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Berkman Line 04-24.JPG

I didn’t want to believe it.  I really didn’t.  I didn’t want to believe that Lance Berkman was really in a slump, despite all evidence to the contrary.  I wanted to think it was just a slow start, or whatever else one might call a slump without actually using the word slump.

Lance Berkman simply doesn’t go 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.  Ever.  Right?  He’s gone ofer with at least three strike outs only 18 times in his 1,388 games.  Before tonight, he hadn’t done it since… well, since April 13th of this year, when Zach Duke made the whole Astros lineup look ridiculous.

There seemed to be a lot of frustration today at the plate for Berkman, who seemed fairly convinced that he was getting the raw end of some bad calls.  But was he?  Here are his strikeouts, in order.  First the fourth inning:

Berkman KL1 4th Inn.JPGNow the sixth inning:
Berkman KL2 6th Inn.JPGAnd on to the ninth:
Berkman KL3 9th Inn.JPG
It’s important to note that these strike zones are not 100% accurate, but they’re close.  Though Lance argued the calls, as you can see, every strike was within the zone except for one – which was actually a foul.  If anything, he got a favorable call on a ball within the zone.

I know Berkman must be frustrated.  He’s batting .186, after all.  Prior to this season, he hadn’t had a lower average since April 1, 2008 – the second game of the season – when he’d started 1-for-7. 

He’s slumping.  But he’s a great hitter, and he’ll get through it. 


Work It

Once again, the Astros hitters seemed in an awful hurry.  Yovani Gallardo took just 106 pitches to throw a complete game. The only good news is that the Brewers seemed to be in an equal hurry – at least until the fifth inning.  It took Felipe Paulino 91 pitches to get through six innings.

Only three times did Astros hitters have a plate appearance of over five innings: Miguel Tejada‘s 4th inning at-bat (6); Lance Berkman‘s 4th inning at-bat (7); Michael Bourn‘s 6th inning at-bat (6).

Cameron Quintero.JPGYou Know What

The play at the plate.  Hunter Pence throws a perfect strike to the plate, which beats Mike Cameron by five steps.  Humberto Quintero is up the line, bracing for impact, when Cameron levels him.  Helmets go flying.  Cameron is out.  Quintero is… well, out.  As in out of the game.

Was it a clean play?  I guess.  That’s all I can say; I guess.  I just hate these plays.  If someone was running to first base, curled up, and unloaded on a waiting first baseman, everyone would call it dirty.  When it’s at the plate, it seems, it’s all fair game.

I’m not going to condemn Mike Cameron, though I didn’t like the play.  He was beaten by several steps and pretty far up the line.

Questions of morality aside, it leaves the Astros with a hole to fill.  Besides Quintero and Ivan Rodriguez, the only other catcher on the 40-man roster is J.R. Towles, who is still out after fouling a ball off of his own helmet during a game at Round Rock earlier this week. 

That begs the question: Who is the “emergency catcher?”  That is probably Jason Smith, who played 33 games at catcher when he was with the Toledo Mudhens (DET) in 2004.

Just don’t tell Coop that there’s another bizarre roster option.

Speaking of Coop…

Jeff Keppinger had an eight-game hitting streak going – his entire Astro career – when Cecil Cooper decided it would be a good idea to pull him off the bench as a pinch-hitter against righty Gallardo. 

Jason Smith and Jason Michaels were available – but Cooper decided to put Keppinger’s hitting streak on the line, which then promptly ended when Kepp predictably grounded out to the shortstop.

This is either due to Cooper’s belief in Keppinger, who has insane lefty-righty splits over his career; or his desire to stay away from putting Smith at the plate late in the game, for which he was rightly criticized not long ago.  Either way, I thought it a pretty weak move to sacrifice Kepp’s streak for an at-bat with two outs in the ninth inning; down by three runs.

Ausmus Wins, Ausmus Wins

…for the Dodgers.  A two-out single in the ninth to break a tie game and propel them to a 6-5 victory.  I’m a little annoyed that Joe Torre started Ausmus the day after the Houston series, but it’s his team, and I can’t argue with how he’s running it.

[Has anyone else noticed that Ausmus is wearing #12 for the Dodgers, which was previously worn by former Astro Jeff Kent?  Prior to that, it was worn by former Astro Steve Finley.  In fact, the last time the Dodgers had a #12 who wasn’t a former Astro was 1998, when Mike Devereaux and Jim Eisenreich wore the number for the Trolley Dodgers.]

