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Matchup/Game Thread Game # 76

Roy Oswalt Javier Vazquez
6 - 3, 3.32 8 - 4, 4.43


Cardinals were swept AGAIN.

The scores weren't an embarassment like they had been twice during their series against the White Sox, but of course, the losses are enough.

They mean that if Roy Oswalt can lead the Astros to victory tonight, the Astros will have picked up two games on the division leaders over the last six games, despite having won only two of them.

It's a reason to keep the faith, never mind the rollercoaster so far.

But most of all, this rough patch encountered by the Cards is a call for creative problem solving by Purpura and Smith and Garner.

I asked yesterday what your thoughts were as to the biggest impediment faced by the Astros in their quest for the division title. I thought it was Andy Pettitte's crappy season. Some of you agreed with me; others did not. The inconsistent bullpen has gotten quite a few votes, I see. But what is clear after watching the Cardinals lose six straight games is this: whatever the biggeest impediment for the Astros is, it is not the Cardinals.

You think we got problems? The Cardinals got problems. An insecure closer, a black hole in right field, a center fielder on his last legs, an anemic bench, and we'll have to see how long the superstar lasts with his bad back.

The Cardinals can be caught, there can no longer be any doubt. The only question is whether the Astros are the team to do it, or not.

Can the Houston rotation come together? Can the bullpen? Can Ensberg snap out of it?

And most importantly, can the brain trust identify those problems that cannot be solved from the current roster, and make the changes necessary?

The Astros have a valuable commodity in Chris Burke, and as much as the team has tried to turn him into something other than a second baseman, a second baseman is what he still most resembles.

Unfortunately, you can say the same thing about Craig Biggio.

I'm not saying trade Chris Burke, but what I am saying is that Purpura and Garner and Smith need to examine the possibility. Nothing and no-one should be off-limits. If they conclude Burke is too valuable to trade, OK. Fine. But the possibility has to be explored. What might help the team? Now that we've signed Roger, maybe he represents the greatest value if he were traded.

Or maybe it's not feasible. But look at things; get crazy.

Get creative. Or (not to be tiresome) look at Luke Scott, a source of power within the organization. Willly Taveras has been reduced to a late inning defensive replacement. If Willy can't hit, I LIKE the idea of using him in late inning situations, running down balls that would otherwise reach the gap. But is using Willy in that role more important than infusing the roster with a dose of power?

I don't know, but I want to be sure that the Purpura and Smi9th and Garner and McLane if necessary are thinking about it.

There's still a division to be won, and I really won't mind losing to a team that is clearly more talented. But to get outthunk, that would bother me.