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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pitching 101

or, How to Make Guys Look Like This at the Plate.

Okay, I feel like it's time to have a discussion on pitching, especially after our latest disAstro performance on the hill by Gallows. I figured that it'll help the average viewer/fan appreciate our frustrations with Astro pitching a little more if he/she understands the nuances of being effective in the circle.
Let me give a quick disclaimer. I am a firm believer in hard work, focus, and desire; but that doesn't amount to anything without talent. So it's a happy marriage of the two that produces the exceptional players. What I'm about to say isn't rocket science, but it's amazing how quickly the "simple" stuff can get lost. Okay, enough. Here we go...
How to Pitch and Get Guys Out
Here are a few simple rules for being a successful pitcher. Granted, you can throw a no-hitter and still lose. Some of the best have gotten no run support and lost 1-0 (a la Roger Clemens last year). But sticking to these rules will give you a good, solid chance at having a nice career.
Above all rules, pitchers should stay relaxed without losing their intensity, focused without over-thinking, and aggressive without being foolish.
1) Get Ahead, Stay Ahead. The worst thing a pitcher can do is get behind in the count. The goal of every pitcher is to get the batter out, so the best way to do this is to put him on the defensive immediately. When you're ahead as a pitcher, you force the hitter to swing at your pitches. You don't have to give in, and you're in control. Thus, first-pitch strikes are paramount. If you've got effective command, a first-pitch curveball is ideal because most hitters look fastball. It's an easy strike that puts you ahead. We can talk about that later, though.
Of course, getting ahead is nice; but you also have to stay ahead. A first-pitch strike means nothing if you turn around and throw two straight balls.
2) Hit Your Spots. This begins with having a plan. Know where you want to throw the ball and throw it there. Have an idea of how you're going to work the hitter and then do it. Remember, the goal is to make him play your game, not the other way around. If you miss your spot and he rakes it, that's on you. You're going to lose the battle sometimes (e.g., you throw a dirtball and he golfs it for a double); but you won't very often if you hit your spots.
3) Mix Your Pitches. There are very few pitchers who are successful when throwing the same pitch over and over (or the same pitch at the same point in the count). Unless a certain pitch is clearly overmatching the hitter, mix it up and keep his timing off. You want him off balance, out of sync, and again... chasing your pitches. If you keep him guessing, he's yours.
4) No Free Passes. Walks are a pitcher's worst nightmare. It "never" fails that a leadoff walk results in a run. The only walks that should be administered are intentional (and sometimes "non-intentional" intentional) ones. Remember... your objective is to get the hitter out. He wins when he touches base safely.
5) No 2-Strike Hits. If you get two strikes on a hitter, you need to put him away. This is bound to happen from time to time (even if you make your pitch), but if you keep it to a bare minimum, you're going to enjoy life on the hill a lot more. There's nothing worse than knowing you had a guy and then letting him slip away. This almost always comes back to haunt you.
6) If You Hit Guy, Mean To. What? That's so mean, Phat-C. No, it's not. It means that you should never hit a batter unless you mean to. Sometimes pitches get away. Sometimes you miss your spots. But it seems like the main problem here lies in combination with #5 above... over-aggressiveness with two strikes. Here you've got a guy on the ropes, and you give him a free pass by missing your spot and hitting him. You've just broken three rules on one pitch. Bob Gibson was the master of making guys uncomfortable, but he seldom hit them without intending to. I'm not suggesting that pitchers should throw at hitters. I'm just making the point that you should NOT hit them by accident.
7) Don't Waste Pitches. It's one thing to get a guy down 0-2 and then waste a pitch to make him chase it; but I'm a proponent of getting hitters out by any means possible. This means that a strikeout is not always the best avenue. Be effective with your pitches. If you waste one and he doesn't bite, give him a pitch that's too close to take but that he can't do anything with. He's out either way that way... unless he gets lucky (which sometimes happens).
8) Mix Up Your Looks. This applies with runners on base. When pitching from the stretch, don't get too predictable. You want to vary it up a little so the runner can't time you as easily. Mix your moves over to first (some fast, some regular). Mix in a slide step if you can. All of these things can help prevent the runner from having an extra advantage... especially since he shouldn't be there in the first place.
9) Remember You're a Fielder. After you let go of the ball, you become a fielder. On your follow-through, be prepared to field your position and field it well. You wouldn't appreciate the shortstop's taking a lazy approach on a groundball, so you shouldn't either. This is another way to further frustrate opposing hitters. A note on this as well... if one of your teammates makes an error, pick him up. I guarantee you he'll pick you up more often with a nice play than you'll have to pick him up by getting the next guy. Pitchers who dwell on fielders' errors are not consistently successful.
10) Practice Good Mechanics. You've got to do things the same way every time. It makes adjustments that much easier, and it also allows you to do it naturally (without thinking). The less you have to think about mechanically, the more you can concentrate on your objective... getting the hitter out. Plus, it allows you to narrow down your struggles better. Example: When Roy Oswalt is not on his A-game, you'll notice he "falls" off the mound to his left quite a bit. This is somewhat natural for right-handers, but I'm talking dramatically. What's the indication? He's most likely over-throwing, which knocks his mechanics out of whack. When he's on, you'll see him end up almost flush with the plate.
So, that's a very basic 10-rule process to making yourself a good pitcher. It's amazing that more guys don't have success when you look at how easy this is. BUT... I'd be willing to guarantee that if a Major League pitcher executes these 10 rules with consistency, he'll win the majority of his starts (even with an occasional lack of run support).
Remember... if they're not on base, they can't score.

