Posts Tagged ‘wandy rodriguez’

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.

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.

The Wandy Waffle: We Did the Right Thing

Rarely in life do you get a chance to hit the figurative reset button and correct a wrong, but when the Rockies claimed Wandy Rodriguez off of waivers yesterday, they were basically begging Ed Wade to hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE on the original contract.

Instead of hitting CTRL-ALT-DELETE, Ed Wade is going to try and tinker around with some crappy virus scan software while his computer grinds to a paralyzing halt.

While this commentary from Sean Pendergast over at the Houston Press’ Hairballs got a good laugh out of me, I thought I’d offer my counter position.

Pendergast, a sports radio host on 1560 The Game (my new favorite radio station, BTW, and an intriguing entry given its relationship with Yahoo! Sports, one of the staid sports presences in the blogosphere/online baseball environment), has taken an extreme stance, to be sure, and I’m the type to avoid extreme stances. Pendergast admits himself that the Wandy deal is a really good deal, and that Wandy is a very good pitcher. To give that away for nothing valuable in return would seem the equivalent of throwing money away. It’s sort of the inverse of the Roy Oswalt situation that has left us paying his salary while he plays elsewhere. To hand over Wandy to the Rockies would be essentially handing them the savings outright. We may be rebuilding, but I don’t think that warrants literally handing over value to an opponent. Value is value, and given the cost savings the Astros will soon enjoy given that we’ll have no veterans left on the team, we can surely live with the Wandy price tag and its high value level.

I’m not arguing that it’s a great deal, as Wandy’s going to age and probably won’t be same pitcher in a few years. But to jettison the Wandy now with no return would be to a) ignore his trade value this winter, as obviously there is interest in the deal from other teams and b) show a short-sighted view of the potential of a young team to have a breakout year, in which a strong pitcher like Wandy can have a huge impact. Rebuilding does not mean blind demolition. It means getting younger value for your older players if you’re able to, and finding good value when you do keep on veterans.

Wandy is a great pitcher, with a pretty good contract in place. Whatever the state of the team, under few circumstances should such a player be shipped off as thought he was Carlos Silva.

Wandy’s Fifth Strikes a Sour Note as the Reds Beat the Astros 5-1

I was at the Astros-Reds game last night, down the first base side, so I wasn’t able to determine what manner of deception Homer Bailey employed to quash the Astros for eight innings. The lanky right-hander appeared to deal out some effective breaking pitches low in the zone. Then again, this Houston team is now, more than ever, a king-maker, and I hope that Bailey, who has failed to live up to high expectations thus far in his Cincinnati career, got a good night’s sleep for once after this win.

I set out for Minute Maid Park a bit early and strolled about the concourse in the peaceful pregame hum. The big Houston sun shines through the glass paneling at MMP when the roof is closed, laying fat rectangles of light down on the turf. And roof or no roof, AC or fresh air, major leagues or junior varsity, there are few sights as calming as a grounds crew hosing down a baseball field. With ten or so grounds crew team members holding the fat hose on their shoulders, the lead man laid down a heavy mist that settles the dust of the infield dirt. When I played high school baseball in Houston, that spray was crucial, as it turned the sandy dust of the field from a beach into a firmer surface worth playing on. The MMP crew had a nicer hose that distributed a wide disc of water that fell as light as a summer afternoon shower.

In the first base foul area, players signed autographs for fans against the low wall. Jose Altuve, our little second basemen, chatted and joked, not too far in either facial similiarity and general nature from Entourage’s Turtle. Jimmy Paredes, the fresh faced 22-year-old third baseman out of Bajos de Haina, San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, loitered awkwardly at the edge of the signing scrum, as unsure of where to go as a middle schooler at his first dance. When he finally made a move, which amounted to accepting that he was actually a major league player whose autograph kids would desire, he quickly realized he had no pen, and he made an air writing motion to an Astros staffer nearby. Almost immediately, a woman held a big sign that read JIMMY upon which he made his mark.

