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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Astros Blow Chunks in 5-1 Loss to gNats

For a second straight night, the Disastros improved the confidence of another mediocre young pitcher. The recipient tonight was rookie Mike "Warren Spahn" O'Connor who--before tonight--had all of a muscular 28 career innings under his belt. The Astros managed a grand total of 3 hits against the vaunted Nationals pitching staff and, like last night, scored their only run on a solo Morgan Ensberg homer. (Mo would go on to later strike out twice, both times looking.)

Roy Oswalt pitched a brilliant game, allowing only 2 hits and 1 run in 7 innings, before being pulled for Mike Lamb, who punctuated the occasion with a mighty popup to short. Oswalt's only blemish was an obvious balk with a runner on third, two outs, and an 0-2 count to Alfonso Soriano. Roy began his windup, then stepped off and walked towards third base. Balk? No doubt. Yet none of the four umpires, let alone overmatched-and-inconsistent home plate ump Larry Young, called the balk until after Frank Robinson came out to complain. Technically, managers aren't supposed to argue balk calls. Robinson, however, seems to get away with a lot of stuff that would cause other managers to get tossed. I think Frank benefits from having been (a) a Hall of Famer, and (b) the former MLB Dean of Discipline. Given the absolutely pitiful 8th inning collapse by the Astros pen, however, the balk-that-was-but-which-shouldn't-have-been ended up being largely irrelevant.

Our new favorite whipping boy remained on his pace to strike out 183 times with a second-inning, three strike, swing-at-a-ball-in-the-dirt K. Not only did the strikeout fail to capitalize on a potentially momentum-shifting previous dinger by Ensberg, but Wilson's strikeout swing managed to bonk gNats catcher Wiki Gonzalez in the head.

That would prove to be probably more disastrous than PW's mighty wind inasmuch as Gonzalez's liabilities behind the plate may have been of some use to the Astros. On two successive pitches, Gonzalez allowed Brad Ausmus to move from first to third by failing to block O'Connor's curveballs. Adam Everett took advantage of the opportunity to hit with a man in scoring position (90 feet away, in fact) by flying out to the right fielder to end the inning.

Gonzalez also let another O'Connor curveball get past him in the top of the third inning but, alas, the Astros had no baserunners at the time that could advance to be stranded in scoring position. I really have no beef with Wiki Gonzalez, except that my first instinct when I hear his name is to visualize something like this:

Wiki's a fine catcher, except for the part where he has to ... well, you know ... catch. Anyway, the head-knocking of Wiki by PW's bat led Robinson to pull Gonzalez in favor of Matthew LeCroy, who not only did a better job of blocking the plate, but he also scored the gNat's third run on--get this--a wild pitch by Brad Lidge.

Isn't that ironic? Don't you think? A little too ... ironic. Yeah, I really do think.

Another stellar outing by Lidge, too, by the way; he faced four batters in the 8th. He walked LeCroy, then gave up an RBI single to Daryle "Huge Freaking Tub 'o Goo" Ward, an RBI double to Soriano, and another RBI single to Royce Clayton. Great work, pal. Oh, yeah, and he threw the wild pitch that allowed LeCroy to score from third. Won-der-ful. *slow clap*

So another fine effort from Roy-O was wasted tonight. Let's see if we can salvage a split tomorrow from Andy Pettitte before moving on to Pissburgh.


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