Generally speaking, I pride myself on being a good sport. Not gloating, even when it’s called for. Being respectful of other (non-Cubs) fans and their teams. I try. Goodness know, I try. But tonight, I just feel too good to try. Why, you ask?
Three games against the top team in the division, three Houston wins. That puts the Astros and Cubs – who derailed the lightning-hot Phillies – tied at one game out of first place. It’s really a shame it’s only July, because this is a ton of fun.
For a while, it looked like the NL Central – between Lance Berkman, Derrek Lee, and Albert Pujols – might have the best trio of first basemen any division had seen in a long, long time. There was a while when they were all very close in statistics, though Albert has been pulling away from the pack for a long time now.
Then, along came Prince Fielder to make it four great first basemen in the same league – first basemen who could hit, hit for power, and even field. Joey Votto looked like he might be in line to become a fifth guy.
But now a case has been made. A first baseman greater even than the mighty Pujols. Look at these statistics from the three-game set between the Astros and Cardinals:
Albert Pujols: .182/.250/.182
Chris Coste: .375/.375/.625
Yes, indeed. Chris “I Don’t Belong Here” Coste looked mighty good, running up his doubles totals while Pujols mercifully had a rare bad series in Minute Maid Park, which he and Fielder more or less own.
Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek. Joey Votto never looked like he might become the fifth guy.
The Cardinals responded to the sweep the only way they could: They taught pitching coach Dave Duncan a lesson by trading his son for former mediocre Astros shortstop Julio Lugo. This should really help strengthen their Triple-A affiliate’s bench.
I’ve always thought Duncan the Younger had the potential to be a very good player, and got an unfair shake in St. Louis. Maybe the Boston fans will be more appreciative. At the very least, they finally put to bed the Great Julio Lugo Experiment.
Round Rock Express (AAA) – Felipe Paulino pitched 4 innings, and batted in the bottom of the fourth (GIDP). He got two outs in the top of the fifth, but gave up a walk, a single, a double, and a run. He was then replaced by Samuel Gervacio, having already thrown 101 pitches in 4.2 innings. Gervacio earned the loss in the 5-2 decision against the Albuquerque Isotopes (5-2), but Paulino’s night leaves a lot to be desired. Recent call-up T.J. Burton looked solid in his first Triple-A outing, throwing a perfect two-thirds of an inning. At the plate, the Express were led by OF Reggie Abercrombie, who was 2-for-4 with an RBI; and 1B Mark Saccomanno. Saccomanno, an avid reader of the blog, realized that he had a golden opportunity in front of him at the big league level, and responded with a 1-for-2 performance, drawing a pair of walks and scoring a run. Or, at least, that’s my story.
Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – The Hooks had to be feeling good after jumping to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, but the wind came out of their sails when the Midland Rockhounds (OAK) responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. When the dust settled, after 11 innings of baseball, Midland had eked out a 7-6 victory in walk-off fashion. 1B Mark Van Ostrand led the parade offensively, going 3-for-5 with a double, a home run, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored, and a walk. OF/DH Andrew Locke continued his torrid run, going 3-for-6 with a double, and raising his season line to .321/.372/.490.
Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – Jonathan Gaston finished tonight’s game without a home run. In fact, he finished without a hit – 0-for-2 with a pair of walks (one intentional), a run scored, and an RBI (sacrifice fly) in the 9-7 victory over the Lake Elsinore Storm (SDP). Jethawks up and down the lineup contributed, led by 2B Craig Corrado, who was 3-for-4 with a double. Oh, and Koby Clemens? He had 2 RBI tonight, thank you very much. Fernando Abad looked downright filthy at times, earning his second save of the season by pitching 3.1 innings, striking out 8 batters and allowing 1 run on a walk and two hits.
Lexington Legends (A) – Lexington’s home game against the Lake County Captains (CLE) was postponed due to rain.
Tri-City ValleyCats (A-) – Tri-City battled back, responding with four runs in the bottom of the 5th after the Auburn Doubledays (TOR) had scored four in the top of the inning, but it wasn’t enough, as they lost 6-5. One bright spot was Mike Modica, who threw 2 scoreless innings, allowing just a single hit, lowering his ERA to 0.61. OF Brian Kemp was 1-for-2 with a walk, raising his season totals to .327/.433/.376.
Tri-City ValleyCats (A-) – It was like deja vu all over again, except this time Tri-City had a commanding 5-0 lead before allowing 6 runs in the top of the fifth to drop the second game of their double-header to the Auburn Doubledays (TOR) by the exact same score as the first game: 6-5. 2B Barry Butera shook off his own mediocrity for most of the game (he did collect an error in the field) to go 2-for-3.
Greeneville Astros (R) – The Astros were able to snatch defeat from the very claws of victory, giving up runs in the 8th and 10th to fall to the Bluefield Orioles (BAL), 4-3. First-rounder SS Jiovanni Mier looked very comfortable, going 3-for-5 with a home run. He topped it off by stealing his fourth base of the season.
GCL Astros (R) – The Gulf Coast bunch did as the Major Leaguers did, toppling the GCL Cardinals (STL). This, despite a 5-run second inning by the visitors in cardinal red. Down 6-2 at one point, they scored steadily to take the game, 9-7. All but one of the Cardinals’ runs was une
arned, and Spencer Hylander actually pitched very well to earn the victory – 5.0 IP, one unearned run, 3 H, 0 BB, 5 K. He’s now 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA, a .149 BAA, and a .798 WHIP. Lots of contributors offensively, not the least of whom was OF Telvin Nash, who was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, upping his average to .164. DH Jan Baldee went 0-for-3, his average remaining at .000, but he did draw a walk. He was promptly caught stealing. The way his night was going, it’s surprising he didn’t get an error from the DH position.
DSL Astros (R) – The exciting matchup between the Dominican Summer League Astros and the DSL Rangers1 (TEX) was postponed due to rain. It’s just as well, since the DSL Rangers2 took care of business today against the DSL Braves. Seriously, I’ve never paid attention to this league. Why do some organizations get two teams, while the Orioles and Brewers have to share a team? This blog is going to force me to learn the DSL.