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Matchup/Game Thread Game # 80 at Rangers

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Roy Oswalt Vicente Padilla
6 - 3, 3.26 6 - 5, 4.76

Boy, dog days is fucking right. It's not just the DSL that doesn't want to work. I'm in severe writer's block, the players' skills appear to have deserted them, and T-Purp is in the throes of brainlock, apparently incapable of formulating proactive solutions.

It must be that goddamned sun. Astros have lost 7 of 9 after a brief and perhaps illusory resurgence, and guess what! Tonight is game # 80. It's been two months since the team has played well, and beyond the predictable acquisition of Clemens (not to make light of it), Purpura is still standing pat. Maybe the Texas heat has gotten so bad his brain has poached in his skull.

Why else the inactivity?

How about a right fielder? I hear Craig Wilson is available, and the Pirates have obviously packed it in. Nothing says "we're looking towards 2007" like sending Oliver Perez to the minors. So you'd be renting Wilson. Big deal. You can worry about that next year, when Bagwell and Clemens won't be receiving paychecks.

Or maybe some bullpen help. Maybe Gary Majewski? Washington has surely realized they won't be catching the Mets by now.

Not that it's only Timmy who deserves a kick in the ass to get 'im started How about Hickey and Garner. People are starting to notice that the bullpen sucks, and hasn't gotten any better halfway in.

Just as an example of the kinds of things Garner and Hickey might do, let's take a look at team pitching, seventh inning on. Kind of rough, 'cause Roy's gone into the eighth a couple times, and Lord knows that we've made a call to the bullpen or two before the sixth. But humor me.

Well, first thing you see is that Houston's ERA after the sixth is the worst in the National League at 5.21. Only Cincy is in the ballpark, and they're at 5.09. This is bad folks. But we kind of knew it was bad, didn't we?

We'll need to identify why the high ERA if we're gonna attempt to fix it.

First thing you see is that the problem is not the inability to throw strikes. Houston is second in the league in strikeouts after the seventh, and fourth in strikeout to walk ratio. The opposing hitters are missing frequently enough, and the walks aren't out of hand either.

Opponents batting average isn't terrible. It's .270, which is a far cry from the league lead, but is also well below what Cincy (.285) and LA (.280) have posted.

What else? Well, Houston also leads the league in innings pitched after the seventh, but even if it is a factor, it's not anything you can do very much about. Anyone who's watched Taylor and Wandy knows that Garner has shown the requisite amount of patience, if not more.

Goddamnit, the root cause is here somewhere. Where is that son of a bitch?

(. . . .mumbled curses as the closet is emptied . . . .)

Got it!

Here it is: home runs allowed. Houston has allowed 38 homers after the seventh inning. 1.41 per nine innings. Jose Lima territory. Never mind that the Astros are actually second leaguewide in this category to the Reds. The number's terrible, and besides, when you start pointing to the Reds' pitching as your benchmark, you know you're in trouble. . .

So. What changes can we make to attempt to keep the ball in the park in the late innings?

Short of making a trade (thanks, Tim!), we can stack the deck with those who keep the ball in the park the best. Skip the Qualls/Wheeler/Lidge troika, and simply give the important work to those who might make a difference in the stat that has most bedeviled us: home runs allowed.

Astro Reliever HR IP HR/9IP
D Wheeler 2 33.2 0.53
C Sampson 1 15.1 0.59
D Borkowski 3 34.1 0.79
B Lidge 4 37.1 0.96
C Qualls 6 43.2 1.24
M Gallo 3 16.1 1.65
R Springer 5 27 1.67
F Nieve 15 69.1 1.95
T Miller 5 22 2.05
E Astacio 2 5.2 3.18

Alright, so maybe Wheeler has a place. And Sampson's at Round Rock. Big deal. Bring him up, pretty simple. Reward Borkowski for the job he's done. Demote Qualls, to the front end or to AAA. Recognize that Chad's just not consistently doing the things he's supposed to be doing.

Not that this plan is necessarily a solution. I'm no genius, but again, these are the kinds of things you might try, instead of sitting on your steer end and waiting for this year's version of The Miraculous Finish.

Time's a-wasting in a winnable division.

***

Back after that Silver Boot, pardners!