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Matchup/Game Thread Game # 24 at Reds 12:15 CST

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They call him . . . 
  'Babyface' They call him . . .
  'EZ'
Taylor Buchholz Elizardo Ramirez
1 - 1, 1.80 1 - 0, 2.57

I'm not worried. I'm not worried. I'm not worried. Andf I'm not sure why you don't believe me; because I'm NOT WORRIED.

 

OK, I'm a little worried. . . .

. . . But only in the way that I'm worried when Lidge or another member of our recently less-than-stellar bullpen loads the bases with two outs on a pair of walks and an infield single: No harm done if we just get 'em here.

Losing the series to Cincinatti at their home park at a time when they're obviously hot and <gasp> pitching pretty well, is not to my mind that serious a setback. No-one imagined that the Astros would go through a season without losing a series. And as far as losing ground to the division leader, this Reds anomaly will end, and most likely soon.

Flash back exactly 23 months, to May 30, 2004. It was the Reds who held first place that day, and if you recall, everyone was talking about how the Reds had turned it around with their "pitch to contact" philosophy, and the major media outlets were trying to convince you that the Reds might have some staying power. They finished 29 games back, of course.

And this team is that team, except they've got Eric Milton, and don't have Wily Mo Peña.

Oh, and David Weathers is their closer instead of Danny Graves.

So don't worry about the Reds, or a series loss to them.

But a loss today, and the sweep that it would represent, would be much more dire in the symbolic scheme of things. For one thing, given a St. Louis win today over the Nationals (duh), an Astros loss would put them behind the Cardinals, a team that we all know will have some staying power over the long hot summer.

For another, as April ends, getting swept by anyone might compartmentalize the great baseball the Astros played in April into that one month. Like those May '04 Reds, anyone can be a One-Month Wonder. These are the NL champions, yes, but they are also a team that almost no-one believes can even get back to the playoffs. Although everyone will tell you that baseball players don't think in this way, I can't help but wonder what a sweep here will do to the team's confidence level as they head to Milwaukee.

I honestly have no idea whether this is a winnable game for the Astros. Some of that uncertainty stems from Taylor. As good as he was in going the 8-2/3, I'll need to see a couple more quality starts (hell, knowing me, probably more) before I can totally relax when the rookie toes the slab. But so far so good, at least.

And I do love watching that overhand 12 to 6.

More uncertainly flows from this Ramirez character the Reds will drag to the hill. He's 1 - 0 with a 2.57, but he began the year with AAA Louisville, and is only in Cincy because of Eric Milton's bum knee. So we've got some conflicting signals just right there. Winning record, good ERA . . . but is not better than Eric Milton.

Hmmm.

And if you dig a little deeper, you'll see that the guy was 0 - 3 with a 8.46 ERA over six games for the Reds in 2005. And that he was 0 - 1 with a 3.94 at Louisville to start this year.

And the one major league victory was vs. the Nationals. Does that discredit it somewhat? No. I mean, yes. After all, Andy Pettitte beat the Nationals, and on a day when no-one watching thought he had his good stuff. If Ramirez had beaten the Brewers, or even the Cubs, I'd be a bit more impressed.

Certain people within the Reds organization have tried to paint Ramirez as a guy who has taken a few strides with his game since last year, a la Wandy Rodriguez I guess.

Maybe, but until Señor Ramirez puts together a four-game win streak, I'll be going by the track record.

But at the same time, he is a young pitcher the Astros have never seen, which rings the bells and sounds the alarums.

And of course, the Reds have been playing into some luck, and I have no idea whether that particular stream can be dammed.

Astros are 3 - 0 after a Pettite loss; 6 - 1 after a loss in general. But the one loss of course came yesterday, and each time previous it had been Wandy taking the mound the day after the AP loss.

So we'll see.