|Roy Oswalt||Dontrelle Willis|
|4 - 3, 4.30||6 - 0, 1.07|
The story on ESPN focuses on Willis and his last five dominant innings, and I've got no probem with that, but the real story went down in the first two.
Houston had the best pitcher in the NL so far on the ropes in the first two innings, but just couldn't come up with the punch that would do the real damage.
Houston got hits the first two times they tried, but lacked the intensity and/or concentration to build anything more formidable. Craig Biggio greeted the high-kickin' Willis with a double, Taveras moved him to third with a sacrifice to the first base side, and Ensberg's cleanly-stroked single drove Bidge home before the kids behind us had even text-messaged their girlfriends.
But Ensberg was never able to advance. Lance Berkman still looks totally out of whack with his timing, and Willis struck him out easily to get the second out.
But even when Lamb struck out to end the first-inning threat, I remained somewhat optimistic.
An infield single for Everett and a Texas Leaguer for Chavez led Willis to intentionally walk Biggio with two outs in the second. I thought that was almost a no-brainer, seeing how Biggio is the only Astro over .300. But instead of making Willis pay, Taveras hit into a lazy fielder's choice, and that was it for the next five innings.
Lamb singled with two outs in the sixth, but there literally was nothing else. As often happens this year, the team lost its approach, swinging at balls out of the zone, helping Willis rather than making him labor. Thanks to Oswalt, Biggio and Taveras, Willis threw SIX pitches in the fifth inning. Christ, even Berkman--as lost as he is right now--has enough wits to take a six-pitch at bat.
By the eighth I was depressed enough to realize that the late rally was doomed to failure.
Once again, an abysmal offensive output overshadowed a very well-pitched game from one of our starters. Let me tell you, Oswalt was one mean son of a bitch out there. To be fair, he did lose control a little bit: after Pierre's two-out triple in the third, he was so pissed off that he lost the strike zone to Damion (the .220-hitting utility player) Easley, then felt he had to groove one, which Easley crushed to dead center. The wind had started to kick up a little, blowing in, and I didn't think it would carry enough.
But it did, and Roy got even more pissed off. But when Delgado singled, Chavez went out there, and somehow settled Oswalt down enough so that he could get Encarnacion swinging.
After that, until two outs in the eighth, Oswalt was pretty damned focused. Not afraid to pitch up and in, hell, enjoying it, it seemed like, Oswalt seemed to be drawing from a kind of rage: The more I see him this year, the more I think he deserves the title of Meanest Pitcher in Baseball. Like, now that he's won 20, he doesn't have to go through the bullshit of pretending to like anybody. . . .
It'd be an understatement to say that Marlins batters never got settled in against Roy, and even when somebody reached, he was able to reach back and find something extra nasty, at one point reaching 97 on the radar gun indicator behind the Miccosukee sign, other times doing the chin music thing.
Except for that one slip up vs. Easley, Roy pitched great, and I hope wasn't too angry at his teammates for their lack of support.
But he might have been.