Right Now I Pretty Much Hate Mike Gallo

In his infinite wisdom, Phil Gar[d]ner opted to bring in struggling lefthander Mike Gallo to pitch in the bottom of the eleventh inning of a tied ballgame. The GameCast reads as follows:
B Looper grounded out to second.
Y Molina doubled to deep left.
A Miles reached on an infield single.
H Luna lined out to third.
A Eckstein hit by pitch, Molina to third, Miles to second.
S Taguchi singled to center, Molina scored, Miles to third, Eckstein to second.
Game over; Astros lose, 4-3.

Why Mike Gallo continues to have a job is beyond me. I'd like to keep my criticisms of a ballplayer on a professional level, that is, to criticize the player and not the man. His continued failures that have caused the Astros to lose ballgames, however, have led me to begin to hate Mike Gallo.

I don't want that to happen, for Gallo to join the ever-increasing list of players whom I wish would come down with a case of explosive diarrhea. For my sanity, and for that of Astros fans everywhere, could somebody relieve this guy of his spot on the 25-man roster?

Please.

Official Fan Site of Anjay Ajodha

Tomorrow ABC is televising the final round of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee.

We here at Smell the Glove wish to throw our support behind Houstonian Anjay Ajodha who, for the unenlightened, holds the record as the youngest contestant ever in the national spelling bee. By now, however, Anjay is a seasoned veteran--this is his third trip to the national competition.

As of last year, the last time the national folks updated Anjay's profile page (get with it, dammit, we expect updated content from a website!), Anjay enjoyed participating in his school's math and science club. He is/was an avid computer enthusiast, is designing a web page at present, plays video games, the French Horn, and the piano, and kicking the arses of other would-be spellers.

Anjay has already demonstrated his proficiency at this year's competition by breezing through the first and second rounds (including an arse-kicking spelling of the word burnettize which, as everybody knows, means... well, hell, that word isn't even in my dictionary; this kid apparently knows how to spell words that don't even exist!)

Rock the mic, Anjay. We're behind you. When you win, we'll somehow find a way to print up a special Smell the Glove T-shirt, and send it to you.

GameCast: Astros vs. Cardinals, 12:10 PM

The first sign that the apocalypse is near:

Orlando Palmeiro is batting lead-off for the Astros... and he led off today's game with a double. Berkman capitalized by driving him in, one batter later.

I seem to remember that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, we don't seem to hit Jeff Suppan very well. This is why I'm a bit in shock.

It Is Done.

Guess Newsday wasn't so stupid, after all. The Astros scheduled a press conference for 11:00 AM to announce that Fat Rog has returned to the Astros for another season. As was hinted at in today's literary diversion, I suppose this means that Fernando Nieve is ultimately destined for AAA or the bullpen.

I'd heard yesterday that Rog has been working out, but he'll clearly need a few weeks to get into pitching form again. Perhaps a decision on the odd man out in the rotation could be decided by Taylor's and Fernando's respective performances from now until then. (Wandy has to be a safe bet to remain, I'm thinking.)

Woot.

Today's Literary Diversion

And, once again, I present for your consideration another hump day haiku:

Goodbye, Fernando.
Off to the bully for you;
Fat Rog rides again!

BIG Win... Astros 6, Cards 3

Now on to the stuff that matters...

