speedy centerfielder Collin DeLome from Lamar University. DeLome is a lefty without much pop in his bat. He projects to have below average power, average defense, but good speed and base-running abilities.
All the frustrations of a miserable season so far boiled over tonight for Lance Berkman. He got called out on strikes in the 8th inning and he lost it. He charged the umpire and he got tossed. Taking a cue from Phil Garner, Lance tossed his hat and even a backpack out of the dugout and onto the field. A few minutes later, Manager Phil Garner got himself tossed when Carlos Lee got hit by a pitch and had some words with the Rockies reliever. Garner came out and soon enough, he was tossed too.
As usual, with Garner gone, Cecil Cooper took over as manager and as has been the case most times in the last 3 seasons whenever Cooper is managing the team, the Astros won.
Hopefully this is a repeat of 2004 and 2005 where the Astros were having a terrible slump and controversial calls and fights led to the Astros using it as a turning point in their season. In 2004 it was Oswalt and Barrett getting into a fight in Chicago, in 2005 it was Biggio getting hit by a pitch and then denied first base in San Francisco. Here’s hoping Berkman getting tossed leads to similar results and a return to the playoffs.
Right after Sunday afternoon’s game, the Astros general manager Tim Purpura addressed the media to announce infielder/outfielder Chris Burke had been recalled and outfielder Jason Lane had been optioned to Class AAA Round Rock.
Burke had been hitting .308 for Round Rock in the last 10 days. Jason Lane who was the final out in today’s 10th inning loss against the Cardinals was batting a miserable .165 which led to his demotion.
This move, coupled with Eric Munson’s callup after Friday night’s loss is a start to righting the Astros ship. There are still holes that need to be filled though and dead weight that needs to be thrown overboard.
Orlando Palmeiro, Morgan Ensberg, Brian Moehler and Humberto Quintero are still occupying roster spots on the big league club. Quintero may not have been placed on waivers this past week for fear of the Cardinals picking him up, but, now that they’ve got themselves a backup catcher in Kelly Stinnett, the Astros can relax and send Quintero down to AAA.
Earlier today, Purpura also told Astros radio announcer Milo Hamilton on the weekly chat with the GM that the team is in transition and he’s looking at trades although he doesn’t expect to have any major news until late June or early July on that front. He had alluded to internal moves and we’ve seen the first one made.
The Astros placed RHP Rick White on the 15 day DL again after tonight’s game and called up Catcher Eric Munson. Munson currently has .285 batting average with some pop in his bat. Let’s see if Munson can get any playing time on the big league club. If they just leave him to warm the bench and keep trotting out Mr. No hit and Mr. No more hits in Ausmus and Quintero, they just wasted a roster spot.
The Astros really need to address some problem areas they seem to be turning a blind eye to right now. The "see no evil, hear no evil, read no evil" attitude is really starting to wear thin. Palmeiro, Lane, Ensberg, Everett, Moehler, and Quintero really need to be OFF the club. Bringing in Munson is a start, but only a small one. Burke is apparently injured, but there’s nothing stopping the Astros from bringing up Bruntlett, Saccomanno, Conrad, or Jonathan Ash. None of those guys could do any worse than Lane, Ensberg, Quintero, Palmeiro and Everett have done so far. Let’s see if Conrad or Ash can adapt to playing short. They can’t hit any worse than the WORST offensive player in the MLB today can they? I bet not. As for Saccomanno, I know nobody could be a worse hitting 3rd baseman than Ensberg is right now, so give the kid a chance and save the team nearly $5 mil in dead weight and head case salary.
Trade Lidge while you can in a package to obtain the guy with the longest last name in MLB history from the Braves. The Braves would trade Saltalamacchia for Lidge and Patton or Lidge, Gutierrez and Estrada. Do the deal. Although it would really hurt to lose Patton, gaining Salty would more than make up for it. Once you get Salty, play him 4 days a week and relegate Ausmus to catching Oswalt only if you want this team to have even half a chance at getting to the playoffs again.
Drayton, under your ownership, since 1997, this club has missed the playoffs 2 years in a row ONLY ONCE. Let’s not make it TWICE.
It’s time to light a fire under this team. Ten losses in a row is just one shy of the team’s all time record set in 1995.
In 2005, the Houston Chronicle ran an article on the 1st of June featuring a tombstone and calling the team dead and buried. The team responded with a winning June and going on to duplicate a feat not seen in over 90 years. Before the Astros came back from 15 below .500 to go to the World Series, ONLY the 1914 Boston Braves had accomplished that feat.
It’s time for a similar wake up call for the 2007 Astros, a team having an eerily similar year to the 2005 team. The 2005 Astros went 9-13 in April and 10-19 in May. The 2007 team has gone 10-14 in April and 11-18 so far in May.
More similarities: During Spring Training 2005, a rookie named Luke Scott captured everyone’s attention by having a spectacular spring and made the opening day roster straight from AA. Fast forward to Spring 2007–Hunter Pence dazzled everyone in spring training and spent only one month in AAA before being called up to the major league club. Pence, right now, is leading all rookies in many of the categories and is a strong contender for the Rookie of the Year.
In 2005, Jeff Bagwell went on the DL in early May and Lance Berkman, coming off the DL in May, didn’t start hitting well until June. In 2005, it was Morgan Ensberg who carried the club on his back through those dismal 2 months. In 2007, it seems to be Carlos Lee. Ensberg got help from Jason Lane and Craig Biggio. Lee is getting help from Hunter Pence and Mark Loretta.
2005 also saw missed starts from Andy Pettitte, just as 2007 has seen Jason Jennings go on the DL.
Now, I’m not predicting the Astros are going to go to the World Series again this year, but, it is rather interesting how similar the two teams are. Maybe, maybe, they can be similar in some more ways. Maybe this 2007 Astros team can go to the World Series too. Once there, who knows? Maybe this time they get to bring home the ultimate prize.
If the Astros have any hopes of salvaging the 2007 season they have to make some really tough decisions for the franchise, easy ones for the fans. They need to trade or cut Adam Everett, Morgan Ensberg, Jason Lane, Humberto Quintero, Orlando Palmeiro, and Brian Moehler at the very least. Ausmus gets a pass for right now because he actually has a higher batting average than the rest of the rabble hogging Astros roster spots.
None of the position players listed above except for Ausmus has a batting average of over .216. These guys are scrubs and they need to go if Drayton McLane really wants a winner in 2007. Time to say to **** with loyalty, to **** with giving people a chance for the 5th time. "If you don’t perform, you don’t have a job" should be the message to the likes of Ensberg, Lane and Palmeiro especially.
The Astros have over $10 million tied up in these losers. Get rid of them and you can replace them with AAA guys who can’t perform any worse and will play for a pittance. That would leave the Astros over $8 million to spend for a player they can trade for before July 31st–Troy Glaus anyone?