Weighing Wandy

As an Astros fan, I have so convinced myself that Wandy is a great pitcher who doesn’t <>i>look like a great pitcher that when I go to a game in which he pitches I expect to see on the mound a skinny, awkward goober with a dribbly nose throw the big curve. I was reminded on Tuesday, though, that Wandy Rodriguez is actually powerfully built as a pitcher, and he comports himself with great confidence. What bedevils his image is, without question, television, and more specifically the extreme close-up. Wandy’s youthful mug doesn’t rouse fear among baseball fans, but from a distance–when the eye is allowed to enjoy the real scale of life and see the entire field, and all of the pitcher’s mound and the player conducting business on top of it–he is as commanding as any major league pitcher, taking throws back from the catcher with a touch of dash and moving gracefully and effectively.

Wandy pitched to match his in-person stature against the Reds, at least for four innings. In the fifth, having allowed only one hit thus far, Chris Heisey doubled straight down the left field line, then Ramon Hernandez doubled straight down the left field line, scoring Heisey. This ritual of symmetry seemed to unhinge the Astros pitcher, as Wandy walked another hitter, then walked the pitcher Homer Bailey, then gave up a devestating four-run home run to the unimposing Edgar Renteria. As quickly as you could say “anybody wanna trade for Wandy?” his night was a bust.

The Astros found no parallel rite to dissolve the strong outing from Homer Bailey. Carlos Lee appeared to loaf it down the line a little on a grounder to shortstop that Rice University alum Paul Janish would boot but still manage to get Caballo at first base. The boo birds took a turn around the yard, (Said @nativeastro on Twitter: “It’s nice to see that Carlos Lee is still going through the motions and collecting his check. Zombies move faster down the line.”

The Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman, waited until the last pitch of his outing to trip the third digit on the radar gun, providing Jimmy Paredes–whose biggest fan was no doubt waving her JIMMY sign in the hopes that he’d spark a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth–with another sort of welcome to the major leagues.

This Day in Designated Hitter Endorsements

Strange and hideous events unfold when you let pitchers hit. Tuesday night’s awkwardness occurred when Homer Bailey feigned a bunt, then pulled it back and chopped a ball to Carlos Lee, who deftly whipped it to second to get the force out. When Clint Barmes returned the throw to first, it skipped past Lee and right into the glove of the well-placed Altuve backing up. Bailey, being unfamiliar with the logistics of base-running seeing as he spends all of his time trying to pitch good, made a turn towards second base despite the narrow dimensions of the foul territory in that particular area. Having deactivated the invulnerability spell that surrounded him when he passed first base, Bailey had little choice but to accept his role as a bumbling pitcher on the bases as Altuve flipped the ball to a waiting Caballo.

On a Hot Wandy Night, the Astros Beat the Cardinals for the Second Time…in a Row!

July 29, 2011 – Houston Astros 5, St. Louis Cardinals 3

The Astros are in limbo right now. Every good play by an established veterans–excluding the untradeable but, let’s admit it, lovable Carlos Lee–comes with the caveat that this could be their last “X” or their final “Y” with the Astros. Bill Brown’s voice quaked like Madame Bovary’s bidding farewell to her dashing lover as he wistfully described Hunter Pence’s hard-nosed style of play after he legged out a bouncing double over the head of the St. Louis Cardinals’ third baseman.1 Let’s consider Pence’s ringing double in the top of the 8th inning a metaphorical waving of the handkerchief out the train window while the Pence enthusiasts among us choke back a tear. For my part, I’m happy to see him stay, and I’m happy to see him go. He’s a fine player, but he’ll benefit and the receiving team will benefit if he is the third best player on the team, not the face of the franchise.

Wandy Rodriguez, for his turn, reminded Astros fans why he’s been one of the least regarded really good pitchers of the last five years or so. Even at the height of the trade season, stories have emerged that Wandy is paid too much, that the Astros would need to eat some of his contract, that he’s too old, and other of the tired tropes that have defined his career. What he does is pitch, and against the Cardinals, as Jim Deshaies pointed out, he channeled the heat and the sweat and performed at the top of his ability. His fastball caught the best of the Cardinals hitters off guard even late in the game, jamming Pujols2 and quieting Matt Holiday. The scouting report on poor Ryan Theriot must consist of an otherwise blank piece of college ruled notebook paper with “HIGH FASTBALLS” scrawled across it in bright red Sharpie marker.

I’ll curb my enthusiasm a touch by saying that Wandy’s not a full-on ace. He’s Pence-like, in that if he’s your number two pitcher, you’re doing great. The Astros are better off with some young arms to fill the absence that the man with the magic first name would leave.