Last night was encouraging, I have to say. I got home late, turned on the TV, and saw we were locked in a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning. My first thought? Thank You, God, that Pettitte has given up only one run. My second thought? How the hell have we scored only one run off this AAA guy?

The Astros continued their funk at the plate through the first part of the game. Ensberg still looks horrible at the plate (0-4, 3 K's), and Ausmus has definitely begun his decent to Ausmusness (normality). Nevertheless, we had a game.

Then it happened. Just like that, AP falls behind Scott Rolen. pause... you never want to fall behind Scott Rolen... play So true to the recent form of the Astros' staff, Pettitte drifts one over the heart of the plate, and off it goes. Now here's where it gets funny (in retrospect... cursing at time). Juan Encarnacion hit a homer on the next pitch, but it was missed because they were still showing the replay of Rolen's bomb. I thought to myself, Well isn't that a b*tch. Juan-E hits one so fast that they don't even have time to show it. He gets replayed. Of course, my thoughts after that are non-publishable due to their graphic content.

So we're on familiar ground, losing 3-1 to the Cardinals late in the game. Chris Burke then started a seventh-inning rally with a 1-out, 0-2 double (bad Reyes) to left. Brad Ausmus then followed with a single to left to put runners on the corners. Then, God bless him, Gardner does one of the things I begged him to do in a recent post... he pinch hit with Mike Lamb. Like in most cases, Lamb delivered with an RBI-single to narrow the deficit to 3-2.

Then it seemed like the Cards got a taste of what it's like to be an Astro. Orlando Palmeiro (one of Shafty's favorite players right now), pinch hit for AP. He, too, delivered with an RBI-single that scored Ausmus. Lamb, being aggressive on the bases (which I think was a great decision), hustled to third, prompting a throw from "The Man Who Doesn't, In Fact, Exist." His throw was SO errant, and Lamb raced home for a 4-3 lead, while Palmeiro took third because of the dead ball.
With the infield drawn in, Willy T. showed that he's still a rookie at heart by swinging at a ball that virtually bounced, resulting in a groundout to Eckstein (he who, like Berkman, makes easy plays look hard). So, with two out and one on, The Bidge delivered with a HUGE 2-run blast to put us up for good, 6-3. This guy is truly unbelievable. It's been difficult at times, but what a treat to have been able to watch a future Hall of Famer play his whole career here.
Anyway, to top it off, Potato Chips and Wheels pitched scoreless innings (even though Wheels played mind games with me... he was trying to make me panic, I just know it), and The Mole pitched one of his best outings of the season.
So, a big win for the good guys, putting us "up" into third place, 1.5 games behind the Reds (who, I believe, are destined to fall), and 6.5 behind the Cards. Hopefully Taylor will have a great outing this afternoon and we can take the series.

Venting...

Before I discuss last night's great come-from-behind victory, I have to vent something about the media. No offense to the Rocket, as I'd be as happy as anyone else if he came back, but it pisses me off to no end that our boys rallied from behind and the top story is Roger Clemens' "rumored" return.

Don't get me wrong... I love the guy, but I hate the fact that the media uses him to overshadow the team. I can't imagine how the SF Giants must feel. I hope he comes back, but I am so sick of hearing about it.

Sorry, enough of that.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Current State of Things

Our pitching has been subpar; our fielding has been subpar; our hitting has been abysmal. So what do we do?

There are, of course, the age-old cliches:

"It's a long season. We've just gotta' take one game at a time."
"You've got to tip your cap to the [fill in opponent]."
"Baseball's a game of ups and downs..."

Or, we could start speaking practically about what needs to be done. Last year's remarkable run from 15-30 to the World Series was unbelievable; but it'd be foolish to assume it could be done again, especially the very next season. They say that World Series are not won in May, but they're definitely lost. The Astros are currently in danger of building such a large gap between themselves and their division competitors that it'll be ridiculously hard to make up after the All-Star Break.

You say, "Phat-C, Phat-C, you're getting WAY too ahead of yourself." Maybe. But here's what I propose for some more immediate results...

1. Special K: Preston's been on a bit of a surge lately, but it still hasn't been all that impressive. To be honest, from what I've noticed it looks like the majority of his recent hits have been bloopers with eyes. Granted, he did hit one pretty hard that bounced off Rolen for an RBI yesterday; but that's about it. His swing looks like my golf swing... which is definitely not a compliment. Suggestion: I think we ride him out a little longer and see if he starts to pick up the pace. If he returns to his earlier form, he needs to sit.

