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Matchup/Diary Game # 117 vs. Pirates

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Dave Williams   Ezequiel Astacio
9 - 8, 4.18    2 - 5, 6.75

It's possible that Garner did his best, even if everybody else (other than Roger Clemens) mailed it in. If it's true that Clemens went to Garner last night and told the skipper that he couldn't pitch the ninth inning, then it's hard to find fault with anything Garner did last night.

I loved that he went and got Lidge after Bradley gave up a homer and allowed two additional base runners to open the ninth. It's a little sad, but the guts Garner showed in trying to keep the game at one run is worthy of comment. It seems like a simple thing, but it really wasn't.

My WPA tables tell me that at Minute Maid, the Astros, when they begin the home half of the ninth down by one, have a 20% chance of winning, .207 to be exact. Down by two, the number plummets to below ten percent, at .094. That's a big run there, and wouldn't you want to avoid giving it up if you could?

But these days, it seems the game has to be lost before any manager goes and gets his closer. Of course, some of that has to do with the quality of your personnel: the closer has the best stuff on your team, or he wouldn't be closer. But the guy still has to display that stuff, and too often the attittude is "I'm winning or losing with my closer, regardless," or "my closer at 50% is better than any other reliever at 100%." Neither viewpoint can bear much scrutiny. So why would a manager--who's paid to win--so often yield his strategic options?

I think managers get lazy, for one thing. They maneuver for eight innings to get to their end game, but are often unwilling to change that endgame midstream.

The other thing is that closers have become primadonnas. I'm speaking in general here, and not specifically of Lidge, but closers have come to feel that while they have the job, they are the untouchables. Win or lose, it is their game. Which is a fine attittude to have when they're winning, but one that causes some problems when you allow a homer and two baserunners to your first four batters in the ninth.

The attitude is so prevalent that it was the second thing I thought of when I saw Garner take the walk. I hope we don't get us a disgruntled Brad Lidge.

And I hope we don't. I hope that Brad Lidge is responsible to own up to his own failures, and not blame them on a manager who was doing the best he could to help the team win.

In the same vein, in the bottom of the frame, after Qualls had managed to slither out of the mess Lidge had made, I appreciated that Garner not only pinch-hit for the pitcher, but also for Taveras, who had had a simply atrocious game at the plate. That move was a little less controversial, but was also a little outside of the box, simply because it was the speedy leadoff guy you were pinch-hitting for. "Speed don't slump," they say, but on the contrary; it most certainly does.

Of course, it wasn't Garner's fault that Mike Lamb had the putrid at bat against Mesa that he did. Mesa threw six pitches, none of which were even close to the zone; somehow Lamb managed to strike out.

At least Biggio managed to make contact to end the game.

***

Zeke needs to throw a good game today; the hitters, having stranded 24 over the past two games, do not seem to be in a good postion to shoulder the load.

A loss today would send the Astros to their first home series defeat since the first week of June.

Dave Williams took the loss July 18th in the first game of the four-game sweep that did so much to reverse matters for a Houston team that had just been swept by the Cardinals. Williams gave up 10 hits and 5 runs over 5 innings in an 11 - 1 cakewalk.

We could surely use another. We lost ground to everybody but the Brewers yesterday, and the Phillies have picked up two games on us over the last ten.