It’s still just July. It’s still just July. It’s still just July.
I have to keep reminding myself of this very fact, because there’s nothing mundane or ordinary about the feeling of this Cardinals-Astros series. And last night’s game seemed to reach a sort of a fever pitch.
The bad news: Chad Paronto recorded just a single out, and allowed 4 earned runs. His ERA is at 108.00. Wesley Wright continued to struggle, giving up a run after Paronto left the game. The Cardinals scored 5 runs in the eighth inning alone last night.
The good news: It simply didn’t matter. The Astros won a laugher, 11-6, to clinch the series. So far, just six games into a brutal second half, we stand at 4-2. The Cubs lost to the defending World Series champions, and there is now a three-way tie for second place in the division, two games behind these Cardinals.
Aces In The Hole
Tonight features a matchup between Chris Carpenter and Roy Oswalt which promises to be a barn-burner. If you watch one Houston Astros game this month, this should be the one to watch.
Kansas City starter Zack Greinke started the season lightning-hot, and garnered a lot of attention as a result. In April, he was undefeated with a 0.889 WHIP and a 0.50 ERA. Wandy Rodriguez, thus far in the month of July, is undefeated with a 0.897 WHIP and a 0.62 ERA. Eerily similar numbers. Yet you’re unlikely to hear his name come up very often in the mainstream media outlets.
It’s hard to blame ESPN too much. They’ve made it clear that they are the Red Sox-Yankees Network, with little time to spare on mundane matters like a Chris Carpenter-Roy Oswalt matchup, a division battle that includes as many teams (4) as the AL West even has, or a slight lefty who is currently 11-6, with a 2.72 ERA, and a 1.233 WHIP.
Is This Sustainable?
The fact is, the Astros split a road series against the Dodgers, and have now come back to Houston and taken a series from the Division leaders. They’re in great position at the moment – but is it sustainable?
We’re winning games without Lance Berkman and Darin Erstad. Our bench includes Matt Kata, Jason Michaels, Jeff Keppinger, and Humberto Quintero. We have a rotation with Russ Ortiz, Brian Moehler, and Mike Hampton. There isn’t a lot of help available in Triple-A, and our hands are fairly tied as far as trades go. So the question is: Can this be sustained?
The best answer I can come up with is maybe. I don’t see us competing late into the season with Cecil Cooper managing the team, but it’s hard to see him losing his job with this ragtag group of players fighting as hard as they are at the moment.
Any personnel shifts are likely to be minor, or from within the organization (remember that Edwin Maysonet was .315/.356/.407 in his 19 big league games this year, and Brian Bogusevic makes an intriguing left-handed option in the outfield.) Only time will tell. If you’d have told me that this team would be this close to the top, this late in the season, I would have laughed at you. I still don’t think this team is a competitor, but they keep winning big games.
And a tip of the cap to GM Ed Wade for making laughable moves in the offseason, focusing largely on saving money, staying competitive at the Major League level, and working mostly on keeping what little farm system we have intact. So far, closing in on the end of July, it seems to be working.
What Happened Was…
Round Rock Express (AAA) – Albuquerque Isotopes (LAD) pitcher Giancarlo Alvarado struck out 12 Express batters in an 8-inning complete game, but earned the loss in a 5-1 decision in the first game of yesterday’s double-header. Alvarado had begun the game back on June 11, and was ready to take the ball back yesterday. Express starter Yorman Bazardo didn’t have the same luck, replaced by Josh Muecke to start the suspended game. Mark Saccomanno wasted very little time, putting the first pitch into
right field for a single, followed by Jason Smith, who put Alvarado’s second pitch over the wall. The Express would never look back after that.
Round Rock Express (AAA) – Express shortstop Tommy Manzella showed up ready to play two games. It’s unfortunate that the rest of his team didn’t. Manzella was 2-for-2, collecting two of the only three hits the Express could muster (OF Brian Bogusevic had the other one,) including a double, but the Express fell to the Albuquerqu Isotopes (LAD) 3-1. It was a bit of a hard-luck loss for Mark McLemore, who allowed just 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks, with 4 strikeouts through 6 of the game’s 7 innings.
Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – The Hooks committed three errors, gave up 15 hits and 7 runs, and still managed to hold on to win a wild one, 10-7, against the Midland Rockhounds (OAK). They got off to a 4-0 start before the Rockhounds ever took the bat, and led 7-2 after two innings. C Jason Castro was the man of the night from the cleanup spot, going 3-for-5 (just a home run away from the cycle) with 4 RBI and 3 runs scored. SS Wladimir Sutil and 1B James Von Ostrand got in on the fun, each also going 3-for-5, with Sutil collecting his 13th stolen base of the season.
Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – I’ve made no secret that I like Leandro Cespedes. His performance last night wasn’t anything to write home about – 6.0 IP, 3 K, 6 H, 2 BB – but he didn’t allow a single earned run and notched his sixth victory of the season for Lancaster as they downed the Stockton Ports (OAK) 5-1. It’s no surprise that OF Jonathan Gaston led the offense – to the tune of 2-for-3 with yet two more home runs. He now has 27 on the season. The next-closest in the California League is High Desert’s (SEA) Joseph Dunigan with 22.
Lexington Legends (A) – The entire South Atlantic League had the night off last night.
Tri-City ValleyCats (A-) – The ValleyCats’ matchup with the Auburn Doubledays (TOR) was postponed due to rain.
Greeneville Astros (R) – Despite 3 runs over the final 2 innings, the Bluefield Orioles (BAL) were unable to catch up to the Astros, who won 5-4. OF Frank Almonte paced the offense, going 2-for-4 with a 2-run home run, and 3B Jonathan Meyer got in on the fun, as well, also going 2-for-4. 2B Jose Altuve was 1-for-4 with a stolen base, and first-round pick SS Jiovanni Mier looked lost, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
GCL Astros (R) – It was recently brought to my attention that I’ve been completely ignoring our boys in the Gulf Coast League, and a look at the box score for yesterday’s game makes me wonder if I’ve been missing much. After committing six errors, the GCL Astros fell in a squeaker to the GCL Marlins, 15-0. It’s hard to pick an offensive leader when no one had any extra-base hits, but I’ll give the nod to leadoff man 2B/SS Pedro Feliz (no, not that Pedro Feliz), who was 1-for-3 with a stolen base. Emmanuel Cedano recorded one out amidst the 2 walks, 1 hit, 2 wild pitches, HBP, and 4 ER he accrued. His ERA now stands at 50.14. Though C Ernesto Genoves was 0-for-4 in the game, his line now stands at very robust .327/.382/.510. Imagine if he hadn’t worn himself out chasing wild pitches.
DSL Astros (R) – I don’t usually pay any attention to the various “Summer Leagues” in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, but I suppose I should now, for the sake of the blog. The Astros mounted a late rally last night, scoring 2 runs in the 9th inning, but fell to the DSL Braves 14-11. 3B Hector Rodriguez was 4-for-5 with two doubles, a walk, three runs scored, and an RBI. Interesting note: 4 of the 5 pitchers to take the mound for the Astros recorded either a wild pitch or a balk. Starter Jose Perdomo, the only one who didn’t, made up for it by having the team’s only HBP. It really is the wild west down there. Dieudone Paul recorded the final four outs for the Astros – all via strikeout – walking one and allowing 2 hits, but no runs.