Archive for the ‘Game Recaps’ Category

New Logo Appreciation

A new logo on a uniform doesn’t mean much until you can see it move on the shoulders of a hitter as he gets ready for the pitch, against the backdrop of full stands, infield dirt or outfield grass.

Today, the Astros played their first Spring Training game. Their new logos on new uniforms are electric. I felt giddy to see them in motion after so much idle consideration. They were animated like they were plugged into the wall. The classic nod and the modern touch lived well together in the game’s time unfolding. The orange is so much more distinct than the brick red, and the navy blue is such a stronger foundation for the brightness of that orange.

Whatever happens to this team in 2013, the uniforms are boss.

Chris Carter: smooth swing, confidence in the box. I am excited to see him pepper the Crawfish Boxes.

JD Martinez: he’s documented as choking up on the bat until his hand heals. He also seems to have quieted his pre-swing stance and preparation as well. Given his grimy finish, this is not surprising. I saw him lace a sharp liner up the middle, so I’ll go ahead and predice .290/25/100, just like I did last year.

Lucas Harrell: pitching on the razor’s edge.

It’s good to be back.

Perfection is a two-sided coin

One of the sides of that coin is pretty and bright and gets pressed to the lips of the pretty girl. The other side of the coin is the side that stuck it to the sidewalk the first place. The jolt of excitement at seeing the shiny side lasts until you grab it and find the muck on the hidden side.

This morning is the coin-grabbing time.

Watching the final pitches of San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain’s virtuoso performance against the Houston Astros, I felt the youthful, nervous excitement that I felt when I watched Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig’s record and when I saw Craig Biggio reach and pass 3000 hits. The glare from the shine of the coin blocked out the troublesome shadow for a moment: the Astros got done up in historical fashion.

This morning, the drubbing takes on a sadder, more fluorescent gloom for our Houston side. As I said to a co-worker: “it’s weird to root for your own team to lose even bigger.” It’s weird, but not hard. I watched with breathless anticipation, too, in the late hours of a Wednesday night. Gregor Blanco’s miraculous catch meant more to me than Jordan Schafer dropping one it to raise his average to two-thirty-whatever. Baseball is a game of moments, and there’s no shame in enjoying one at the expense of those who, after all, could have changed the outcome by rapping a few hits and allowing fewer runs.

Coins have two sides, but really this game only had one. J.A. Happ stunk it up along with his bullpen mates. They left one show in town: the Matt Cain show. America tuned in.

***

Every perfect game seems to have that one iconic defensive play to preserve it. A utility man or fourth outfielder extends himself the extra half a foot–driven, it feels like, by the performance on the distant mound–and his name becomes synonymous with the achievement. Welcome to the books, Gregor Blanco.

Speaking strength to Kershaw

 

Clayton Kershaw has the aura of the unhittable ace whose “stuff” resides in some magical realm of Valhalla where all talent, hard work and good fortune has coalesced into a spirit force that melts the lesser hitters of the league into a bubbling goo and Kershaw steps over them like I step over the bird crap that fell and solidified on my back step.

Until he met the baseball juggernaut out of America’s gateway to the lower left-hand quadrant of the Gulf of Mexico, Oil City USA: the Astros of Houston, Texas. Martinez, Lowrie, Altuve: the ace-breakers.

Kershaw may as well have been late-career Chan Ho Park last night in Los Angeles, as the Astros lit him up for a monstrous three runs over 7 innings. Well, it feels monstrous, anyway, and for the big shot to come from J.D. Martinez, who only days before tattooing a Kershaw pitch into the left field seats looked every bit the befuddled, out-gunned hitter. That was a good feeling, because let’s face it Astros fans we’re watching with the flutter in the pits of stomachs that this could be the game that we wake up from this very pleasant dream of .500 baseball.

But here is the thing about this team: they don’t care. Why should they? There are no expectations to fail to meet, few cagy veterans around to dictate some dusty brand of faux respect or traditionalism. The young guys don’t have to raise their voice above a din. This place is silent; the only voice is their own. If the bullpen naming itself The Regulators means anything, it means that there’s nobody around to tell them that they aren’t supposed to name themselves anything.

Sidenote: I’ve consulted my 175-year-old soothsaying tortoise Roy Hofheinz Junior Junior and he suggests that a healthy Matt Kemp would have had zero impact on a two-run differential game, so we can take that knowledge of the Ancients forward into today’s match-up.

