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AZ 6, Astros 1 - Halsey and Goliath

Record: 25-17. Change on last season: +9

"So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David." - Samuel I, 17:50

"So Brad prevailed over the Astros with a slider and with a fastball, and Craig, Luis and Troy smote the Rocket, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of Brad." - Melvin I, 5:19

What a strange series. The one game I thought we'd win, with our ace on the mound, we lost; the other two games, we send up our worst starter, and put a rookie out against a 7-time Cy Young winner, and take them both. But all credit to Halsey, who was given a first innings opportunity by a combination of good hitting and inept defense, and locked onto it with a death-grip. You could not have prised that victory from him if you'd cut Halsey's head off.

The Astros extended their habit of scoring jack with Clemens on the mound - that's sixteen runs in his nine outings. We only managed nine hits - none off Clemens after the first - but five walks and Houston's five errors were a lot of help. The tone was set immediately; Counsell led off with a hit, then went all the way to third on a wild pickoff from Clemens; a groundout by Cintron brought him home. Gonzo singled, scored on a double by Glaus, and Troy came round when another error let Green reach.

And just like that, Houston were looking at a 3-0 deficit, and had more errors on the board than they'd got Diamondbacks out. From there on, it was pretty much the Clemens we expected - Arizona went 0-for-17 against him the rest of the way, with two walks. But Halsey retired the first ten hitters he faced, allowed only three Astros to reach second base, and bore down when needed, throwing only 79 pitches through 7 innings. Cormier, Lopez and Valverde got through a sticky eighth, and after Gonzalez opened up the game with a three-run homer, Large Potato blazed through the ninth.

Two hits for Counsell, Cintron and Gonzalez; McCracken and Snyder were a combined 0-for-9 with a walk and four K's. Thanks to William K, azpenguin and rastronomicals for stopping in; and one final thought over Clemens (albeit one originally in the comments). Nine starts in, he has an ERA of 1.29...and a 3-2 record, on pace for just twelve wins. After last year's thievery of the Cy Young from Randy, it's fitting Clemens is the one getting no run support this year.

Did I say "final"? Okay, here's one more: there was a dreadful bit of umpiring on a bunt "hit", which the official reckoned dragged Tracy off the bag; replay proved him wildly wrong, but in the end it didn't mean anything, so I'm not going to make a fuss. Let's hope that when these things even out (as they are supposed to), we catch a break that then means something. ;-)

Speaking of which, it was strange to see so many players on our side for whom this series meant something: Halsey, like Clemens, was a native of Houston, went to the University of Texas, won an NCAA title there (in 2002 + 1983 respectively), and was a former Yankee. The father of Jose Cruz Jr. is the Astros first-base coach. And Chris Snyder's family got to see him play in the big leagues for the first time.

And it was a very credible performance by the D'backs, who moved to 5-2 on this road trip. After a spell when their home form was very impressive, and their road performances a little wobbly, it seems to have switched. Beating Clemens last night should be a huge boost to their confidence; if you can do that, you need fear no-one.

Heroes and Zeroes, Series 14: vs. Astros, on road
Halsey, 7 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 1 ER, beat Clemens
Vazquez, 7 IP, 7 H, 0 BB, 1 ER
Gonzalez, 5-for-12, 3 RBI
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Snyder, 1-for-10, 3 K
Ortiz, 5.1 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 4 ER
Koplove, 0.2 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 2 ER

Difficult choice between Halsey and Vazquez, both of whom pitched their hearts out; Halsey faced the bigger foe, so gets it, despite Vazquez easily winning the strikeout battle, 5-0. Gonzo gets third for his steady performances, highlighted by his ninth-innings homer which allowed me to breath easier. Down below, Snyder continues to struggle at the plate, Ortiz may have got the win, but didn't deserve it, while Koplove pitched roughly 2.5% of the series innings, gave up 29% of the walks and took away our hope of victory in the opener.

I'm keeping the Injury Threat Meter at High: while Glaus's knee seems to be holding up, Jose Cruz Jr. was kept out of the starting lineup because of a strained hip flexor. Said head trainer, Paul Lessard, "It's more precautionary than anything." Call me cynical, didn't somebody say exactly the same thing about Brandon Lyon last week?

For all those who mocked my Kournikova pic [yeah, that means you, Stef! :-)], I'd like to point you to today's piece by well-respected baseball writer, John Sickels, entitled Cheesecake Diary. Of course, he has the advantage in that, as the previous sentence proves, he's already received the tag, "well-respected"... I, on the other hand, remain a legend purely in my own mind.

Interesting things that bring people here. The latest batch of searches includes "pitchers of snakes" and someone who found our site on the 15th page of a Google for "Dayn Perry". I'd like to thank Mrs. Perry for stopping by. ;-) I'd also like to thank msn.com for the continued love their search engine shows for this site: now, #11 on a search for "". On Google? Not even in the top 500.

And look! It's barely eleven o'clock, and today's post is already up! Do not expect this to continue, however, as work starts again this afternoon. So I am not looking forward to Sunday's 10 a.m. start in Detroit; you are hereby warned, Saturday afternoon will very likely see two game previews being posted, with Monday's off-day then being used to catch up.