Ornithophobia: The fear of ducks.
Ducks on the Pond: Runners on base.
I am becoming certain that the Houston Astros suffer from a clubhouse-wide case of ornithophobia. When there are “ducks on the pond,” they can no longer hit. They become overly sensitive to sliders out of the zone, changeups in the dirt, and pop-ups.
We can talk all we’d like about how the umpires botched calls, and they did. Cowboy Joe West, who remains convinced that Josh Becket meant no harm when he walked to the plate after nearly beaning Bobby Abreu, thinks that this was a tag:
He also thinks that the strike zone is approximately the size of a nickel. But this game wasn’t won or lost by the umpires. The rebuilt, 2009 version of Felipe Paulino pitched well. Well enough to earn the win, certainly. He went 6.0 innings, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6. He didn’t allow a single run.
He left that up to Geoff Geary, who allowed 2 of the Reds’ 4 runs in the Astros’ 4-2 loss. I would give him the benefit of the doubt and say that only one of those runs was earned, but that was because of his own throwing error, so I’m not feeling particularly generous.
But even with the bullpen’s spotty performance, the Astros should have won this handily. Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez certainly gave them plenty of opportunities, but the Astros hitters went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 runners total.
Thirteen runners stranded.
The only two runs came when Michael Bourn scored from first on a Miguel Tejada single (that was actually a double, but in typical Astros fashion, Tejada had to stop at first because he missed the base); and when Bourn scored again from third base on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Lee with one out in the ninth.
The Astros are now hitting .248/.333/.355 with runners on. When those runners are in scoring position, it drops to .238/.313/.345. When that includes any combination of runners with at least one man standing on third base – 90 feet from scoring – it plummets to .233/.325/.333.
0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. I think it might be time to call a doctor. One who specializes in duck phobias.