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.
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