Escalona and Melancon were able to hold down the two-run lead established by Carlos Lee and his home run prowess.3 The Cardinals did not score after the third inning.

Just More Bourn Baseball

Was it a weekday or a weekend day? Well then, that must mean that Michael Bourn clocked in with one of his typical amazing baseball games. On last night’s menu, it was another double, another stolen base, a beautifully executed drag bunt down the first base line, and, because wonders will never, in fact, cease, two walks. I like Hunter Pence as a ballplayer. He’s very solid despite a few faults, you can’t fault his effort and his production over the last few years. But, to be honest, I’d rather trade him away for some great prospects and keep our center fielder, who has matured into one of the more interesting, dynamic, and emotional players the Astros have had since Biggio wheeled around the bases.

The Head is Jaime Garcia

The St. Louis Cardinals have, for a long time now, been a team that pieces together high quality teams that fight hard for playoff spots in the NL Central and occasionally win championships, despite losing an ace pitcher with a blown arm here or a studly young outfielder with miles of promise there. Like the mythical Hydra, when one head is lopped off, two more Jaime Garcias grow in its place.

Garcia, who isn’t going anywhere for a while, incidentally, after signing a long extension recently, is a better pitcher this year than he was in his breakout rookie season last year, when only the Posey-Heyward rookie juggernaut prevented him from winning the Rookie of the Year award. Had he faded away after coming out of nowhere, few would’ve remarked. But his WHIP is down a significant amount from last year, his walks are down by a full base on ball per nine innings. He’s given up a few more hits and home runs per 9, those fewer walks make a big difference, and his FIP dropped from 3.41 last year to 2.91 this year.

Watching him for just a few minutes, it becomes clear why. Garcia throws a sinker that slides away from right-handed batters like it was a ball bearing on a slanted steel table top. Delivered, as it is, from a lanky three-quarters delivery, left-handers must feel like Garcia’s sinker is a duck pin bowling ball rolling at their shins. The sinker is one of those discomfort pitches, that seems downright unpleasant to bat against with the constant threat of breaking your bat or hitting it in on the handle. 4

  1. Speaking of third base, that general area was a Bermuda Triangle of supernatural baseball activity on the sweltering Thursday evening. The aforementioned Pence double should have been a fieldable ground ball, but instead it clattered off of the dirt around home plate and bounced high over the third baseman. Jason Bourgeios, a bit earlier, drove in Wandy Rodriguez when he drive down the line bounced off of the base. Third baseman David Freese left the game in the sixth to, as the St. Louis Dispatch put it, “protect his leg,” but I’d bet that he left to protect his established impressions of proper gravity and propulsion.
  2. Sure Pujols hit a couple of doubles, but after each the damage was mitigated by closing down Matt Holliday and subsequent hitters.
  3. Check out the video here to witness El Caballo’s locked-in swing.
  4. Kudos to the nice camera angle at Busch Stadium, with the straight-on view of home plate, which gave the best view not only of the Garcia sinker, but Wandy’s curveball, too.

A Look at the Pirate Series

As the Astros prepare to face another opponent from the Eastern seaboard, here’s a look back at the last couple of games from the Pirates series, which featured some good baseball against what is now, remarkably, a worthy opponent. The Pirates left the series in a breathless first place and the Astros broke a 5-game losing streak before starting a new one, to maintain their kung fu grip on the last rung of the ladder.

Sunday Funday vs. Pittsburgh

At no point was this game a foregone conclusion, and that’s saying something.

Jeff Keppinger refuses to play the laughing stock of a third-hole hitter that I expect him to be, pulling another home run over the Crawfish Boxes. You’ve never seen a more vanilla home run swing, but the runs still count, and Keppinger’s work gave Houston the lead early, and started a tie-building rally in the 8th inning.

Sadly, though, this weekend-ender couldn’t end in a tie.

The last definitive moment of this well-contested came in the top of the 11th inning, and it featured some poolroom English and textbook Carlos Lee bumbling, when Xavier Paul bounced a fair ball that first passed between his legs, which Mark Melancon promptly booted before Carlos Lee took a poke at it but failed, instead plopping down onto his rump like Winnie the Pooh at the end of a honey binge. I can’t recall a play with more oddities packed into it, each of which was as subtle as a bee alighting on a flower.