Sweet sweepiness – Cubs v. Astros

The write-up says that Wandy Rodriguez didn’t have his best stuff last night, but I think that he DID have his best stuff last night. Unperturbed in appearance after 7 innings of solid work–Wandy’s fastball jumped from his hand, the usual 90 mile per hour straight shooters that somehow by dint of location and delivery seem to travel at a much quicker 94 miles per hour or so. The curveball that curves above the strike zone but never lands there.

I guess Wandy disagrees with me as Brad Mills reported that Wandy told him that his fastball told him that he was a little under the weather–and I’ll admit I wasn’t glued to every pitch as I’ve got a life to live here after all–but I was very satisfied with the work.

And the results! 21-23 feels alright with me. Now on to the Jose Altuve’s All-Star bid. The Pocket Jaguar must play in Kansas City! (Nice logo, BTW, All-Star game graphic designer….)

It’s a tired adage that slumping hitters just need a few easy ones to fall in to get their confidence back. But if the adage happens to true despite its fatigue, then J.D. Martinez had a confidence-boosting night. His triple in the fourth inning is a true scorecard-defier, as Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney and right fielder David Dejesus combined to completely horse up a catchable high short pop-up when Barney, like a retriever pursuing a tennis ball, bounded heedlessly into Dejesus’ ball-filled glove head first and knocked it free. There should be a special asterisk-esque symbol for hits that should have been outs if any other team besides the Cubs were in the field. The & is a decent visualization of the path that Barney took to the ball.

Good teams beat the teams that they should beat, and the Cubs are worse than the Astros so we should have beat them. I’m not saying we’re a great team, but we aren’t a lie-down team that succumbs to even the dregs of the league. Just not being the dregs of the league feels superb. You can have your two-out-of-three, Texas, honestly. You’re a great team, we aren’t gonna beat you. But Cubbies, we’ll sweep you good, because we have a good bullpen and youthful exuberance and a patch of talent where there was thought to be none.

Astros beat the Cubs 2-1 but it never even felt close

I would do some research into how long J.A. Happ takes between pitches but I grew so old and decrepit waiting for him to decide on his middle of the inning throwaway pitch to the Cubs pitcher that I’ve run out of time on this mortal plane; my wick has run out and soon my candle will flicker and blink out. As I age, J.A. Happ’s start will continue, he will dilly dally between pitches for a kind of ageless eternity. Does he take so much time because he knows that as long as he is pitching he can never leave this mortal coil? That he can live on if only he never gets around to throwing the last pitch of the night?

At various points in the game tonight, a Cub player kissed a baseball, bit a bat, and flew through the air. Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro and Tony Campana, respectively, pursued a strange library of alternative routes to success. Soriano kissed cowhide after a diving catch in left field; Starlin chewed Louisville Slugger after striking out for the third time and Campana soared into third base over Matt Downs’ glove three feet off the ground after Wilton Lopez chucked away a pick-off throw. You thought it ended with Turk Wendell and Carlos Zambrano? These guys are full of quirk.

It’s nice to beat the Cubs, but it’s even more nicer to beat them despite their litany of rituals.

The Cubs are heavy on quirk and light on hope. Astros fans can at least enjoy some sense of rebuilding, and the long term strategy embedded in that language. The Cubs continue to languish in the middle area–a lot like the Houston Rockets actually–in that they aren’t terrible enough to reboot and they seem a thousand miles from solid baseball every day. Hard to pity a team with plenty of spending bread and a rabid fan base. It’s the formula for success as carried out by the Angels and the Rays, and at this point the Cubs seem well out from a turnaround.

Leading off the game, the Little Jaguar of Maracay, Jose Altuve, clinked a Travis Wood pitch–who really and truly actually looks ilke Jamie Moyer and kind of pitches like him too. Looking at the final numbers I’m amazed he only allowed two runs. He looked so much worse than that–off of the wall above the 404 sign; the homer travelled farther than I thought Altuve was capable, and his 3 home runs on the season are about, oh let’s say, two whole home runs more than I expected from him for the whole of the season.

Jed Lowrie followed with a ground rule double and man alive Jed Lowrie, this guy can hit! We thought he might be able to, but he’s now in the upper echelons of shortstop power hitters. And he wears the double flap helmets! Not since Otis Nixon has a double-flapper made such a splash.

Cubs left-handed relief pitcher James Russell could pass for a mandolin player in the Avett Brothers and let’s wonder together if he would play the mandolin left-handed and would he consider playing the national anthem at a minor league baseball game in Athens, GA. He struck out a fellow relief pitcher at one point, that being Wesley Wright whose swing, especially on this night, resembled Starlin Castro’s more than JA Happ’s.

