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Matchup/Game Thread Game # 118 vs. Cubs

Carlos Zambrano Roy Oswalt
12 - 5, 3.54 9 - 7, 3.27

It's always illuminating to consider which player it might be that most exemplifies the team. Whose attitude, spirit, ability, and accomplishments most reflect the greater whole?

It's often a transitive relationship, too, flowing both ways, the player and the team growing more and more alike. I think of Willie Stargell and the '79 Pirates, where the entire team took on Stargell's low key no-nonsense demeanor. Or of Dizzy Dean and the '34 Cardinals, where they all went over the edge with Mr. Dean's cornpone and confidence. Or Willie McGee and the mid-80's Cardinals teams.

With the 2006 Astros, I think that player from whom the main vibe flows is . . .

Jason Lane.

Hold on a sec. Think about it and see if you don't agree with me.

Neither untalented nor possessing it in spades, both Lane and the Astros are likeable, wholesome, hard-working, and subject to failure under pressure. Both the team and the outfielder work hard enough to put themselves in good position to succeed, but under the larger spotlight will more often than not, fail, and we can only imagine that there's something of a mental block.

This Astro team has never given up after the atrocious May. In fact they've probably worked harder since then, and through that hard work they've clawed their way a couple times now to the cusp of taking charge in the races in which they compete.

And then they fall flat on their faces.

You first saw it of course in the series right before the break, against the Cardinals, when St. Louis came in slumping, and the Astros entered flying high, having won five of six after a demoralizing interleague road trip. The winner would have clear control of the NL Central race, and after a series opening victory, the Astros lost three straight.

We saw it again over the weekend. With Cincy and St. Louis having their troubles, the Astros had worked hard enough, and were on enough of a roll, that suddenly dreaming about even the division was not folly. But what we saw against the slumping Padres, rather than a consolidation of growing power, was an opening game win, and then a disappearing act as the Astros were no shows the rest of the series.

They were like Jason Lane: they got the heebie-jeebies contemplating the possibility of their own success.

But alright. What's past is past, and Zambrano or no, the Cubs present the Astros with yet another opportunity for confidence-boosting.

And they will probably take advantage of it. The Astros have, after all, proved that they are a better team than the Pirates and the cubs. But having been burned a couple times now, I gotta say, I really wonder what's gonna go down when, next week, after the weekend series at Milwaukee, the Astros go into Cincinnati.

Certainly the Reds are beatable--just take a look at the fact that they've given up 30 more runs than they've scored. But will a case of the Astronerves once again prevent our team from playing at the level at which they ought?

Gotta wonder.