May 15: Postponed (rain)
May 16: Cubs 5, Astros 4
May 17: Astros 5, Cubs 4
One of the things I like best about baseball (besides a bunch of youngish guys running around in tight pants) is the lack of the clock. The game isn't over until the last out. It may look hopeless. FanGraphs might put the win probability at 0. But until the last pitch, anything could happen.
That's why I didn't buy into the idea, claimed in Selena Robert's recent tell-all book, that A-Rod only tipped pitches in games where it didn't matter, where the score wasn't close, where the outcome was already decided. It's not really clear whether the alleged pitch-tipping actually happened (a NY Times statistical analysis claims that it's unlikely), but the whole notion that there is a situation in which the game is "decided," before the last pitch, just doesn't compute for me. The game is never over until it's over - anything can happen right up to the very last pitch.
This weekend's two game in Chicago were a case in point. Saturday's game looked like a typical Houston-getting-shutout bummer, right up until the ninth inning when the Cubs' 4-0 lead disappeared out from under Chicago's closer. After eight innings of scoreless frustration, Berkman hit the first pitch of the ninth into the stands. Carlos Lee followed suit with a solo homer of his own, cutting the Cubs' lead in half. Tejada and Pence singled, then Blum was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That set the stage for Pudge to hit a 2-run single to tie the game. Surprise! It ain't over till it's over.
Back-to-back fly balls by Michaels and Matsui gave the Astros 2 outs. Bourn walked, bringing up Berkman with the game tied, two outs, and the bases loaded. A year ago that would have been an automatic grand slam. This year it was a ground out to end the threat.
But it ain't over till it's over. The Cubs came back in the bottom of the inning to score a run off the Astros' closer du jour, La Troy Hawkins. Nothing dramatic - a walk, a sac bunt, and a single. Game over. Tilt. At least Roy O didn't get stuck with the loss, after his teammates didn't do anything to help him get a second win of the season. (Now a quarter of the way through, the stats would project 4 wins for him in 2009.)
The Astros got payback on Sunday in the final game of the series. In celebration of my dad's birthday, they took a nice fat 6-3 lead into the ninth inning. With Hawkins out after yesterday's game, it was Sampson's turn to play closer. Second batter hit a solo homer, to make it 6-4. Three singles later, it was 6-5 with 2 on and 2 outs, Nail biting time. The count went to 3-2 before the batter, Soto, hit a sharp liner to third - right into the glove of Jeff Keppinger - to end the game.
Notable stats of the game: Pudge hit a solo homer, his 300th career long ball. Mazel tov. Astros Starter Moehler pitched 5 innings, giving up 3 runs on 5 hits, 2 walks, a wild pitch, a hit batsman, and 4 strikeouts. It earned him his first win of the season. Mazel tov. Berkman was 2 for 3 with a double and a single and two walks. His BA is up to .230 - not exactly where it was this time last year (about double that!), but about 50 points over where it was a couple of weeks ago. I predicted a few weeks ago that the Astros would hit .500 when Berkman hit .250. With the Astros at 17-19 (plus the "tie" in DC), we could be at .500 later this week. With a couple of multihit games, Berkman could be past .250 moving up to where he ought to be in the same time frame. Gezhuntheit.
So the Astros and the Cubs split a rain-shortened series in the Windy City. As for the missing game of this series, the Friday afternoon game that was rained out, I have a suggestion: It should be played in the Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, to balance out the Astros' hurricane-plagued "home games" last season that were played up in Milwaukee. Fair is fair, right?