Should anyone imagine for a second or two that I don't internalize this Astros baseball stuff much more deeply than is probably healthy, I'd like to offer the simple fact that overnight I awakened not once, but twice, with the Gipson/Barrett play at the plate flashing through my dream-fogged mind.
As I drove into work this morning, I played with the concept of last night's game being the most brutal loss of a season that has seen more than a couple. In the end, I'll probably have to decide in the negative on that one, not only because of several contests with Roger Clemens on the hill ((vs. Hudson, vs. Mulder, vs. Ishii. . . .), but also because of simple consequence.
The Astros, despite the loss last night, are still in remarkably good shape to advance to the playoffs. The painful loss--unless it is followed by a general collapse such as the Marlins experienced after THEIR most brutal defeat, in which they gave up ten ninth-inning runs to the Phillies--really shouldn't matter much at all when the Astros take the field in Atlanta early next week.
That doesn't get it out of my head, though.
I keep thinking of the jubilant Luke Scott, who had a marvelous at-bat against Dempster, doing the mini-Ensberg fist pump, as he progressed down the first base line. And poor doomed Charles Gipson, a man built for speed and not for power, futilely doing everything he could to knock the ball from Michael Barrett's glove.
Had Doug Mansolino held Gipson at third, it certainly would not have won the game for Houston. Biggio was the batter to follow, and he's had his share of infield pops this year. The game just as easily could have ended with runners on first and third. But at least that way, Scott's at bat would not have been wasted.
Trying to reach back inside my notoriously unreliable memory, I'm thinking that once previous this year, we've seen a runner sent in a hopeless situation, so it's not like it's not happened before to Mansolino. But I'd still say the poor decision-making is not chronic with the guy. If I can forgive Jason Lane for throwing the ball into the stands with two outs, or Willy Taveras for pulling the bat back with the squeeze on, I can forgive Mansolino here. And to be truthful, what with Willy's arm--and Jason's too--it seems as if our opponents have had more than two runners, and maybe many more than two, caught by several steps at the plate.
The Cubs and Astros played a fascinating game last night. We may have seen the last appearance of the suicide squeeze for this season, we saw literally the offensive tide turn on a simple missed ball call, and we saw a furious rally turned back at the last possible moment.
Here's hoping for a little less drama this evening.