Record: 53-57. Change on last season: +18
I'd like to thank the Astros - and Rodriguez in particular - for gift-wrapping yesterday's game as a parting present to us. Because, do tell, what is the point of a pickoff throw with the bases loaded: where exactly is the runner on first going? What was a 2-1 game suddenly became 4-1, with one out and a runner on third.
Not that we wouldn't have won without the gift, but it likely would have lead to a major shortage of Maalox in the Phoenix area. For, even with a four run lead after two innings, this was far from comfortable - the Astros brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the third, and the tying run in the fourth.
However, with the assistance of home-runs from Glaus, Clark and Green, we kept our noses ahead, responding immediately each time the Astros scored. Green's shot, his first in almost three weeks, also puts to bed the G-Force Homer Watch - until the next time the trio go 100 at-bats without one. Let's hope that's for a while.
Two extra-base hits for Glaus, and we only left three men on base, but were outhit by the Astros 10-8. Halsey took the win, allowing eight hits over six innings, though only one "earned" run. I use quotes, because the other scored on an error by the pitcher, which to me, counts as "earned" by Halsey, just as much as if it had been knocked back up the middle. But he did show good composure in some high-pressure situations, when things could easily have got out of hand.
Cormier got through the seventh without a problem, but was yanked in the eighth with runners on the corners and one out. No question who was coming in: Valverde allowed a sac. fly, but mowed the Astros down after that. Interesting piece on him at mlb.com, which says the club asked Jose to tone down his flamboyance on the mound. This led to struggles, and so the reins have been loosened a bit. Says Melvin, "He certainly understands there's a fine line and knows when you're not necessarily putting your teammates in danger, but maybe showing too much. He's very aware of it and I think he's handling it beautifully." Certainly, recent results speak for themselves: one earned run in the past 17.2 innings, with 26 K's.
Interesting to see Terrero playing center field - his defense (save a misplay on Burke's triple) has come on in leaps and bounds and, with his pace, he can get to a lot of balls that I'm sure neither Cruz nor Green would reach. The problem is, his current weakness with the bat (.245) easily counterbalances this, but if we have a fly-ball pitcher - Vargas is the most extreme currently on the staff - it may still be worth playing Luis in CF.
Heroes and Zeroes, Series 35: vs. Astros, at home
Valverde: 2.2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 5 K
Clayton: 4-for-10, 2 BB
Snyder: 0-for-6, 4 K
Vazquez: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 5 ER
Not many heroes, especially on the hitting side where we managed just six RBIs over the three games - five of which came on home runs. Instead, the offensive chasm which is our catchers opened up again, and Gonzo was hitless, after a great series in Chicago. Vazquez proved once more he isn't yet the ace we need.
Here's Russ Ortiz's explanation for his 2 1/3 innings, 11-run performance in Lancaster on Wednesday: "I was never worried about giving up runs or giving up hits or stuff like that, I just wanted to throw quality pitches and whatever happened happened." I guess we have a small difference of opinion about what constitutes "quality pitches"; mine generally excludes, oh, anything on which class-A hitting can tee off.
Yes, I see his point, in that getting back to good mechanics, rhythm, etc. is a major part of the rehab process. But the results indicate that Ortiz does not yet have those good technical aspects yet. Bob Melvin's view? "Certainly, I'm sure it'd make everybody feel better if there were some results there. What result and what actually would make us feel better, I don't know...my feeling is the results are going to be a lot better the next time." Let's hope so: the last thing we need in a pennant race, is starting a crap pitcher, purely to save face.
Gebhard has been confirmed as interim general manager, pending a full decision in the off-season. Actually, as an interim, this makes some sense, and I wouldn't expect to see many wholesale changes of direction the rest of the year - or, at least, while we're still in the pennant race. However, I'm unconvinced he's the best man for the job long-term, and part of me hopes the team implodes over the remainder of the season, so he doesn't get the position permananently!
However, while we're still one game out of first seems like a bit early to be throwing in the towel. ;-)