GAME 10 - April 16: Cubs 7, Astros 2
The Astros winning streak didn't last long: Just one game later, they returned to their pattern of losing games on sad offense, and in this case, a pitching meltdown.
The only really good thing about Friday's opener against the Cubs was that they got it over with in the afternoon, so I didn't have to wonder about the outcome over the Sabbath. The game started while I was at work. I took off a little early, and checked the score on my Blackberry as I ran into Giant to pick up a few things for Shabbat: The Astros were leading 2-1 midway through the seventh inning, Paulino throwing a real nice game. A few things ended up being a cartful, and by the time I got out of the grocery, the Astros had already blown the game. Paulino stayed in just a little too long, starting with a pair of leadoff doubles in the bottom of the seventh to tie up the game. A walk, a steal, another walk... The bases were now loaded with no outs, and Mills had enough. Paulino was done.
This was not, unfortunately, one of those days where the bullpen was stellar. It would have been too much to hope that Brydak could get out of this mess without allowing the Cubs to take the lead. A pair of fly balls and a single later, there were two outs, but the Cubs had two more runs to show for it. With Derek Lee coming to the plate, Mills brought in Fulchino, who promptly gave up a home run to clear the bases and leave the Astros behind 7-2. That's where things stayed for the rest of the game. Wilton Lopez allowed a pair of singles, but no runs in the eighth.
The Astros scored their pair of runs in the fourth inning. On what should have been a 2 out fly out by Pence, the Cubs center fielder dropped the ball. Chris Johnson's triple scored Pence, and Manzella lined to left to score Johnson. Quintero struck out to end the inning - one of 8 Astros Ks in the game - but Houston had taken a tenuous, temporary 2-1 lead. Scraping the barrel for other tidbits to like in this sad loss... Paulino hit a single to continue the hitting spree by Astros pitchers. Carlos Lee went 1 for 4 to raise his batting average over .100 - just barely. Unfortunately, Bourn and Keppinger (the Astros one-two punch that has been nearly the only dependable source of offense so far) combined to go 1 for 8, with no runs or RBIs between them.
Ten games into the season, the Astros have a 1-9 start, tied for the Astros' worst-ever start in 1983. However, they went on to have a winning season in '83, and I still think there's no good reason for not doing the same this year. It would be really sweet if they could start turning it around soon.