Game Diary: Michaels, Blum, and Moehler get it done for the Astros, and it's ironic- don't ya think?

What follows is a little experiment that David, Evan, and I tried out today. We had an open Google Doc throughout the game and we used it as a running diary. If we could do it everyday- we would. You can argue with a perfect 1.00 correlation for this idea and Astros victories.

This game was absurdly ridiculous. It's clear that the baseball gods have a wicked sense of humor and today they were feeling saucy. Blum, Michaels, and Moehler were the keys to success. If someone would have told me that the game would swing on their performance before the game I would have scoffed at them.

The only way to explain it that baseball gods just wanted to have a good belly laugh on a Sunday afternoon and the WPA graph serves as proof:

20100418_astros_cubs_0_81_lbig__medium

via www.fangraphs.com

I'll save the running game diary for after the jump. But I'll keep the song of the day above the jump for your listening pleasure:


Pre Game 

(Stephen) - I have a bad feeling going into today's rubber game. One, it's road-Wandy. Secondly, it's Ryan Dempster and his annoying glove shake. There's just too much negative karma surrounding the game for me to want to put myself in a position to expect an Astros win. At least, however, Brad Mills seems to have indicated that Jeff Keppinger will be the starting 2B until his bat falls of a cliff or Kaz somehow merits a return to the lineup. This is good news, and perhaps enough good karma with the gods of baseball to allow them to not crush the spirits of Astros fans...

(Evan) I know he's due to make $5 million this season, but I'm starting to wonder about Kaz Matsui. Geoff Blum is an organizational favorite and with Lance hopefully returning sometime soon the infield gets even more crowded. Chris Johnson getting sent down would theoretically help his cause, bu I don't know how much. 

As far as today's game, I have to agree with Stephen. It will be tough to win this one. Wandy is on the road, but more than that, his velocity is down so far in 2010 and his shoulder isn't 100%, per Will Carroll. This could be a huge game from that standpoint. If nothing else, this is what I'm looking at in today's game. Can Wandy perform up to his 2009 standards?

Middle of the First 

(S) - Truly, I detest the glove waggle. Also, I detest the anemic offense. This is going to be a long season. At least Lance Berkman will likely be back in an Astros uniform this week. Of course, that's not guarantee of anything that will imbue the Astros lineup with life.

End of the First 

(S) - OK. Maybe I'll check the pessimism as Wandy, and the defense, looked sharp. I feel like I'll live to regret this sudden burst of optimism.

(E)
- Sunday afternoons are great this time of year. If you're in Texas, it's usually sunny or at least warm outside, and baseball is on. Our Astros first and foremost, but fantasy scores and happenings are fun to check up on during breaks in the action. Today I find myself rooting for the Boston Red Sox, something I don't enjoy. I have Jon Lester on the mound and Kevin Youkilis at bat. 

I was also reading the Rangers' game day thread over at Lone Star Ball. Those are some funny guys for sure. Rich Harden struggled for the Arlingtons today and their fans were none too pleased. Despite his talent, Harden hasn't really put it all together yet. He has ace stuff but doesn't have the control or the mentality it would appear of a true ace. In that vein, let us never say an ill word about Roy Oswalt again. 

Top of the Second 

(S) - Pence drills a solid single on a hanging slider, and a strong wind blowing in from CF helps Blum land a bloop single. Now I am thinking runs, but also thinking "Damn you hope, you always get the best of me." With a Manzella K and Quintero is left to help the cause, and thus the latter thought becomes more and more valid. As if to spite us, Dempster throws four straight pitches out of the zone, probably on the assumption that why throw something an Astro will make contact with because they'll swing at anything (Christ! we're the Mikey's of offense).

(S) - Q K's swinging and the urge not throw something across the room is hard to shake.

(E)- Every time Manzo gets two strikes I clench up and prepare for a strikeout...and I'm pleasantly surprised when he manages to foul pitches off....and there's the K

(E)- I will defend Ed Wade more often than not, because frankly, my criticisms would be just a drop in the bucket. But I have to wonder what he was thinking when he started piecing together this offensive roster. Yes, it wasn't all his doing and most of these players are either major leaguers before he arrived or draftees of another regime, but the unwillingness to show even a modicum of patience at the plate irks me to no end....Off topic, but: What the hell has happened to Brian Moehler? Anybody seen him on a milk carton?

