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Matchup/Game Thread Game # 157 at Pirates

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Andy Pettitte Ian Snell
13 - 13, 4.31 14 - 10, 4.67

With everything that the Astros have accomplished, and with all the cooperation they have received from the Cardinals, theAstros are only halfway to their now at least explicable dream.

They've won six straight; they will need to make it twelve.

The Cardinals have lost six straight, but .500 baseball from here on out could clinch them the division.

Last night's victory was so gritty and intense, I think that both Astros and Cards fans may have gotten a little carried away in its glow.

Whatever you might hear, the Astros cannot be considered favorites in the NL Central, at least not yet.

Clay Davenport has his computer play the remaining season a million times, and it's got the Astros with a 7.90% chance of winning the division.

Don't get we wrong--these are real odds. By now, you can imagine it happening. It could happen. These are real odds, and they are wonderful odds, compared with what they must have been this time last week.

And they are much better than those faced right now by our opponents in last year's World Series.

But we are far from the shoo-ins the paranoiac Cardinal fans would make us. They have cast their fears to the wind like homin gpigeons, and they have returned with the model of the '64 Phillies, who blew a 6-1/2 game with twelve to golead after Gene Mauch went to a two-man rotation down the stretch. The comparison--at least so far--is an overly dramatic one. The Cards have been bad, but they'll need to stay bad for another four games before they sink to the depths that The Fizz Kids fell to.

And LaRussa ain't no LaGenius, but I think there'd be an intervention if he tried to go to a two-man rotation of Carp and Soup the rest of the way.

Ah yes, Carp. The NL Cy favorite (still!) goes for the Redbirds tonight, and for that reason a Houston victory over Snell and the Pirates is almost required. Chris Carpenter is 3 - 1 with a 2.82 this month, and his, ummm, September Swoon of last year has not been repeated.

Perhaps the Cardinals will lose tomorrow, or Thursday, but I do not expect them to lose tonight, and if they were to turn two pages on that Countdown thing they've got, it would feel like liberation to them.

So Andy's gotta get it done tonight, and Roy's gotta get it done tomorrow, and then Jason's gotta get it done, and then Rocket.

E - T - C.

You get the picture. For all the wonderful things the Astros have accomplished so far, and for all the joy I felt this morning when I heard Mike & Mike give them a mention as contenders, there's a long and very perilous route still to be travelled.

Snell has beaten Clemens mano a mano, remember, in fact beat him for his first career victory, so fans and players should not get cocky, but Houston ought to--and better--win.

Go Astros! Go Padres!