I tuned in to Milo Hamilton and Dave Raymond on the radio while driving back from a weekend at the ranch. There’s not a better way to acclimate to civilized society than baseball on the radio. I came in when the game was tied at 4 and headed into the deep innings, promising a tight game to keep me alert at the wheel–in stark contrast to my dog, who was passed out in the back seat having spent half of the weekend ill-advisedly barking down a palomino horse and the other half dodging the nips of a native Jack Russell Terrier.
Milo Hamilton, whatever his shortcomings as a broadcaster these days, is a master of the emotionally compelling baseball narrative. Early in my listening experience, for example, Milo reminded his audience of Henry Sosa’s proclivity for four-run starts just like the one he tallied on Sunday. That makes three in a row for the consistent young pitcher, and while I didn’t see or even hear much of his start, Sosa seemed to have once again wobbled early before righting the ship for a few more solid innings. Milo told me that story succinctly and with humor, highlighting the quirk in a tone of voice that reminded me of the familiar weirdness of baseball, which we are regularly reminded is a series of probabilities acted out on a board, even as we marvel at its strange inconsistencies.
I’d have also liked to see a couple of J.D. Martinez’s three hits and two runs batted in, though I did have the misfortune, once I settled back in at the house, to witness his utter failure in scoring even one run with the bases loaded and just an out in the crucial bottom of the ninth. J.D. actually took a third strike, which in that situation was viscerally akin to just outright wetting oneself. The tie remained, and it was on to extra innings, which I was able to enjoy on the teevee with Jim Deshaies and Bill Brown until I fell asleep, all country tired on a Sunday afternoon, following the Kung Fu Panda’s two-run roundhouse to center field. The promise of an eleventh inning rally wasn’t enough to keep me–or the dog for that matter–awake.
So where do we stand this year? The Astros acquitted themselves respectively against the San Francisco Giants still in the hunt, adding a couple of wins to tally up a four-game streak before the loss on Sunday. Jordan Lyles and Wandy Rodriguez both pitched well, and there are hitters on this team who are doing their best to prove that they are pro hitters.
With the pitch count restrictions befitting a prized prospect in this modern era of arm management, I was curious to see how the Astros would stay within the innings limits that were placed on Jordan Lyles, in the 170 innings range. Would he simply sit for the last weeks of the season? Would he get the hook after three innings every start? We now have the answer: he’ll be demoted, then called up to serve as a reliever, according to Brian McTaggart at Astros.com. Lyles has a starter’s repertoire, with his lively but not overpowering fastball, a sneaky change-up, and an improving curveball. But logic would dictate that good pitches for a starter would be good pitches for a reliever. As the whole relief thing will be a short-term project with a well-defined end point, I can’t imagine this odd late season stint will have much of an impact on Lyles’ career one way or the other.
Saturday evening, I had just stepped inside for a glass of water to escape the searing country heat when I got a text message from my friend Half Boot. “Inside-the-parker by Altuve!” I grinned. Context was irrelevant. In my mind’s eye, away from cable teevee or the Internet, I could see young Altuve on his fantastic voyage, scampering through the crowded void of space: passing forming nebula, skirting seething black holes, and dancing around fast-moving comets while the forces of entropy seeking disorder and disarray attempt, that being the completion of baseball’s perfect circle, the completion of the orbital circuit.