Bottom of the Second 

(S) - Holy baserunning blunders and heads up defensive plays!!

(E)-Excelsior! Line out double play for the 'Stros after a Ramirez bloop hit to right field. The Cubs are better than the Astros, they'll probably win this series too. That all being said, I've been unimpressed with their base running and defense in this series. Soriano almost screwed the pooch on Friday but lucked out of getting picked off by Q, and then today's bone head decision by Ramirez happened. The defense of Soriano has been terrible in left, while Pence was able to get on via a collision error on Friday as well. So far the big contract left fielders for the Cubs and Astros are off to not so great starts.

Top of the Third

(E)- Bourn walks, and the Earth stops spinning for a brief moment. Also, Craig Counsell has hit a grand slam for Milwaukee today. Maybe the Earth has stopped spinning altogether?

(E)- Pitch out my ass. MB pegged out at second. Of course, Keppy follows with a solid single up the middle. Pedro Feliz, much to my chagrin, swings like David Eckstein and grounds out meekly to shortstop. Inning over. He was supposed to hit 20 home runs this season?? I say we're lucky if he hits 10. 

(S) - There's nothing like a CS stealing to make you not have an aneurysm. Of course, the after the CS, Kepp lands a hit. Damn you baseball gods and your humor.

Bottom of the Third

(E)- I'll give the Astros organization this- gone are the days when 29 year old first basemen, Matt Kata and the random middle reliever were the featured minor league stars of the week. We actually have some interesting prospects to pay attention to for the first time since we were in the playoffs. 

Speaking of 2005, Andy Pettitte is pitching like he's five years younger. Prediction for this inning: Cubs score two runs. Prove me wrong, Wandy.

(S) - With runners and second at third, Wandy fields a combacker and gets a fortutitious out at 1B. He then immediately snaps a wicked curve ball to Byrd. Byrd, embarrassed--I guess--rockets an 0-2 pitch for a two run single. As the old Italian master reminds us: fortune is a cruel mistress.
 
(E)- Wandy is extremely concerned with the former 300 lb'er Marlon Byrd on first base. Meanwhile, Derrek Lee works the count from 0-2 to 2-2. I don't know beans- Lee strikes out to end the inning. Cubs strike with...gasp! Two runs. Called that one, sadly.

Top of the Fourth

(E)
- As of now, I feel that this lead is insurmountable. So far in 2010, a two run deficit has been insurmountable for the Astros. I don't think a NL team could come up with a worse 6-8 than the Astros have. We're disturbingly weak. 

Bottom of the Fourth

(E)- Denis Leary wrote a book about how dumb Americans are. Now he does commercials for Ford trucks that defends the honor of the truck-driving-hard-working-gas guzzling-American male. Money talks, methinks. 

(E)- Aflac Trivia question asks top four SLG% all time for the Bear Children. I'd guess Hack Wilson, Sammy Sosa, Derrek Lee and Ernie Banks. Bah. 3/4. That's a solid C, right? Through four, same score. 

End of the Fourth

(S) - I didn't watch the entire fourth inning. Instead, I reread Chapter 26 of The Prince. There's just something too painful about watching immediately following what feels like the fatal blow of the third innings.  I am about to settle back in for the duration of the game, but I want this team to give me more faith in than I have right now. There's no reason that a two run deficit should leave me this depressed.

Top of the Fifth 

(E)-The Astros are protesting the senseless trampling of infield dirt by refusing to get on base. For the record, this is the second straight game where Wandy has faced a divisional opponent's second best starting pitcher and has failed to outpitch either Adam Wainwright or Ryan Dempster. Lack of run support is of course a relevant factor in evaluating him, but he just isn't as sharp as the guys he is competing against so far. Not that we were going to compete in the division anyways, but I would be wary to give him any kind of contract extension. He could make a fine third starter on a contending team I think.

Bottom of the Fifth 

(E)- Theriot and Fontenot are in the Eckstein mold of scrappers who I will despise as baseball players. Good fortune shines on the Astros in the form of another line drive out. This time Wandy snags a liner off the bat of the aforementioned Cajun, Ryan Theriot.

(S) - Word on the twitter is that Lance Berkman hit an RBI double, and the brought home by an RBI single by Bogusevic. This is the most positive development of the Astros entire 2010 season.