This game was a close one, but somehow I felt we had it in the bag even when it was tied at 1-1. Maybe it was the faux-Moyer on the mound for the Cubs or maybe it’s the overripe banana aura of the Cubs as a whole, but I knew that we would get over the hump and keep them from scoring. J.D. Martinez, who was in danger of making an art form out of taking hittable fastballs right down the middle, finally poked a hit with two men on in the bottom of the sixth, which let in some light in the tie game.

The bullpen pitched solidly, with fine work from Wesley Wright who seems to have come into his own after years of pretty borderline work. The guy’s sporting 9.5 strike outs per 9! That’s well over what I would have guessed, but we’ll take it. Wilton Lopez overcame the bad pickoff throw that enabled Tony Campana to scampana to third base, where rather than employing the typical hook slide to avoid a tag he decided to fly over Matt Downs’ glove, but he got no farther. Brett Myers’ curveball–what I’ll call the Trade Value Special–looked in fine form.

The Astros are 20-23. That is impossible not to love out of this team that was cast aside like an old hubcap that maybe eventually somebody would find by the side of the road and fix up but even that would be years away. We are rolling on down the road, winning some good ball games and making sure we don’t sink too deep. That’s the reassuring thing about being a sub-par team in this league: there will always be the Cubs to look down on.

Astros beat the Cubs, and a foamer night mention!

Jim Deshaies: Back in the dome when you’d get free beer if Mike Schmidt struck out. That’s the only one I’ ve ever heard targetted at an individual. Foamer night at the ballpark. Probably can’t bring that one back.

Bill Brown: Yeah that’s not too workable today, and that’s a hit into right field.

Bottom line: Foamer Night mention! Not this blog, of course, but the historical phenomenon, and that’s good enough for me. I hadn’t heard mention of the Foamer Night being tied to a particular player, that being Mike Schmidt as quoted by J.D. I was under the impression that a particular half-inning was assigned, or maybe a pitch or a batter. The idea that they might’ve picked out one player–and one as likely as Schmidt to take a mustache ride around the four bases–would take the whole affair to another level of 70s greatness.

And the kicker is that they were referring back to another conversation that they had a previous night about the sudsy tradition from the old Dome days!

It was a good night to reminisce, as there were myriad technical difficulties on the TV side, as Milo Hamilton must have kicked out a cord or twelve up in the media booth. In short, there were no commercials. Somewhere around the middle of this match-up between the Astros and the hapless Cubs I thought I sensed a change in the rhythm of the TV broadcast. Like the cut scenes to between innings were oddly long, and the two talking heads who normally arrive at the end of the game were talking to me in the middle. Shows how carefully I was listening to the audio when only at the end of the game did I learn that there were massive problems here and in St. Louis, and Mrs. Miggillicuddy in 14B couldn’t get her stories either. How’s she supposed to fold laundry without her stories?!

The game was a blowout, which the Astros have proved capable of every now and then. Jason Castro hit a three-run home run. “Castro homered!” said my wife to me, I being in the kitchen preparing some organic chicken. Dang, I thought, but heck he’s a good young hitter especially for a shortstop and hopefully I won’t take too big a hit on my fantasy team when Bud Norris gives up a few early runs. He’ll settle down. When I popped into the living room to see the play, I realized it was Jason! His first home run in twenty-seven years of organized baseball! No, it was actually his first home run of the season and his first since 2010.

The swing was solid, and it was nice to see him turn and get his big body into a pitch and pull it into the left field seats were a Cubs fan in a cowboy hat missed it and fell back first into the unforgiving–and empty–seat behind him. Matt Garza gave up the home run employing his theme of the night, the elevated change-up. Jed Lowrie homered, as did Chris Johnson when he boomed a shot over some quick skinny guy playing center field for the Padukah Cubs.

When Castro hit the ball, he knew it was gone. He was so geeked that he initiated Game Winning Home Run sequence and began to raise his fists into the air in triumph. Before he could reach full extension, though, he realized that nobody besides his girlfriend, mother, and Greg Lucas was tracking his home run drought so closely and that they might find it odd to see him celebrating so.