2. Jason Lane: Granted the guy has 9 homeruns, but still. He looks clueless at the plate right now; and what's more, Gardner has labeled him a "worrywort," which doesn't speak well. In other words, he tends to get overly mental over both his successes and failures, the latter of which have been more prevalent as of late. Jason's got good ability, but he's holding himself back by thinking too much. Suggestion: Send him down to AAA to work out his issues, and call up Luke Scott or Charlton Jimerson, both of whom have been on tears lately.

3. Adam Everett: Adam's in a funk at the plate, though we could make the case that he's always in a funk at the plate. He's invaluable on the field, and I truly believe he's one of--if not the--best shortstops in the league. But I'd take someone with a little less "razzle-dazzle" who's going to help the team at the plate. Adam's stranded six runners way too many times. I'm encouraged that we're getting runners on base, but not that he's leaving them there. Suggestion: Split time a little more evenly with Eric Bruntlett at shortstop, and get him in the cages with Gaetti.

Notes to Gardner:

Stop taking Roy Harvey out so early. Unless he's injured (which he apparently was yesterday), leave him in there for at least 120 pitches. He's proven he can handle it.

Stop pitching Trevor Miller when we have a lead. Consider using Borkowski earlier.

• USE MIKE LAMB WHEN YOU'VE GOT A CHANCE TO TIE OR GO AHEAD!!!!

See above.


The bottom line is that we need more production from just about everyone right now. Ensberg's been off lately, Biggio hasn't done much that's spectacular, Willy's okay, Berkman's still hurt, and Ausmus' superpowers are wearing off. We need to distribute the weight more evenly, and do it quickly, or we're going to sink.

Guys Who Need More Playing Time: Chris Burke, Eric Bruntlett, Eric Munson, Mike Lamb, Luke Scott, Charlton Jimerson

Guys Who Need to Pick It Up Quickly: Morgan Ensberg, Lance Berkman, Preston Wilson, Jason Lane, Adam Everett

Why So Taguchi Doesn't Actually Exist

I began last night's Astros postmortem by trying to postulate an appropriate nickname for Cardinals outfielder So Taguchi. "Adverb" Taguchi was the best I could come up with. This morning, it occurred to me why I'm having such a difficult time coping with this topic:

So Taguchi Does Not, In Fact, Exist.

Bear with me here. What is the word "so," if nothing but a synonym for the word "very"? And "very," according to Mark Twain, is a word that should never exist in formal writing:
Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

--Mark Twain
Theoretically, I could just refer to the Cardinals outfielder as "Damn Taguchi" but, at that point, my editor will intervene to delete it. And, notwithstanding his ever-present ability to frustrate my dear Astros, this guy's accomplishments just don't merit a one-word name, to date.

So we're left with a rift in the space-time continuum that can be resolved in only one fashion:

So Taguchi Simply Does Not Exist.

Those who actually understand the title of this blog will appreciate that spontaneous combustion affects at least a dozen people every year; it just isn't widely reported. Those who, by contrast, do not "get" the title of this blog seriously owe it to themselves to head to a video store at their next opportunity.

Nor is Taguchi's disappearance from the Earth unprecedented or illogical, as was demonstrated by the late, great Douglas Adams:
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that You exist, and so therefore, by Your own arguments, You don't. Q.E.D."

"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
I apologize to the family of the once-So Taguchi, and to Cardinals fans everywhere--for their thorn-in-my-side outfielder has now been replaced by a somewhat less-productive alternative.

Boys, Meet Mario

Let's take a little Tuesday morning stroll to look at some Astros batting statistics, shall we? Sorting by batting average, the following three statistics jumped out at me:
Adam Everett
.208
Jason Lane
.196
Orlando Palmeiro
.189
Through 52 games, then, the Astros sport three position players--of whom two have started the majority of games--flirting with the Mendoza Line.

Much has been made of the legendary "Mendoza Line," a phrase coined by Hall of Famer George Brett in reference to Mario Mendoza, a slick-fielding, crappy-hitting shortstop with the Pirates, Mariners, and Rangers in the 70's to early 80's.

Traditionally, the "Mendoza Line" refers to players whose batting average hovers at or around .200, although Mendoza himself actually batted .215 for his career. (There has therefore also been discussion of a .215 Mendoza line. If one omits his anomalous 1980 season--in which he crushed the ball to a tune of .245 while still sporting a sub-.300 OBP--his career batting average is actually .206. He also batted below .200 in three straight seasons and five times in his nine-year career.) In any event, lore of the .200 "Mendoza Line" has long outlasted memories of Mario's actual career batting line.