Top of the Sixth 

(E)- The Royals have already scored seven runs so far today. Rick Ankiel and Jose Guillen have combined for 8 home runs already, Scott Podsednik has an OPS over 1.000, and Jason Kendall is hitting .372. Haha, baseball Gods.

(S) - I'm too lazy to actually inquire on this. But my gut tells me that the Astros are on pace to shatter the record for 1-2-3 innings in a single season.

Bottom of the Sixth 

(S) - Wandy makes D Lee look silly on a 3-1 offering. That is then followed with a rarity in Astros baseball: a successfully executed run down. I swear that no other team in baseball has botched those more than the Astros in the last five years.

(E)-He's gotten no run support (again), but Wandy has gotten some breaks defensively. He has has to strand Byrd here. Got to. Nice positioning by Manzo there to stop a hard hit ball by Xavier Nady and flip to second base for the third out. 

(S) - Manzella nearly lost his ability to procreate on a Nady linedrive straight at him, but he flips to Keppinger to get out of the inning. Wandy leaves the sixth with 87 pitches. He'll definitely end up back in the game for the seventh. I hate this move though. The previous two games have resulted in tough, tough situations resulting as the pitcher fatigues. Just bring in a reliever before there is damage Brad Mills. Don't let the deficit grow larger.

Top of the Seventh 

(S) - Poor Carlos Lee (poor, of course, not being in the monetary sense). 

(S) On 2-0, Pence lays off a heart of the plate slider that hung up there. He then swings through the next offering- a slider that dropped off the plate. Good call, Hunter. 

(S) Blum follows with a ground out to Dempster. Thirteen in row. The more this continues, the harder it becomes for me to discern whether the Astros are just really this bad, or luck will even it out.

Middle of the Seventh 

(S) - I am so afraid of what is about to happen.

Bottom of the Seventh 

(S) - Two pitches, and Wandy gets Soriano to pop into a towering fly out to Michael Bourn in right-center. I'm not buying it. The Jaws theme song is playing in my mind as I watch Baker zing on by Keppinger for a single.

(E)- I think there were some of us who wanted the Astros to try to sign Jeff Baker last season. Seems like eons ago.

(S) - Wandy strikes Soto out swinging. I still don't believe it. I fully expect Dempster to hit a towering HR to straight centerfield. This is what has become of my fan-psyche. 

(S) - Dempster strikes out swinging, though. Tears are welling up in my eyes.

Top of the Eighth 

(E)- Tommy got a hit here, but I'll say he gets another 20 games to show the Astros something offensively. His defense has not been great, his range appears to be average and his bat is needless to say been bad. 

Humberto Quintero, you're lucky you can squat.

There's the Moehl-man! I don't think the Cubs lineup will feast on his off speed stuff, considering how Brian hasn't pitched in nine days....

Why is Pinella even worried? He should leave Dempster in and save Marmol the trouble using up a few pitches to induce this Jeff Keppinger pop up. 

(S) - Prediction. The last six outs will be strike out swinging. Two down. One to go.

(S) - Things I don't like seeing. Brian Moehler warming up in the bullpen. I blame Evan for this.

(S) - Two on. Two out. Jeff Keppinger to bat. Carlos Marmol is likely on his way out to pitch. While I listen to a mattress comercial about how my sweat and dead skin will double the weight of my mattress over time. I am less disturbed by that fact then the Marmol/Keppinger matchup that is about to play out.

(E)- Color me surprised. Kepp comes through. Let it be known that the only Astro hitters worth a damn to this point have been Bourn and Kepp. If Dave Clark had held Manzo there, I would have crapped myself. 

(S) - KEPP DID IT!!!! ONE RUN ON THE BOARD. First pitch was down the pipe, and Kepp just lined it right up the middle. Also, a special thanks to Dave Clark for not holding Manzella at 3rd base. I fully expected that to happen.


(E)- Feliz was just over matched there. That should be Lance taking those swings though, so you can't really blame Feliz. 

(S)
 - Damnit. Feliz K's looking on a full count.

Bottom of the Eighth

(E)- 
This will be a challenge for the veteran pitcher, Moehler. 

(David) - Who ya got, Brian Moehler or Brandon Lyon right now? It's gotta be closer to a tossup than Ed Wade would like...