We won handily 8-4, riding Bud “The Ace” Norris to a victory that was even larger than it seems. Bud also happens to be the starting pitcher version of Brad Lidge. Fastball, Fastball, Fastball, Slider-That-You-Can’t-See. Like Lidge, Norris’ slider, thrown at the bottom of the strike zone, evaporates just after the batter decides to swing at it. I didn’t see Bud throw a pitch that wasn’t a fastball or a slider, though admittedly I was pretty darn concerned about the fate of my chicken around those middle innings. (It turned out great, by the by, thank you for asking, and no you may not have the recipe.

On a night of Astro home runs, other notables include Chris Johnson’s mammoth home run to just right of Tal’s Hill. Off the bat C.J. knew it would leave the thickest part of the park and he watched it fly like it was a par 3. Johnson is a Daily Pass guy, wherein we all kind of know he’s like a sort of crappy player, but he is capable of earning that Daily Pass, with a massive home run for example, and it’s like ‘okay you’ve earned another pass, I guess we’ll keep you around tomorrow. But his whole career will be like that! Anyway, he earned his pass tonight.

Brian Lahair of the Cubs, whose name I will not even take the time to look up for spelling purposes, is the baseball style love-child of Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. Thome’s build and his socks, and Manny’s relaxed, coiled danger holding of the bat.

I was thrilled to win the game, and I was thrilled to hear the Foamer Night mention, if only to confirm that I am not insane. There are no two other broadcasters I’d rather have during a weird TV outage/camera situation than JD and Brownie (Vin Scully is only ONE guy so I get Vin on a technicality).

That’s Entertainment – Astros Lose Well Again

Marlins Ballpark–much like its occupant franchise during this offseason–had a lot going on Friday night. Fish lurked in a purple aquarium to the left of the batter’s box, carnival-style dancers swiveled behind the left field wall, the orgiastic home run feature waits in center field like a Master’s thesis in potential energy. The outfield walls a shade of neon lime a weather man could work in front of, and a wall full of ads rotates behind the hitter.

Overall, the effect is that a stadium from the 1970s was kept in shrink wrap in a broom closet for a few decades, only to be finally unwrapped this year.

The gusto is welcome in Florida, and one feels like the franchise is making up for time lost as a sleepy, teal-tinged, heat-stroked forgotten team north of the city.

Oh, by the way, J.D. Martinez is the first player ever to hit a home run in Marlins Ballpark. It takes a shot to leave that yard, and that is what J.D. delivered–still it only just cleared the twenty foot wall separating the revellers of the Clevelander club from noted evangelical, left fielder Chris Coghlan. Pity the home run didn’t qualify to activate the home run feature.

The home run tied the game up in the top of the 8th inning.

* On Jed Lowrie’s debut. The reputation preceding Lowrie was of a sweet swing. A finely squared-up single set the table for the Martinez mash, doing nothing to tarnish the reputation. What a luxury to play a shortstop who can hit! I can’t think of an Astros shortstop who could be considered even moderately competent at the plate. Lowrie walked in a crucial ninth inning at bat, and made a spinning dervish play in the field on a ground ball to his left. I’m already enjoying the kid.

*On Chris Johnson’s defense. Two terrible throws to first base that each of them threatened Carlos Lee’s safety, a costly hesitation late in the game on a ball that deflected off of the pitcher. Johnson has the time to make these plays, and his work with the glove is passable, but time seems to be the enemy of accuracy. He’s had his time in the big leagues; he should be better than this.

–\

In the bottom of the ninth, Heath Bell lost touch with the strike zone and walked the bases full, but Caballo’s RBI touch of the first few games of the season abandoned him and, with two outs, he check swung his way to an easy out to end the threat and send the game into extra innings.

We lost on a double by Gaby Sanchez, but I don’t care. The Astros played good baseball, picked each other up, took some walks, stole some bases, and pitched out of jams. In short, they didn’t need a fish tank or sequined go-go boots to entertain in Miami.

The Astros Beat Colorado in 2 out of 3

In the third game of the series and of the season, against the Colorado Rockies on a beautiful Sunday, not even 15,000 fans showed up to the ballpark. They missed a solidly played baseball game against legitimate competition. The second such showing in a row, with commendable starting pitching, professional hitting, and an overall sense of competence that has already surpassed what most Astros fans expected to see at any point during this foregone conclusion of season.

