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Matchup/Game Thread Chicago Cubs at Houston Astros 7:05 CDT

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Jason Marquis Brandon Backe
11- 8, 4.13 0 - 1, 4.76

Brandon Backe makes his second start of the year and his first home start since August 13 of 2006 tonight. While he wasn't awful in his first start back on the fourth at Milwaukee--and you might even say he "battled"--it's worrisome to me a) that he walked 3 over 5-2/3 and b) that he struck out precisely zero.

The zero Brewers he struck out represented the first time since April 13 of '06, when he had to leave after 2 innings vs. the Giants, thus pressing Taylor Buchholz into service, that Brandon had not managed to retire a hitter on strikes.

As with Wandy, as with. . . um, Barry Zito, as with any pitcher who relies on a plus curve, it is essential for Brandon to get those bailing strikeouts looking, where the curve drops in only after the batter, seeing it at roughly eye level, has long since bailed out.

And even when healthy, Backe has always struggled against the walks. They're deadly for him because he is prone to the longball.

So maybe Backe continues his tuneup tonight, and he gets the K/BB above 2, where it belongs.

Or maybe there's deeper problems, still.

****
Hunter Pence sits at 50 extra base hits on the season, which ties the Houston rookie record, currently held by Luis Gonzalez (in 1991) and Lance Berkman (in 2000). He's also two doubles, two triples, and a homer away from putting up only the second 30-10-15 season in team history, after Cheo Cruz.

On the other hand, Pence looked lousy on Sunday vs. the Mets and Pedro Martinez, and really, looked lousy during the entire Mets series. Talk about bailing out . . . .

So maybe Pence turns it around, and still manages, despite the injury, despite the crappy team year, to post numbers that will forever distinguish him in Astros rookie lore.

Certainly I'm hopeful for Hunter, but this year has so efficiently squashed my hopes so far, it's difficult to emotionally invest much in the outcome. I'm fighting apathy here, because the apathy is less painful than watching the object of your hopes and dreams get clubbed repeatedly, incessantly.

2007 has been so bad, I gotta wonder if I'd be here if I wasn't, like, running this blog. Knowing that I bailed in 2000 shortly after the injury to Biggio, I'm probably gonna have to admit that I wouldn't be.

Obviously there are some others who share my view. As the Astros' chances have gone from slim to none, you can't help but notice that the game thread numbers have dropped as well.

So I might ask those who are stopping by tonight: what keeps you coming at this late date? Why not simply switch over to the Texans, or get some reading done?

We all love the Astros, but since 2008 is coming anyway, why not just cut your 2007 losses and run?