April 6: Cubs 4, Astros 2
I just turned off my office computer, after having to work late tonight, but I can't go to sleep without saying a few words about the Astros' Opening Night game:
WAH WAH WAH.
Just kidding. Actually the word in my head during the game was "momentum." Or in this case, lack of ... It wasn't that the game was boring exactly. (Disclaimer: I may have been a bit distracted by having to work on my offfice laptop, while the game was on my personal laptop.) But there just didn't seem to be a whole lot of movement. You know, home to first, first to second, second to third, and so on... I'm not just talking about the Astros - both teams scored all their runs metered out one per inning.
Being the first game of the season, it was supposed to be a duel between our pitching aces. Zambrano was tough, no surprise there. But, unlike the last time we saw him, in that ridiculous "Astros home game" in Milwaukee, he wasn't unhittable. He scattered some base runners around - 5 hits and 3 walks over 6 innings. But all but one were left stranded in variations on the theme of missed opportunities.
Missed opportunities: First inning, Zambrano walked Matsui, who advanced on Berkman's single. Lee grounded into a double play to end the fun. Third inning, Bourn and Matsui on the corners with one out and the top of the lineup coming to bat. Frittered away. But the most disappointing missed opportunity: Seventh inning, Zambrano tiring, Tejada singled, Blum walked, and Pence up to bat with no outs. The Cubs changed pitchers. It was the chance for the big play, but instead it was a double play. Tejada went on to third, and then scored on Bourn's two-out swinging bunt for the Astros' first run. Pence came back in the ninth and hit a sac fly to score Tejada for the second run, but it was too little, too late...
Oswalt, unfortunately, allowed the same number of baserunners as Zambrano - 7 hits and 1 walk, but with worse results, largely due to a pair of solo homers. (The game's leadoff home run to Soriano kind of set a bad-luck tone of the game.) He actually outlasted Zambrano, going 7 full innings, throwing 93 pitches. Not a horrible start, but not a classic Oswalt performance. Geary relieved him, and gave up one run on 2 hits and a walk.
Offensive kudos go to Tejada, who went 3 for 4, scoring both of the Astros runs. (The other time he got on base came to a quick end when he was caught stealing.) Berkman also got to base 3 times, on a single and a pair of walks. Bourn was 2 for 4, with an RBI hit.
The Fan in Exile Experience pretty much sucked at the beginning of the game, as the MLB.TV folks seemed to get confused about when to actually stream live video. For the first few innings, they streamed live camera feeds (with off camera remarks by the broadcasters who didn't know they were on mike) between innings. Then when the game was actually in progress, they swithed to their commercial blocker - an annoying but mute ad for their Premium service. It just played over and over, as I watched the game on the Sportsline pitch-by-pitch. This was apparently an isolated fluke, as other games were broadcasting correctly. I called MLB.TV help number to report the problem, and got their "due to a higher-than usual number of calls" message, which means it would be a long wait to talk to a human. Eventually I did get a help desk guy, who wanted all of my contact info - email address (which I had to repeat a couple of times), phone number, and my first and last name. He couldn't find my account at first, since he was spelling my name Suzan instead of Susan. (I don't think I've ever met a Suzan.) All this was fairly useless information anyway, since I wasn't calling to say my account wasn't working, just reporting a technical problem on their end. But he has his process to follow, and that probably accounts for why the wait time is so long.
Ironically, just as he answered, the broadcast resumed the correct streaming - live video of actual plays. Of course. After that, I was able to watch the rest of the game, although some of it was still shots rather than video - that happens sometimes and I'm never sure whether it's them or me. The audio was fine. All in all, I'd have to give MLB.TV a C- for tonight. Yeah, I know it was the first day of the season, and they had glitches. But hey - it was the First Day of the Season - I wanted to watch the game!
Now for something completely different: What was the meaning of the quartet of Black Hawk helicopters flying over in the sixth inning? Was this supposed to redefine the term "high chopper"? Please - don't think I'm unpatriotic - but I really don't like to mix baseball and military hardware. It's philosophical - unlike sports where players align at two ends of a field and protect their goals (the classic war story), baseball has a different paradigm. But I'll have to write more about that sometime when it's not after 1:30 in the morning, and when I don't have to get up at 6... The good thing about going to bed so late is that I know that there will be another baseball game later today!