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Cubs Crush Happ, Astros Fall Into Fourth Place Tie

There goes that 77-win prediction that clack, Stephen, myself, and Zachary Levine all offered up for ridicule.  Laugh away.  The Astros continued their limp toward the finish line, now having lost three consecutive games.  This one was largely due to a catastrophic start by J.A. Happ, who, erm, ended his season with a bang.

Happ's eight-run performance took the Astros out of the game before they reached the halfway mark.  He gave out five walks to the Cubs, four of them in the first two innings, a period in which he also gave up four runs.

To be fair, the subsequent four-run fourth inning which knocked him out of the game wasn't entirely his fault.  In that inning, the first batter reached on a throwing error by Chris Johnson, who pulled Brett Wallace off the bag with an inaccurate bullet.  The next batter hit a swinging bunt out in front of Jason Castro, into no-man's land where neither he nor Happ were able to pick it cleanly, and the hitter reached on an infield hit.  The third batter hit a high pop fly which barely dropped in for a hit in front of Brian Bogusevic (playing center field).

You'll notice I've not mentioned any of these batters' names--none of them did anything worthy of praise that inning, aside from putting the ball in play.  The fourth (and Happ's final) batter, however--Aramis Ramirez--followed them with a grand slam into the Crawford Boxes.


That comedy of errors wasn't exactly what I'd hoped to see when I went to the ballgame, but at least I got a foul ball.  And a Biggio bobblehead.

Being at the ballgame, I had the advantage of being able to watch Brian Bogusevic closely in center field.  I came away impressed by his range.  Bourn might have caught that pop fly which dropped in for a hit, but Bourn is one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball; Bogusevic didn't get to it in bad shape, and almost made the catch.  Later in the game, he caught a deep drive to center field, not getting a great jump but making the catch nonetheless.  He seems to have the range to play the position at an average level, and his instincts would likely improve with more regular playing time.  Watching him play out there caused me to revise my estimate of his defensive position, and I begin to wonder whether--between Bogusevic, Shuck, Austin, and others--a trade of Michael Bourn might be in the cards sometime in the next year or two, pending their performances in the meantime.

Other positives in the otherwise yawn-inducing game included excellent performances out of the bullpen by Henry Villar (two scoreless innings) and Felipe Paulino (two scoreless innings, four strikeouts), who both ended their seasons strong, if those were indeed their last appearances of the year.  Brett Wallace also hit a big two-run double, a well-struck gapper the opposite way off Zambrano, who was up until that point lights out against a young Astros lineup.  Wallace is on a hitting streak, and has ended his mostly-acrid MLB debut on at very least a bittersweet note.

Tomorrow, Nelson Figueroa takes the mound to relieve Wandy Rodriguez's ailing back.  Magic Wandy's season is done; it wasn't quite magic, but it was solid, and you have to feel good about him going into next year.  Figgy will try to prevent the Astros from being swept at home to end the season.  Sunday's game will also decide whether the Astros finish the season in fourth place, ahead of the Cubbies, or one game behind them, in fifth place.

Would you rather have the higher draft pick?  Ask me again next June, and I'll probably say yes.  Right now, I just want to beat the stinkin' Cubs.