GAME 154 - September 24: Astros 10, Pirates 7
GAME 155 - September 25: Pirates 6, Astros 4
GAME 156 - September 26: Pirates 9, Astros 3
So with less than a week left in the season, it comes down to this: The Astros are losers. I hate to say it, but there it is. Eight games under .500 and just six games left to play -- there's just no way to flip that into a winning season. Truly, after losing series to both the Nationals and the Pirates in the past week, it's hard to feel like winners. But on the other hand, the Astros have had an overall winning record since they traded off Oswalt and Berkman and started playing the kids. They've gone from dead-last in the league earlier this season to third in the (admittedly weak) Central division. So that's a good sign for the future.
I was offline for the Sabbath, as usual, and then in NY Sunday for an occasion that's even better than a baseball game, if you can imagine such a thing. It was a one day trip to Brooklyn for a baby shower for my son and daughter in law, who are expecting twins this fall. First grandbabies! How cool is THAT!? So, anyway, I missed out on live baseball for most of the Pirates series. I saw the end of the Saturday night loss, then watched parts of Friday night's win on the mlb.tv archive. I tracked yesterday's fiasco on my Blackberry off and on during the baby shower. And no, I didn't watch it when I got home from NY at 1 AM this morning! (Maybe if it had been a win...)
Netting out the lost series in Pittsburgh: Astros pitchers got roughed up.
Myers got in his 6 innings on Friday night, to keep his streak alive. If it hadn't been for the ongoing record -- and his solid pitching that backs it up -- Mills might have pulled him earlier. He gave up 6 runs (5 earned) on 6 hits, 4 walks, striking out just 1 batter. Despite the not-so-quality start, Myers eked out the win, due to some big offense by his teammates, including a 4-run sixth inning (just in time!) to put him ahead. Amazingly, the Astros scored their 10 runs without any homers -- just 2 doubles, 13 singles, 4 walks, and 2 Pirate booboos. Pence and Kepp each got 3 hits; Sanchez and Wallace each got a pair. The loss for the Pirates was their 100th of the season.
Saturday night, it was Bud Norris who got hit on -- he didn't make it out of the fifth inning, after giving up 5 runs on 7 hits, 3 walks, striking out 6. After his previous 14 K performance against the Pirates last month, this was kind of a bummer game. The 3 errors committed by his teammates didn't help much either. Of the Astros 8 hits in this game, 4 were doubles; the others were all singles. CJ and Q accounted for half the hits, and 3 of the 4 RBIs. I got to see the end of this game live: Brian Bogusevic hit a RBI double in the ninth inning, to pull within 2 runs, but it was just too little, too late.
Sunday's game was a loss, but at least the starting pitching was good. J A Happ threw 6 innings, giving up 2 runs (both unearned in the sixth) on 4 hits, 2 walk, and 4 Ks. My daughter in law's father, who is a baseball fan from Philadelphia, told me yesterday that "Happ is the real deal." That was shortly after I reminded him that he owed me a big thank you for Oswalt. But all in all, I'm not complaining about our trades with the Phillies. They've got Oswalt and Lidge; we've got Bourn and Happ. And we have Myers too - another ex-Phillie.
After Happ was done, the bullpen made a mess of things. Melancon gave up a walk and single before a strikeout for the first out in the seventh; then Abad came in and allowed both of Melancon's runners to score, plus one of his own. Lopez faced one batter to end the inning. In the eighth inning, Paulino continued his shaky work since returning to the Astros -- this time he gave up 3 hits and a wild pitch in his third of an inning, leaving the bases loaded for Byrdak, who allowed them all to score. The Astros scored once in the first inning, which was good for a precarious one-run lead right up until the two unearned Pirate runs in the bottom of the sixth. Houston got another pair of runs on Pence's eighth-inning homer, his 25th of the season. That bumps up Pence's RBI count to 91 -- still a chance for him to break the century mark this season. Not bad for a guy who had a really crummy start to the season.
In other team news, Bourn is still benched with that oblique strain that's had him out for more than a week. The Astros have offered 2 year contracts to their coaching staff members, a real tribute to their great work with the youngsters in the second half of this season. A contract offer was extended to Bagwell as well, although he has not yet decided whether to take it or to go back to being a dad. I'm hoping to see him in an Astros uni come Spring Training. After a day off Monday, the Astros are headed for Cincinnati, where they are duty bound to beat the division leading Reds. If you're going to let the Pirates beat you, the least you can do is to sweep the Reds. (Sorry, Cousin Bill!)