(S) - Moehler gets the Cajun out and is up 1-2 on Byrd, but I refuse to be suckered by this. This proves fruitful as Keppinger drops a fly ball to shallow, shallow right field. The baseball gods must truly hate us.

(E)- Right now, it looks like Byrd can be gotten out with high fastballs. I don't know if Moehler has the stuff to accomplish this.....These guys are professionals, right? Keppinger muffs a pop up by Marlon Byrd.

(D) - sigh...That's the problem with Kepp at second, though I'm not sure Matsui would have done better. This whole team is just scuffling right now.

(D) - At least Berkman had a good day at Round Rock.

(E)- Amazing. Moehler escapes with an around the horn double play. Best part? No Woody Paige in this around the horn. 

(S) - Kepp immediately redeems himself by sticking it through on a double play with Byrd taking him out.

End of the Eighth

(S) - Now would be a perfect time for Carlos Lee's luck to turn around

Top of the Ninth

(D) - When you listen to XM Radio games, you always get the home team feed. Driving around the other day, I had to listen to the Cubs guys and they were talking up how well Lee does at Wrigley historically. That hasn't seemed to help him in this series, though. 


(E)
- Carlos Lee spares us the suspense and pops up on the first pitch. Hunter has his first two hit day of the season though. We have life! Wow. Geoff Blum. Thanks for playing...strike one. 

(S) - Alas. It does not. Pence gets lucky on a blooper/error for single, though. I refuse to get excited, though, because Geoff Blum is now charged with not botching that bat.

(S) - As Pence took off, I fully expected it to be a CS.


(E)- There's a break! Hunter in scoring position with the steal. Cubs' catcher, Hill, can't handle the pitch and makes no throw.

(D) - Hunter has looked like he's turning it around at the plate. With Berkman coming back, the offense could be decent. COULD being the key word.

(S) - GEOFF BLUM I LOVE YOU.

(E)- BLLLLLLUUUMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!! Rock your body, right....Geoff Blum's back, all right! (Blum has been listening to the Backstreet Boys this week to get his mojo back.) Manzo is fighting off a tough pitcher. Guarantee the Marmols of the AAA world are few and far between.

(D) - That explains why Blum knows the words...it does not excuse you, Evan, from knowing them as well...

(E)- I had to, um....Google them really quickly...yea...that's it...

(D) - GEOFF BLUM!! Who would have thought this game would be tied on a Hunter steal and a Blum double?? What's next, Moehler gets the win??

(S) - Tommy Manzella, I do not blame you for striking out swinging.

(D) - What was that, his third strikeout of the game? Q also struck out three times. That's a whole lotta nothin from those two spots in the lineup.

Middle of Ninth

(S) - I now am petrified that this will become a fourteen inning affair that ends badly for us.

(D) - Fear not, Moehler's good for at least 10 more innings.

(D) - PS, kudos to Evan for getting his article listed on Baseball Think Factory for the second time this week. 

(E) - I owe it all to mentioning either Barry Bonds or Carlos Lee and something to do with him being fat

Bottom of the Ninth

(S) - WTF?! Why is Tim Byrdak in here?! What is Brian Moehler's purpose on the team if he is not going to continue to pitch here?

(E)- Prove my inner monologue wrong, Tim. 


(E) - Great call, Skip! We had confidence in you the whole time!

(S) - I fully respect Manzella for calling Keppinger off of that IF. Thank you, Tommy. If that had been dropped, I would have had an aneurysm.

(D) - Could Manzella be the Anti-Everett? Tommy looks so awkward on so many plays, while Everett made everything look really easy. 

(E)- Damn you, Tim. Do NOT get two down with ease and then give up a run. 


(S) 
- To put my nerves in context. I have spent most of this inning cleaning out my freezer rather the focus on the game. I just can't shake the feeling of an impending train wreck...and I don't want to watch it happen...but I have to at the same time.

(E)- Mills has so much dead weight on his roster. Takes some getting used to after years in Boston. 

(D) - Byrdak just wanted to up the difficulty level a little. He felt he was playing on Rookie mode and wanted to bump it up to All-Madden...

(E)- Hahaha. I hope so. He should use a hit stick on Hill, in that case. Stros need to get out of this, go the 10th score some quick runs and then send the Cubs down in order because I want to watch the end of the Thunder/Lakers game....thank you Tim. I heard the best nickname ever yesterday for Kevin Durant: The Durantula. Thunder have moved within 8 at the end of the third, in a 64-56 slugfest.

