Baseball is a simple game it's said. See the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball. We all know that this belies the real truth: that baseball can appear cruelly difficult and complicated if your team isn't winning. That was where the Astros were three hours ago. Searching for something, anything to latch onto in order to propel themselves out of the doldrums of an 0-8 start. Still without Lance Berkman, and with a slow starting Bud Norris on the mound, they certainly were not favorites going into this series finale versus the Cardinals.
The result of the game is what makes baseball not simple, but simply great. It's why we keep coming back for more even if we swear that the losses are just too much. In winning 5-1 in St. Louis, the Astros did nothing more than come away from a major league game with a successful result.
I would love to play up this game as a season changer or something of that nature. It very well could prove to be just that but in the short term, it removes our team from the butt of a lot of jokes. 1-8 isn't pretty, not at all. But at least we're no long that team without a win, we go to being just another bad baseball team. That's fine. Therein lies room for improvement, for overcoming low expectations and achieving whatever goals are realistic for this team to reach.
On the field, Bud Norris pitched like we all hoped he would. He was aggressive in collecting a career high nine strikeouts, including two of El Hombre himself. His slider against right handers is, dare I say it...filthy. After Carlos Lee failed to secure a fairly routine Felipe Lopez fly ball to end the fifth inning, the Cards would score their only run of the game on an RBI single by David Freese. Norris would bear down to keep the damage to a minimum and collected a hard fought victory in the process. After walking Phillies with impunity last week, Norris pitched much more around the plate today and the improvements were obvious in his final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K
Relief pitchers Chris Sampson, Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom were tremendous. In four innings of combined work, only an eighth inning Albert Pujols double off Lyon will go down as a hard hit ball. I especially like how Brad Mills utilized Chris Sampson for two innings instead of just one. When he is getting the downward action on his pitches like he was today, hitters struggle mightily.That's three out of four games where Astro pitching held their opponent to two runs or less. It's not much to go off, but it's something to build on.
Offensively, Chris Johnson is looking better and better at the plate. He scored our first run of the game on a Cudly Budly RBI single. Jeff Keppinger collected three RBI on the day, and Pedro Feliz knocked in run number five with a two out double. Michael Bourn remained hot after notching two more hits.
The Astros head to Wrigley to try to build on this first victory. Felipe Paulino will make start number two on the young season.
What a good feeling this is.
This one is for you, ol Pete: