Astros Live Down To Expectations In First Series

Categories: Baseball
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Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher
Three games in. Three losses down. If there's one thing to say about the Astros, they know how to play down to expectations.

A still-injured Roy Oswalt had one bad inning on Opening Night, but one bad inning was all that the San Francisco Giants needed as they defeated the Astros 5-2, scoring three times on Oswalt in the second inning. The Astros never got close to figuring out Giants starter and Cy Young stud Tim Lincecum.

They lost 3-0 on Tuesday as Barry Zito just bedeviled the Astros hitters for six innings -- Zito gave up just three hits and got five strikeouts while throwing only 90 pitches. Wandy Rodriguez gave up three runs in the sixth, and the Astros never stood a chance. Yesterday afternoon, the Astros lost 10-4.

If not for Giants centerfielder Aaron Rowand dropping a ball and seeing it turn into a triple that scored two Astros runners in the seventh inning -- it would have been a catch of Michael Bourn-esque quality -- the Astros would have failed to score an earned run off of a Giants starter for the entire series.

How ugly was the series?

The Astros scored a total of six runs in three games -- only five of which were earned, and only two of which came off of a Giants starter (I'm sure that Lincecum and Zito are berating yesterday's starter, Matt Cain, for letting down the starting staff).

Even when the Astros tied the game yesterday, I don't think there was a person outside of Milo Hamilton, Ed Wade, or Drayton McLane who thought the Astros actually had a chance of winning any of the games, so thoroughly dominating was the Giants pitching. The Astros batters were a humiliating four-for-21 with runners in scoring position for the series, and numbers like that just don't win many games.

It's amazing that Brett Myers only gave up four runs in his six-plus innings yesterday, seeing as how the Giants looked to be taking batting practice off of him, especially Edgar Renteria who was four-for-four off Myers (and five-for-five for the game with a walk). Myers threw 100 pitches, gave up 12 hits, and threw only around 20-25 fastballs. None of his breaking stuff seemed to fool the Giant batters.

But amazingly, the Astros got to Matt Cain in the seventh yesterday -- the guy had been so cruising the entire day the people sitting in my section were using the Astros at bats to catch up on phone calls, take photos of their kids, and go to the restroom.

Yet this was the Astros. With the score tied in the top of the eighth, Sammy Gervacio came in and, before straining his right rotator cuff and going on the DL, gave up a double to Juan Uribe, fielded Eli Whiteside's sac bunt and threw it to the Crawford Boxes and, while Carlos Lee walked over to the ball, Uribe scored and Whiteside made the slight jog to third base, where he arrived without breaking a sweat or breathing hard.

And with the Astros down only 6-4 in the ninth, new manager Brad Mills thought that Jeff Fulchino was the appropriate pitcher to use. And Fulchino, in his short 16-pitch outing, gave up four hits, including a double and a home run, and four earned runs.

There were some positives for the Astros, kind of, in the series. Chris Sampson looked good. Pedro Feliz and Jeff Keppinger looked good in the field and with the bat. Kazuo Matsui has yet to get injured. I think I saw Carlos Lee run once or twice. Oswalt and Rodriguez looked good. And with the awful crowds on Tuesday and Wednesday, I had plenty of leg room.

Things aren't going to get any easier for the Astros this weekend as now they have three games against the National League champs for the past two years, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Astros are hoping that Lance Berkman might be able to come back next week, but meanwhile, Tommy Manzella hurt his wrist on Tuesday when he was hit by a pitch, and the bullpen took a hit with Gervacio going on the disabled list.

SOME RECOMMENDATIONS: The Astros are offering up a new ticket option this season, called Dynamic Pricing. They've set aside seats in the field box, the bullpen box, and the view deck where the market drives the ticket price. And because the Astros are so bad, the demand will often be low, which means the price will be low.

For instance, I got a field box seat for $28 yesterday. Just think of what the prices will be when the Pirates and Nationals come into town....Also, if you want more, need more, Astros reading and knowledge, check the Astros County blog from time to time. These guy(s) are doing a great job of chronicling all of the Astros minutia that is out there. They're not huge fans of me, but they do a great job.

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