Here are some notes on the third game and on the young season:

* On Bud Norris. Norris–who I didn’t see pitch during the spring–appeared svelte on the mound, missing a layer or two of baby fat. His simple array of pitches was complemented by a heretofore unwittnessed pretty good change-up on Sunday, against a lineup whose meat featured two elite hitters in Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and another grizzled element in the quiet but punchy Michael Cuddyer. The sharp fastball and the ducking slider that we are used to were present and accounted for. Norris worked away in the professional-grade portion of the strike zone, meaning the four-inch box hugging the strike and ball portions of the low and away corner.

My recall of Norris’ performances from last year include five excellent innings followed by shaky entries beyond. Decent, yes, but not elite. Would his improved fitness aid against that pattern?

In the 6th inning, after letting up only a run so far from a Wilin Rosario home run, Norris plunked Tulowitzki painfully on the thigh and walked Jason Giambi (who walked thrice on the day and seems programmed like a rusty android against swinging at anything before two strikes in the count). Norris threatened to repeat his pattern and flub the game after the 5th. A visit from the coach seemed to settle him. Cuddyer hit into a double play! A 2-1 lead was in tact.

*In the bottom of the 4th, Jose Altuve hit a triple. Brad Mills sat Altuve for the second game of the season. The decision was decent enough, as Jose’s replacement Bixler had a single and the Astros won the game with ease and put up 7 runs. Nonetheless I felt that sitting Altuve after just a game was a sure way to disjoint the Astros fan, who wants only to attach herself to these very young players. Altuve, who showed with his triple that he has fine bat speed and could blossom before us, is one of the central figures for admiration that this team has. He should play in every single one of the remaining 159 games. Do not bench Jose Altuve, sir.

In any event, he hit a triple to start the inning. JD Martinez failed miserably to score Jose–if JD is going to swing, he needs to swing, and end a spate of ugly half-swings that rob him of all of his power and suggest to the observer that he has no idea what he’s doing. Carlos Lee, however, hit a ringing double. An RBI! It wasn’t complicated. There was no scheme to it, no strategy. One hit followed another, and we had a run and announced that we had a game. Plain old baseball, folks, and it felt good.

When Altuve and JD Martinez each singled off of a hard-throwing reliever, Rex Brothers, there was a strange feeling in the air: a tremor of hope. Then El Caballo came to the plate and hit a solid top-spin forehand deep to the backhand of Colorado’s third baseman, who booted the throw under pressure, scoring the tying run.

Brian Bogusevic rapped another single, and we gained the lead. On Saturday, we put up 7 runs. Sunday, this. Whatever the hand of fate holds for the rest of 2012, this season has started out piping hot.

* On El Caballo. Carlos Lee has been an easy goat in this town for years. Now in the final year of his contract, and as the only proven hitter on the team, I have a funny feeling that he will experience a kind of renaissance. The Contract has always held Astros fans back from enjoying the positives that Caballo brings to the team and to the game. This season, the chains that bind the albatross of his contract to the team are slackening, and really he’s the only hitter with a history in the leagues that we can look to. Add to that the fact that he really is a likable fellow, he pals around and gestures and does other things that TV viewers can enjoy, and he’s a decent first bagger, and that’s a formula for a softening of the harsh criticism he has allowed to slide off of his back for years.

* On Brian Bogusevic. I have been skeptical of the kid for a while now. I sensed that his push to the majors was more a result of wishful thinking about a former first round pick than of outright merit. His deep bomb to left center the other night, and his very timely hit in this game are quickly chipping away at my cynicism. Anybody can hit a single. Not just anybody can launch a moon ball into the ether. In other words, he has a foundation to build on. The strength to be an MLB hitter is in place, the bat speed is there, and the rest is up to him. So far, so interesting.

So, 15,000 Astros fans, good on you. You saw a fine baseball game in an Astros era when that is a rare and valuable commodity. I’ve often thought that our starting pitching was an asset, and Wandy, Bud Norris and Lucas (!) Harrell have thus far proved out. At a time when the franchise is looking backwards to history, the immediate present presents some hope for a chance.

Once More With Meaning: Astros Down the Contending Cardinals

“Maybe I’ll look back in ten years and admire the guy, but for right now I can’t stand Tony LaRussa,” said Halfboot, my companion at the third-to-last game of the season at Minute Maid Park. The coaches and umpires were reconnoitered at home plate before the Astros-Cards game that was crucial for at least one of the teams involved. LaRussa’s barreled chest and mullet suggested the single-minded determination the manager seems to possess. Though rarely the darlings of baseball, betting against the Cardinals–and LaRussa–is rarely a wise idea.

