GAME 162 - October 3: Astros 4, Cubs 0 [Happy Birthday Joel!]
The long cold baseball-less winter is imminent. Oh yeah, I know that the 2010 season isn't over. Some teams are going to the playoffs. I'll watch some of the playoff games, cheering for the Phillies, hoping that Roy Oswalt makes the most of his trade. Cheering against the Yankees just on principle, even if the Puma's playing for them. But for the Astros Fan in Exile, the season ended today, and it's a long gap before pitchers and catchers arrive in Kissimmee.
Figeroa pitched the season finale on 3 days rest, with another shutout performance to add to his win over the Reds' B team last week. He even got a hit -- it was about the worst excuse for a hit ever, barely made it out of the batter's box. But the catcher didn't play it fast enough, and give Figgy credit for hoofing it to first base. Meanwhile, the catcher unwisely tried to catch him for the third out, made an errant throw, and allowed a run to score. Made a nice case for himself for the rotation race next spring. The other Astros runs scored on a solo homer by El Caballo, and two RBI singles by Tommy Manzella.
The Astros scored their 4 runs early, so it was a relatively relaxing ballgame. No big heart-thumping moments, even considering that the two teams were in a battle for the honor of fourth place in the NL Central division. Happily the Astros secured that distinction, leaving the Cubbies down in fifth, only surpassed in awfulness by the truly terrible Pirates (105 losses!). Finishing the season 10 games under .500 was disappointing, but it was a net improvement from the hole the Astros dug for themselves in the first half, before we sold off our stars to contenders. On the other hand, it's also an improvement over 2009, so we're going in the right direction.
The Astros final game of the season was nowhere near as exciting as the Phillies/Braves game, which went down to the wire, with Billy Wagner striking out the side to save a 8-7 win for Atlanta. It was do or die for the Braves - they're still alive for the wild card spot. The Phillies, of course, already won their division. Meanwhile the Nats went to the 14th inning to win a meaningless duel against the Mets - the winning run was a bases loaded walk. The Rays (formerly satanic Devil Rays) are taking 12 innings to eke out a win over KC, cementing their lead over the Yankees in the AL East. But who cares? They're both going to the playoffs. Out on the west coast, Brad Ausmus is catching his last major league game in LA, before retiring and perhaps reinventing himself as a coach or manager. (Wouldn't it be cool to have Bagwell and Ausmus together again in Astros uniforms?) In a game that matters more, the Padres and Giants are duking it out to figure out who's going to the playoffs; the outcome feeds into some arcane three-way algorithm with the Braves. One of my Facebook friends mentioned something about football games today. Football? Are they allowed to play football on the last day of the baseball season?
So this concludes my regularly scheduled post to the Astros Fan in Exile blog. I managed to write up all the games of the year, despite the disappointing season outcome. I have a few months to think about whether to take this on again next year. What do you think? If you're out there reading this, leave a comment and let me know. Meanwhile, I'll post sporadically during the playoffs, and over the Hot Stove months, before Spring Training. Keep in touch. It's going to be lonely without my social media buds this winter!