That Mario Mendoza was also a "slick-fielding shortstop" seems to have been largely forgotten. Are you listening, Adam Everett? (Career comparisons between the two may be unfair; Adam is actually a .248 hitter over his five-plus seasons.) The point remains that we cannot expect to compete with two regulars struggling to best a pornstache-wielding shortstop from the 70's.

I'd probably give Orlando Palmeiro a bye from this discussion, given how little playing time he's received. At the same time, however, I do query why we're spending some $1.9 million on a backup who almost never plays and, when he does, rarely musters better than yesterday's pinch-hit foul pop-up to Scott Rolen, given the presence of some pretty promising prospects down on the farm.

As was noted sarcastically on the radio this morning, it's not like the competition to be one of the Astros' corner outfielders is all that stiff: "Whose place are you going to take: Private Punchout (Preston Wilson), or Private Mendoza (Jason Lane)?"

I plan to do a bit more research to determine Adam Everett's overall impact on the team's run differential. (I think there have been some recent books that quantify a player's contribution to keeping the other team from scoring.) Adam Everett may perform decently in this analysis; I hardly expect Jason Lane to fare as well.

How much more patience should we have with Jason? I'm a bit weary of hearing, "He's young, he's having good at-bats, he'll adjust," given that this is a bit of a results-oriented business that's measured in wins and losses, not in "quality at-bats." (No matter the supposedly high quality of Jason's at-bats, by the way, the guy hitting ahead of him in the lineup will always ensure that the net effect of this dubious "quality at-bats" statistic is, at best, zero.)

Let's hear your thoughts, all two of our loyal readers.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Answer: Sucky.

Question: How did the Astros' offense do against a starting pitcher who had severe control problems?

I've never understood why Jason Marquis has had such success against the Astros. He's now 5-1 against them over the last two seasons. He was described as "wildly effective," although one wonders whether today's success (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER) resulted from his competence so much as the Astros' ineptness. Their only run came in the third inning, when they had benefited from Marquis's wildness to the tune of Taveras's and Biggio's both getting plunked.

Somewhat off the topic: Biggio's being the active leader in hit batsmen has never been a function of his crowding the plate. Rather, his m.o. is to Roger Dorn his way on to base by leaning into anything close. He's mastered the art of turning his body away to make it look like he's trying to get out of the way of an inside pitch, all the while leaning his heavily-padded elbow into the oncoming pitch. He gets on base and gets his team a runner, while the elbow pad is probably the only thing getting bruised. (So "Adverb" Taguchi pulled a Biggio of his own a little while later, turning his elbow into an inside offering from Oswalt. At least Adverb wasn't wearing body armor.)

It's not like Biggio was the first one to figure this trick out out. I never minded Bagwell's wearing padding over his hands, if only because his hand had been broken in 1994; but for the strike, the time he was to lose would likely have prevented him from winning his only MVP award. But look at Bonds, who knows he can crowd the plate because--if he gets hit--it's the body armor taking the punishment, not him. That's why I appreciate that Russ Springer hit him where there was no padding.

Anyway, Morgan Ensberg followed up the back-to-back beanings by taking a walk of his own. Certainly, I don't want him striking out by swinging at bad pitches; we have enough guys doing that already. But, for Ensberg, not swinging the bat just isn't that great a feat. Special K--who struck out once in fear that his recent success might hamper his efforts to break Adam Dunn's record for strikeouts in a season--then drove Taveras in with an infield "hit" that Scott Rolen was simply unable to come up with.

Little did we know that that was to be all the offense we would muster all day. Pitiful.

Question: Was Phil Gar[d]ner's decision to lift Roy Oswalt a good one, or a sucky one?

We labeled Gar[d]ner as Chief Goat the last time he decided to pull Roy Oswalt too early in a game. As it turned out, that was as recently as Oswalt's last start before today: against Washington. The bullpen responded to their manager's faith in them then by blowing the game.

Gar[d]ner didn't learn from having been lambasted over here. Even though Roy-O had done a masterful job of keeping the Cards scoreless--and Poo-Holes 0-for-3, including a shameful three-pitch strikeout (only Albert's fifteenth all season)--Gar opted to pull Roy-O for the ever-productive Orlando Palmeiro, who celebrated the occasion by fouling out to third base.

Question: Rate the performance of the Astros bullpen.