That said, Halfboot and I were betting on spoilers last night, using the out-of-contention fan’s only remaining weapon against the teams still striving to extend their season: pettiness. If we can’t make it, neither should these chumps. Neither should this chump with the mullet.

As for the game itself, Matt Downs chipped a deep, high fly ball into the Crawford Boxes and Jason Bourgeious hooked a double down the left field line in support of Wandy Rodriguez.

Down four to two, a locked-in Lance Berkman hit the hardest fair ball of the night on Monday, in the 8th inning, from the right side of the plate. The traumatized remnants of Wesley Wright’s pitch clattered against the National League scoreboard as the two elite Cardinals sluggers to hit before Berkman, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, trotted home. The game was tied, and with the Braves having beaten the Phillies–as evidenced on the very scoreboard that Big Puma had just brutalized–the Cardinals had a chance to tie for the NL Wild Card title. If they won last night, they’d have stepped into a tie for first with just two games left to play.

Instead, the softest hit ball of the night dropped the red birds in the bottom of the tenth, when the game’s most inept hitter drove home Brian Bogusevic with a safety squeeze. Angel Sanchez had swung through just about every pitch sent his way by lefty sinker baller Jaime Garcia and any other pitcher he faced. Odd, then, that Brad Mills would leave him in the game against Octavio Dotel, when a sac fly from lefty Brett Wallace would have ended it. Not privy to the wisdom being delivered probably through every available media outlet from the TV broadcast to Twitter to Pony Express, Halfboot and I both entirely overlooked the squeeze option, so when Angel squared we grabbed each other like middle school girls getting a look at Justin Bieber from a hundred paces.

When Dotel–the old Astro–muffed the attempt to glove-scoop the squeeze bunt home, we whooped and cheered as though we were the team in the playoff hunt.

That Monday night game, against all odds, in front of more Cardinals fans than Astros, had actually meant something.

Friday Night Fireworks: Astros Top the Rockies

The cynical reaction to last night’s big Astros victory over the Rockies would be to suggest that we came out on firmly top in a match-up of Triple-A teams.

The Rockies sent out a lineup of anonymous characters but for journeyman and former Astros Ty Wigginton and sole electric presence Dexter Fowler. For once, at least, the Astros didn’t field the least experienced three-hole hitter, last night’s honor for unknown heart of the order hitter going to Colorado 2B Jordan Pacheco.

JB Shuck, who is likely as foreign to non-Houston fans as Pacheco and company, embraced the leadoff role against ineffective young pitcher Drew Pomeranz, a soft-throwing lefty who must conjure unpleasant memories of Denny Neagle for Rockies fans. Shuck’s three hits and a walk helped Angel Sanchez, JD Martinez, El Caballo, and Matt Downs to a serving of RBIs piled as high as a party platter from Goode Co. barbeque. With a 5-run first inning, the game was in hand early on, with the Astros stacking a few more of the 1s and 2s on as the game carried on. The end result was a flip-flop of the normal Houston role as doormat for the more experienced teams.

Brett Myers continues to try to sway me into giving a lick about his pitching, and I continue to consider his pitching extraneous and dull. Give me a Henry Sosa start any day, with the highs and lows of development and promise. An inning of Jordan Lyles in relief (see below) is more interesting than most Myers starts. It’s a harsh stance, but these are tough times to be an Astros fan, and certain limits must be set. I’m all for watching our young players struggle on some nights and thrive on others, but I can’t spend much time thinking about a player like Myers. Good on him for pitching as well as he can, but I’ll keep the hitters in the forefront of my attention on his days on the bump.

Elsewhere, in Victoryville…

Watching the highlights of the Brewers’ crazy NL Central clinching party last night–from Prince Fielder’s big bomb to Ryan Braun’s late-inning ding dong to the Cards-Cubs scoreboard watching–I was struck with the amount of excitement and momentum that a mid-market team can build. Not so long ago, the Astros were enjoying such tidal waves of emotion, when the less heralded baseball cities stick it to the old stalwarts. Nowadays in Space City it requires imagination to envision a return to mattering in such a way, but it is far from out of question. The Brewers are a fine example of the life cycle of a rising franchise, building from within until the time was right to gamble on a few key veteran puzzle pieces.

With the first pick in next year’s draft, the future should feature at least one glimmering possibility.

Lyles Sighting

Jordan Lyles appeared as a relief pitcher, the first time I’ve seen him in the role (I missed his quick Cincinnati appearance). The results were sound; Lyles had the late life on his fastball that makes him effective, and which seemed to have faded as his big league innings accumulated.