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CJ Wins All, Astros Take Down Braves 10-4

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If you missed clack's post about Chris Johnson's sister at the beginning of the game thread, go read it. His bases-clearing single in the seventh inning was not only a nice piece of hitting, not only a lucky bounce with McCann's error, it cemented this as the Chris Johnson Game. Playing with the mixed emotions he must be feeling is impressive enough, but excelling like he has, continuing to be the best hitter on the team, well...he deserves to have this game named after him.

There were plenty of doubts about this outcome, too. Bud Norris put the Astros in an early hole. Falling behind 2-0, the Astros rallied back to take a 3-2 lead, but Norris gave up a two-run home run to Brian McCann, which put the Braves back in front. Norris also gave up a home run to Jason Heyward and generally didn't have his sharpest stuff, giving up seven hits while striking out three and walking two. He did pitch into the seventh inning again, allaying some of my early fears about his stamina.

Let's recap the events of that fateful bottom of the seventh. Geoff Blum opened up with a single. How good has Blum been at the plate since coming off the DL? Unexpectedly good, I'd say. Jason Bourgeois pinch-ran for Blummer and JB promptly took second on a throwing error by one of the newest Braves, Kyle Farnsworth.

Michael Bourn sent a chopper to third base, with JB moving over to third on the play. Bourn just barely missed getting his 25th infield hit (which he did later in the game), putting a man on third with one out. Angel Sanchez took a walk before Jeff Keppinger scalded a single to left field above the shortstop. That scored JB and gave the Astros a 5-4 lead with men on first and second.

Both runners moved up after a wild pitch bounced away from McCann, putting men on second and third with one out. Hunter Pence, he of the 15-game hitting streak (which would be snapped in this game), was intentionally walked to load the bases for Carlos 'El Bufalo' Lee.

Lee hit a bloop/fly/soft liner/dying quail/Texas Leaguer to right field that landed just in front of a sliding Heyward, scoring Sanchez from third but not allowing any other runners to move up. That's when all hell broke loose.

The very next batter, Chris Johnson, grounded a single through the hole on the left side, scoring Keppinger and Pence. The throw from left fielder Eric Hinske went home, trying to nail Pence at the plate. That prompted Lee and Johnson to move up a base on the throw.

Seeing El Bufalo's slow, moving target heading to third, McCann thought it'd be a good idea to rifle a throw down there to salvage one out from this unfolding debacle. Unfortunately, his rifle was mis-sighted and the ball skipped all the way into the left field corner. That allowed Lee to score from third and Johnson to skip home from second, clearing the bases and giving Houston a comfortable 10-4 lead.

While we're on the subject of play-by-play, there was one other that stood out. Pence charged a sharp line drive from pitcher Mike Minor, picked the ball up and made a lightning throw to first. Brett Wallace was not really expecting a throw, and was straddling the bag. Minor was also caught off-guard and had geared down a bit pulling into the bag. Pence nailed Minor for an out instead of a single, ending the second inning. It was a heads-up play by Pence and one of the few times this season he's gotten to show off one of his main assets in the field, his throwing arm.

Lastly, extending the longest game recap in months, I'd like to say something nice about Wallace. The rookie was 2 for 3 with a double, an RBI, a strikeout and was hit by a pitch. Both his single and the double were well-hit as Wallace really seems to be squaring the ball up nicely lately. If he figures things out, the Astros offense will be a sight better than we've seen to this point in 2010.