(S) - Awesome, after Arnsberg's visit to the mound Byrdak misses by an easy three feet.

(S) - Realization: This will probably the longest post in TCB history.

(D) - Don't tempt me. That sounds too much like a challenge for me not to write an epic 20,000 word post...

(E)- Bill Simmons style.

(S) - Also known as novel?

(S) - Actually awesome: Byrdak then gets Hill out after falling behind 0-2.

Top of the Tenth

(E)- Michaels has two of the hardest hit balls by the Astros all season. Leadoff double. Let's play for one!

(D) - JMIKE!!! When can we replace Carlos for Michaels? Tuesday? With Kepp coming up in this inning, my confidence levels just inched up a tiny bit. Kepp is our best hitter right now

(S) - The baseball gods have to just love screwing with people. Jason Michaels just hit a pinch  double lead off the inning. They clearly just want to facilitate the most improbable box score of the 2010 season.

(E)- Every little leaguer has fielded that ball and then thrown to third out of habit. I wish Aramis would have done that there. 

(S) - Bourn sacrifices Michaels to 3rd. I hope this wasted out doesn't screw us over. But I feel like it will.

(S) - OH MY GOD?!?! WHY DID KEPP JUST SHOW BUNT ON THE FIRST PITCH?!?!

(E)- I fear this situation so very, very much. How many ground balls have the Astros hit so far this season? 100? 150?

(D) - To mess with you. They are afraid of Michaels stealing home. Because he's our fastest runner...

(S) - Great. Kepp is getting IBB'ed and our hopes now lie with Pedro Feliz. I miss Lance Berkman so much right now.

(D) - Confidence level with Feliz and Lee up next? Not so high...Of course, Feliz promptly hits a sac fly to give us the go-ahead run.

(S) - Sac-Fly by Feliz and Michaels scores!!!!!!!!! I don't believe it. If Carlos Lee does something hear I will be convinced that I have fallen asleep on the couch and am dreaming.


(E)- Feliz had played for a winning team for so long, he apparently remembers how to execute. I don't know if there's any merit to that statement, but it feels good to write it. Now I know how Richard Justice feels..

(S) - Phew!! Carlos Lee flies out to right. Come on Matt Lindstrom. Record save number two.

Bottom of the Tenth

(E)- Pinch Hitter, Cajun, and Byrd to hit for Chi Cubs...I fear Derrek Lee in a situation like this so best to send these guys down in order, Matt

(D) - Wicked slider. Wicked. Brad Arnsberg's first big Astros success story?

(S) - A filthy slider to get the first out of the inning against Fontenot. Lindstrom just has such dominant stuff. He makes me feel safe. Until he throws a ball three feet outside after I type that. And then ball in the dirt...and another. Damnit. Did I just jinx Lindstrom? Linstrom sucks. This kid has no future.

(E)
- Lindstrom, wearing number 22, trying to pitch like the former wearer of that jersey number, Roger Clemens...Time to stop trying to get him to chase. Throw a heater. Piyyaaaaaaa! Two outs! A double delight as he strikes out both Cajuns! 

(D) - I wonder why the Astros haven't retired No. 22 yet...

(E) - The Walgreens' pharmacy down the street from the ballpark already has...

(S) - Lindstrom gets a called third strike for out number two against Theriot!!!!!!!!! One out away.

(E)
- Dear Lord, please let this happen. We are one strike away. Brace yourselves for jubilation or sadness...Sadness. My worst fear has come to fruition. Derrek Lee approaches home plate...

(D) - Oh gosh. Lindstrom primed for a fat pitch right here. Please don't hit it, Mr. Lee.

(S) - Dear Matt Lindstrom, 

Don't nibble yourself behind Derek Lee here. 

Sincerely, 

Common Sense

(E)- Haaaaaa! Take that!!!! Game over! Series win! Comeback win! To paraphrase Frank Sinatra:  Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town...Chicago, Chicago, Lindstrom will mow you down, I love it! 

(S) ASTROS WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LEE GOES DOWN SWINGING

(D) - WHOOOO! Lindstrom threw that fastball by Lee. Pure heat. Straight gas. Awesome awesome awesome. AND WE TAKE OUR FIRST SERIES! I CAN'T STOP USING CAPS
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