DodgerBrad.jpg

Peanut Brittle

If Quintero is unable to go tomorrow, he joins Jose Valverde, Doug Brocail, and Brian Moehler as players from the Opening Day roster who are unavailable.  And depending on what’s going on with Carlos Lee, who left in the seventh inning, that could be 20% of the Opening Day roster who is now unavailable to the club.

Yordany Ramirez and Brian Bogusevic are the minor league outfielders on the 40-man roster. 

If it was just an early double-switch, that’s even worse.  If that’s the case, and Lee isn’t actually injured, Coop should be fired tomorrow.  Tomorrow
.

Very Cool

Most of my readers probably don’t know who Greg Rybarczyk, but he’s one of the best minds in baseball statistics, and the creator of HitTracker.  Tonight, Greg was on ESPN.  Good for them to recognize him. 

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=4094534

What Happened Was…

Houston Astros (MLB) – The Astros dropped a 5-2 decision to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Round Rock Express (AAA) – The first day of Brian Moehler‘s rehab assignment went pretty smoothly.  When he stepped off of the mound after the first inning against the New Orleans Zephyrs (FLA), he’d taken just eleven days to retire the side in order.  When he stepped onto the mound to begin the second inning, he had a six run lead.  Not bad.  He pitched four innings – not enough to earn the win – and allowed three hits, three walks, and one earned run.  Yorman Bazardo would get the win in the 7-4 victory.  Apparently Chris Johnson was winded after playing his first game in nearly three weeks yesterday, and Mark Saccomanno was at third base, error-free.  Every starter got at least one hit in this one; OF Brian Bogusevic was 1-for-2 with 3 walks.  2B Matt Kata, of all people, was 3-for-4 with a double and a home run.

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – Catcher Brian Esposito‘s solo home run to start off the ninth inning for the Hooks was the only score they had all night, falling to the Frisco Roughriders (TEX), 5-1.  Douglas Arguello got the hard-luck loss, allowing a single run in 5.0 IP; Christopher Salamida allowed four runs in two innings in relief to seal the deal for Corpus Christi.  And you know I’m going to fill you in on Justin Smoak, who went 2-for-4. 

Lancaster Jetjhawks (A+) – The Jethawks were out of this one early, completely buried.  They trailed 8-0 going into the bottom of the eight… and won 11-8 in extra innings.  One run in the bottom of the eighth, a seven-run rally in the ninth, and a three-run walk-off home run by Koby Clemens in the tenth to beat the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (LAA).  OF Jonathan Gaston was 1-for-2 with his fifth home run of the season, and 2B Craig Corrado was 4-for-5 with a triple.  Clemens, who came off the bench as a pinch-hitter, was 2-for-2 with a double, the aforementioned home run, and 6 RBI.  Six.  That’s six RBI.  Jason Castro was 3-for-5.

Lexington Legends (A) – Had the rain only started a little earlier, the Lexington Legends might have won this game.  But it didn’t; the game was called after six innings – one inning after the Hickory Crawdads (TEX) put three runs up to win it, 3-1.  Robert Bono had struck out 5 in his 5.0 innings, with no walks, but allowed three runs on just four hits to take the loss.  Just two hits for the Legends in this one, so that makes DH/3B Kyle Miller the leader almost by default with a 1-for-2 line, his lone hit a double. 

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4 comments

  1. redstatebluestate

    Berkman’s thing will right itself, right? Has to. I’d be more worried about the junk of a pitching staff the Astros have pieced together, but that’s just me. HitTracker… never heard of it before so thanks for pointing me the way. Cool stuff indeed.
    –Jeff
    http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

  2. roundrock15

    Berkman will be fine. He’s not a very good hitter, he’s a GREAT hitter. If it wasn’t for Albert Pujols, he’d be the best hitter in the division. He’s slumping, but that’s all it is. Now it’s just a question of when he’ll snap out of it… and hoping he’s healthy.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  3. hooksfan

    roundrock, your answer for the catching position is J. R. Towles. The spot vacated by Towles on the Round Rock Express roster was filled by Hooks catcher, Brian Esposito. The spot vacated by Esposito has been filled by Koby Clemens from the Lancaster Jethawks. I had a chance to see him today warming up with one of our pitchers. Esposito had a good first plate appearance with the Round Rock Express by hitting a round tripper.

    I wonder if we will see Quintero in a Hooks uniform for a rehab start.

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