Here We Go Again…

Two straight series wins against the Marlins and the Diamondbacks, and the Astros are still hanging around in the standings – 10 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central; 9 games behind the Rockies for the NL Wild Card.

38 games left to play, beginning tomorrow with a 9-game roadtrip against the Cardinals, Cubs, and Diamondbacks.  Two series left against the Phillies.  It could be shaping up to be the exact worst-case scenario: The Astros playing hard until the final out of the season, getting within sniffing distance but missing the playoffs entirely.

Without a playoff berth, a good season will continue to hurt this team in subsequent drafts.  The longer they stay competitive, the louder the cries for high-priced free agents.  If this team is going to blow itself up and rebuild, it shouldn’t ideally come after a season where they compete until the very end. 

And, as much as I hate to side with Richard Justice, let’s say the Astros miss the playoffs by six games: Is it unfair to say that manager Cecil Cooper has cost the Astros at least that many games?

A Few Moves That Won’t Get Us Over The Hump

The Houston Astros signed Armando Benitez to a minor league contract.  Benitez had been pitching with the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.  Since 1994, he’s pitched for the Orioles, Mets, Mariners, Marlins, Yankees, Giants, and Blue Jays.  He last pitched in Toronto in 8 games during the 2008 season, during which time he was 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA, but a 0.947 WHIP.

Benitez is a two-time All-Star with a career 3.13 ERA and 1.217 WHIP.  It’s doubtful that he’ll get the Astros over the hump, but it’s very possible he’s still got something left in the tank, even at “thirty-six” Dominican years old.

You probably don’t know, but the film Open Road is set to release this weekend, with Justin Timberlake as a baseball player for none other than our Double-A Texas League affiliate, the Corpus Christi Hooks. 

He won’t help the Hooks much, as it turns out, as they now stand dangerously close to elimination from the playoffs.  The Round Rock Express, Greeneville Astros, and DSL Astros have already been eliminated.

Former Astros pitcher Russ Ortiz was inked to a deal by the Colorado Rockies.  Turns out he may make the playoffs, after all – and have something to say about the Astros getting there in the process.  The Rockies also picked up Jason Giambi.

Will Lancaster Make The Playoffs?

The California League Lancaster Jethawks are trying like mad to get into the playoffs in their first year as an Astros affiliate, but could use a little help from their friends.  Four games behind the High Desert Mavericks (SEA), the Jethawks won yesterday – but so did High Desert, who has won four in a row.  Hot on the Jethawks’ back is the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – winners of three straight, and just a game behind Lancaster in the standings.

Lancaster is the only Astros affiliate with any realistic shot of making the playoffs.

The Lexington Legends snapped their 11-game losing streak, but it’s likely a case of too little, too late, as they now stand at the very bottom of the South Atlantic League, 13.5 games out of first place.

Eric Bruntlett

No doubt you’ve heard by now, but former Astros shortstop Eric Bruntlett made history yesterday, becoming just the second player in Major League Baseball to get the last three outs of a game with an unassisted triple play.  Bruntlett – along with Brad Lidge – was traded to the Phillies late in 2007 for Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary, and minor leaguer Mike Costanzo, who was turned around and sent to the Orioles as one of the five players traded for Miguel Tejada.

Congratulations, Eric.

What Happened Was…

Round Rock Express (AAA) – Polin Trinidad is having a little trouble adjusting to the Pacific Coast League, and his struggles were front and center during yesterday’s 6-1 loss to the Memphis Redbirds (STL).  2B Jose Vallejo – one of the players acquired in the Ivan Rodriguez trade – was 2-for-4 with 2 doubles, and scored the only Express run of the game.  A tip of the cap to OF Yordany Ramirez, with an outfield assist at home from center field.

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – It’s not a good omen with the big leaguers going into a series against the Cardinals when their minor league teams keep beating ours.  The Hooks dropped a 3-1 decision to the Springfield Cardinals (AA) yesterday, with OF Andrew Locke collecting two of the Hooks’ only 3 hits.  The third was a solo home run by 2B/3B Felix “No Relation” Molina

Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – Five runs in the first inning helped the Jethawks put away the Visalia Oaks Rawhide (ARI), 6-4.  LF/C Koby Clemens was 2-for-4 to raise his season line to .339/.415/.607 between Corpus Christi and Lancaster.  SS Marcos Cabral went 2-for-3 with a walk, a home run, and 3 RBI.  Leandro Cespedes struck out 6 in 5.2 innings; Fernando Abad did him one better, striking out 5 in 3.1 innings, walking just one, and allowing only two hits and no runs to help keep the Jethawks in the playoff race.

Lexington Legends (A) – It wasn’t always such a surprise when Lexington won a game, but after eleven straight losses, a 5-2 victory over the Greensboro Grasshoppers (FLA), who were no doubt looking ahead to tonight’s game, where they will be hosting Waffle Appreciation Night.  That’s right.  Waffles.  No word on whether or not Richard Justice will be the guest of honor.  Kyle Greenwalt earned the win, allowing 2 earned runs on 5 hits and no walks through 6 innings.  Brian Pellegrini and Brandon Wikoff each had two hits – unspurprisingly, as they’ve been about the only offensive highlights for Lexington all season.

Tri-City ValleyCats (A-) – It was a tight game for four innings, but runs by the Vermont Lake Monsters (WSN) in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings did the ValleyCats in as they fell, 3-0, in Game 1 of the doubleheader.  Losses don’t get a lot harder-luck than the one Wander Alvino suffered, giving up just one hit, one earned run, and three hits with 5 strikeouts in as many innings. 

Game two ended with a postponement.  The Monsters led in the middle of the third, 3-0.

Greeneville Astros (R) – Tied at 1-1 entering the sixth inning, the Astros’ game against the Elizabethton Twins (MIN) looked like it might be a classic pitchers’ duel.  Carlos Quevedo was looking very good on the mound, as was his counterpart, Edgar Ibarra.  By the end of the sixth, though, things had changed drastically.  Quevedo gave up a total of five runs, two of them earned, while Ibarra struck out ten in seven innings of work to earn the win in the 9-1 game.  Astros manager Rodney Linares was ejected by the home plate umpire; one wonders if we wouldn’t have been better off getting 3B Jonathan Meyer, C Carlos Mojica, and 2B Miguel Arrendall ejected instead.  It would have saved us the three errors they combined to make, at least.

GCL Astros (R) – The GCL Astros had a scheduled day off, in sharp contrast to all of the unscheduled days off they’ve been having lately.

DSL Astros (R) – The DSL Astros’ season is over.  They will not make the playoffs.  Steroids all around.



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