Huge win, even at a time when every win is huge.
Expectations have to come into this Game Hero thing. If Andy Pettitte gives up three over six, I'm looking elsewhere for the star of the game. But if Zeke Astacio bellies up with the same line, he gets his baseball card near the masthead.
Okay; I'm very mercurial with this hardball stuff. After a loss, I'm pessimistic, and after a win I'm very optimistic. I'll grant you that. But who else didn't think much of our chances today? Is there an Astro fan out there who seriously thought that Zeke Astacio would outpitch Carlos Zambrano?
'Cause that's just what he did.
Granted, Zambrano was hardly at his best Saturday, but so what?
Didn't see the game, but in reviewing the play-by-play, I'm paradoxically impressed by Zeke's work in his worst inning, the sixth. Garciaparra homered to get the Cubs within one run with only one out recorded in the frame. But guess what? Zeke did not implode. After the Nomar jack, Astacio recovered from the damage done by striking out the next two batters he faced.
He got beat, but quickly re-established control of the game. And as it turned out, those two outs were the last the team needed from him. The ability to limit damage, and to keep the inevitable opponent's run scored from becoming a sustained rally, is one of the things that separates a quality pitcher from a mediocre one. Astacio's strike to ball ratio was near 50% for the day, nothing special, but when it came to controlling the damage in what turned out to be the swing inning, Zeke Astacio pitched high quality.
Also wanna give a nod to the bullpen, who threw three perfect innings Saturday, and who have notched seven scoreless with only two hits and no walks for the Cubs series overall.
With the Cardinals allowing eight runs Saturday, the Astros became the last team not to have given up 600 runs on the year. With any kind of luck, Houston may not end up giving up that many at all. The last time (other than the 1994 strike year) that the Astros gave up fewer than 600 runs all season was 1986. The Astros had a pretty good Big Three that year, too*.
* Yes this means you, Jim Deshaies
† I was wrong earlier when I reported that the team was 6 - 8 coming in. It'd been 5 - 8.