Trever Miller--who should not be trusted with a lead, notwithstanding his three scoreless innings against the lowly Pirates--allowed a dink hit, got two walks, then got squeezed on a few calls in the process of walking John Rodriguez... who, by the way, appeared to be wearing eyeliner makeup today. So in comes Chad Qualls, who gave up the expected three-run homer to Poo-Holes. (It was so expected that I'd already tried to call Phat-C to predict what was to come as soon as Albert strode to bat, but misdialed; by the time I finally connected, the ball, the lead, and the game were gone. I suspect I need more practice working my telephone machine.)

Question: How does it feel to be a fan of a team that's started this ten-game road trip 2-6?

How do you think it feels? After a promising start to May (3-1 after a two-game sweep of the Cards), the Astros have fallen into the proverbial toilet of crappy (pun intended) pitching, fielding, and hitting. I guess those are the only parts of the game that they currently suck at, but I'm hard-pressed to think of what positives that might leave them? I can think of only two, at the moment:

  1. The Astros have zero players whose first name is an adverb. There are three noun-named players (Lance, Willy, and Chad) whom I can identify, and I haven't the foggiest what kind of name "Wandy" is. But these names all beat the absolute hell out of "So."
  2. I don't think any of the Astros were wearing makeup (not counting eyeblack, geniuses) today. The Cards? John Rodriguez was. I also suspect that Jimmy Edmonds--who was out of the lineup--was, too. Probably lipstick, too.

    Sunday, May 28, 2006

    They Did It!

    Astros 5, Pirates 4 - Final, 10 innings

    I don't think I've been this excited about beating the Pirates in a really, really long time. After last night's fiasco and the blowout the night before, I figured we were headed for a sweep (which would've been the Pirates' first series sweep since 2004) after going into the ninth down by four runs.

    The Astros have a way of doing this to all die hard fans, however. They're ratings geniuses. Why, you ask? Look at it this way... they force you to watch every out. Just when you're ready to turn it off, they show just enough life to keep you going. Today was no different. According to Preston Wilson's postgame interview (he's remarkably better spoken than I'd thought), the team decided to focus on having "good at-bats." This proved successful as the good guys rallied for a 4-run ninth inning to tie it and then an RBI single by Wilson in the tenth to eventually win it (Lidge completed his 13th save... after allowing the first runner on, but still).

    Fernando Nieve pitched exceptionally well, again (I think that having a rookie go 6.2 innings and give up 4 ER is great... especially considering the four runs came off of two swings on mistakes). Overall, I've been thorougly pleased (even despite Buchholz's recent ups and downs) with our younger guys. To have your number five starter from last year and two rookies going out there and giving you a chance almost every time is phenomenal. Now we have to get back to being able to count on wins from Roy Harvey and Cletus, and our offense needs to carry this "good at-bat" strategy (genius, isn't it?) into their future series.

    Congratulations, guys... well deserved. Let's just hope we can carry the momentum into our series with the Cardinals.

    Last Note: My only regret about this afternoon's win is that they didn't plunk Jason Gay. I can't stand that Canadian showboat. The guy acts like every homerun he hits is his first, trotting around the bases like a sweet gazelle, and then coming out of the dugout to wave his helmet as if he'd just given his team the lead or tied the game in Game 7 of the Fall Classic. The Billy Hatchers of baseball can do that, Jason. NOT YOU.

    BOO, BARRY BONDS... RETIRE NOW, CHEATER. If he'd done it without the aid of illegal drugs (and yes, I feel the same way about Mcgwire and Sosa), I'd be happy for him. If his attitude didn't SUCK, I'd be happy for him. But I'm sorry, Barry... you've done this to yourself.

    Disastros Slump at 5, Record at .500

    Astros 7, Pirates 8 - Final, 18 innings

    There were so many things wrong with this game that I don't even feel like posting about it. All I will say is this...

    We had the lead... TWICE... and our relievers couldn't do the job. Wheeler blew it in the eighth, and Gallo in the whatever-inning-it-was, both times with solo homeruns.

    Unlike the Astros, the Pirates, who've been in the cellar virtually all season but have found new life (maybe because Sean Casey is almost fully recovered), played like they wanted to win. The Astros did not.

    I'm so pissed off right now at this club that I don't even have the words. I think the team looks every bit as bad... if not worse... than it did last May.

    The only good news? We're still at .500.

    The horrible thing about that "good" news? Since going 19-9, we're now 6-16.

    PULL UP! PULL UP!

    Last Note: This is just the third series the Pirates have won thus far this season.