Cecil Cooper seems mystified at a bullpen which is unable to perform, even despite the fact that they’re tired. Worn out. He pulled starter Russ Ortiz after just 2.1 innings – which took an admittedly-high 57 pitches – to head into the already-decimated bullpen with a 3-2 deficit. The ‘pen, in turn, was unable to contain the Chicago Cubs, most notably Alfonso Soriano, who was 2-for-5 with 2 home runs, and Aramis Ramirez, who made yet another payment on his Minute Maid Park lease to the tune of 3-for-5 with a walk and an RBI.
Co-owners Ramirez, Albert Pujols, and Prince Fielder are a combined .441/.588/.824 at Minute Maid Park this season, and that’s without Pujols having played a game there yet.
Reliever Chris Sampson took just 33 pitches to get through 3 scoreless innings in relief, to bring his season ERA down to 1.89. He is proving to be one of the rare highlights of an enervated pitching staff. Before the season, I lobbied for Sampson to be a part of the rotation, but the general consensus is that he works better out of the bullpen.
To me, that makes little to no baseball sense. Your best pitchers should throw the most innings. I would like to see Sampson used as a starter, even if only for spot starts.
Offensively, despite a 3-run bottom of the ninth which made the team’s loss look a little better at 8-5, there weren’t many highlights. The one standout was Miguel Tejada, who went 4-for-5 at the plate with two doubles and a home run.
One of the doubles was of the ground-rule* variety, after wich Carlos Marmol simply shrugged and struck out the remainder of the side.
It’s still very early, but it’s also pretty clear that the Houston Astros stink this season. Of course, this is no surprise to anyone, but the level of the mephitis is certainly surprising. Cecil Cooper’s over-reliance on the bullpen has expedited a severe breakdown of the arms on this team, and barring some sort of miracle, it’s tough to see this team doing very well at least for the immediate future.
Even Lance Berkman, usually very dependable, has slumped so much – and for so long – that he has lowered his career batting average to .299. No longer a .300 lifetime hitter. He was 0-for-5 in yesterday’s action with 4 strikeouts. With 21 walks, 27 strikeouts, and 7 home runs on the season (of 19 hits), he’s rapidly becoming a Three True Outcomes guy.
Fireworks Down on the Farm
Red-hit OF Yordany Ramirez was 1-for-1 with a home run in his lone plate appearance. When
he crossed home plate, New Orleans catcher Brett Hayes confronted him. After
some pushing and shoving, Ramirez was thrown out of the game. Matt Kata
batted next and was promptly plunked by a pitch, leading to the
ejection of New Orleans pitcher Daniel Barone and manager Edwin Rodriguez.
3B Chad Spann replaced Ramirez, which created quite the carousel: Mark Saccomanno moved from 3B to 1B, John Gall went from 1B to LF, and Reggie Abercrombie moved from LF to RF.
Man of Troy
As long as Miguel Tejada continues to produce (and though he’s always been a hot starter, he does tend to slump as June and July come around), it will at the very least lessen the sting of the trade which brought him to Houston.
The Astros gave up five players – Matt Albers, Michael Costanzo, Dennis Sarfate, Luke Scott, and top pitching prospect Troy Patton – to acquire the services of the deteriorating middle infielder. Patton went down to injury and didn’t pitch in 2008, but has rebounded in 2009.
Yesterday, for the Double-A Bowie Baysox, he pitched six scoreless innings, striking out 6 and giving up only a walk and two hits to earn the win. He’s now 3-0 for Bowie, with an ERA of 0.95 and a WHIP of 0.847.
What Happened Was…
Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – It was payback time in Corpus Christi. After the Hooks had beaten the Midland Rockhounds (OAK) in two of their previous three meetings by a combined score of 22-11, Midland came into this one fired up. They scored 2 runs in the top of the first inning and never let off the gas pedal, pulling away with a 14-2 victory. Even reliever T.J. Burton, who’d only allowed a single run in 10 innings of work this season, gave up a run in his two-thirds pitched. OF Collin DeLome hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to provide one of the few highlights for the Hooks.
Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – The Jethawks started the day with the good news that San Jose Giants pitcher and Giants uberprospect Madison Bumgarner had graduated to the Double-A Connecticut Thunder and would no longer be pestering them, but that was pretty much the only good news they got all day as the Lake Elsinore Storm (SDP) thumped them, 14-5. Starter Jose Duran allowed three runs in the bottom of the first, but the Jethawks fought back, putting up 4 in the top of the second. The bottom of the third, however, spelled disaster as the Storm put up 2 more runs to gain a lead they’d never relinquish – especially after a 7-run 6th inning. If you’re looking for highlights, there aren’t many. Jason Castro was 0-for-4 at the plate; but 3B David Flores was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, and OF Jonathan Gaston continued to work his way up my leaderboard with a 3-for-3 performance, including a double of his own.
Lexington Legends (A) – Jordan Lyles pitched another beauty of a game: 7.0 IP, 8 K, 7 H, 0 BB, and a lone hit – a home run to Gerardo Rodriguez. But that would prove to be enough as the Rome Braves (ATL) beat the Legends 1-0. 2B Andrew Simunic was the offensive “standout,” for lack of a better term, going 1-for-3 with a double and a stolen base. With one out in the first inning, the Legends threatened – Ronald Ramirez singled and advanced to third on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. After a Brandon Barnes strikeout, Kody Hinze walked to put runners on the corners, who were promptly stranded by Federico Hernandez. All told, the Legends were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Five teams from five cities. Lexington, KY. Lancaster, CA. Corpus Christi, TX. Round Rock, TX. Houston, TX. All within one organization. All losing.
Believe it or not, this is the first day this season that the Astros organization was swept, and it coincided with the Houston Astros getting swept by the Chicago Cubs.
A combined score of 43-17.
What a day.