Later, in a rather pitiful 11th inning, Lee’s inexperience at first base left him floating perilously in front of Andrew McCutchen, who was inconveniently sprinting full bore down the first base line. Lee, instead of leaping from the side to attempt to pull in a high throw, jumped from right in the middle of the base line. El Caballo had the wind knocked out of him, and McCutchen, whose health frankly I was more concerned with even as an Astros fan, seemed fine. By the time the last notes from the organ grinder faded, the Pirates were three runs up. Even an Humberto Quintero home run in the bottom half couldn’t erase the awkward.

Curve Appeal

Wandy Rodriguez’s curveball is both big and sharp, which suggests that the sucker has a lot of break on it. It has the looping break of a curve, but gets the results of a slider. I’m late to this game, obviously, but I just wanted to note the pleasure that I’ve elicited in the last few weeks watching the NL’s best kept secret confound really good hitters.

 

Saturday Special, Astros Overcome a Bad Bud Inning By Just Hitting Against the Pirates

Houston showed that scoring runs is not as complicated as they make it seem. You get a hit here and another one there, put the ball in play to induce errors and move runners over, and you hit a single with runners in scoring position. In the 8th, down by a run, the Astros performed that modest yet crucial feat, and they took the lead, and they gave the bored Mark Melancon something to do.

Bud Norris threw some good innings, and as I haven’t watched him pitch much in this his breakout year, I was happy to enjoy his sharp, short-armed fastball and his magician’s slider, which appears to be a particular sort of straight pitch for about 58 feet before changing attitudes and abandoning its apparent path to the strike zone. Norris–and Wandy Rodriguez for that matter–illustrate nicely that fastballs of the same velocity are not all equal. Some fastballs have different life on them, to different effect. I suspect that there are secrets of delivery angle, deceptiveness of the pitching motion, and other deeply mysterious factors that distinguish one from the next. Norris, to our good fortune, possesses a fastball with some personality distinguishable from that of the average reliever with 91 or 92 mph of velocity.

Norris, of course, wavered from his strong start, with the burgeoning Astro killer Neil Walker yanking a hard home run off of him in the middle of the game, then finishing off a three-run 6th (albeit his hit came off of Norris’ replacement, Wilton Lopez, though it’s Bud’s run) with a single, adding to the home run tallies of Brandon Wood and Lyle Overbay.

(Norris’ Pirates counterpart, for the record, Paul Maholm, has a soft-throwing, short-arm style of his own, with a crooked-winged curveball that would’ve fit nicely in one of the 1990s Atlanta Braves starting rotations.)

The typical Astro response to losing a lead is, of course, a failure to respond, so it was with some optimism that I watched Hunter Pence reach on a walk, then move to second on a Caballo fielder’s choice. Pence then, remarkably, stole third! His jump was not great, and it was a dubious strategy when he was already in scoring position late in a one-run game, but he slid in without incident when the catcher, McKenry, failed to grip and throw the ball at all. With less than two outs, all that Brett Wallace had to do was hit a fly ball to the outfield. He met the bare minimum of requirement instead, grounding to the shortstop and forcing Pence to sprint home, where he just beat the throw, if he beat it at all, but in either event the call went his way and the run scored to tie the game.

In a recent post, I called out the Astros for their lack of swagger. Hunter Pence has swagger, in that he plays well and forces the other team to play as well as he, whether by pushing through a steal of third, or charging home on a close play. The margin of error is slim, but the deciding weight often falls on the side with more confidence, more swagger.

An error would extend the inning, allowing Humberto Quintero to single home Wallace’s running substitute Brian Bogusevic, and Michael Bourn to single home another run. A rally, that’s what that is! A late game rally that has an actual impact on the winning of a baseball game! Multiple exclamation points are not justified in many circumstances, but this rally to re-enter the night’s fray is worthy of a giddy, irrationally pleasure-filled gesture.

Mark Melancon dusted off his closer’s mentality and induced several non-descript results and the game was over. Walks, errors, base hits: these are the things that baseball teams do to score more runs than their opponents. That’s what the Astros did on Saturday.

Wobble Lee

I’m starting to doubt Carlos Lee’s basic physical coordination. On several occasions, whether in the field or on the bases, he’s simply toppled over when called upon to display basic balance. On Saturday alone, he fell over getting up from a slide into home, and he fell down catching a throw at first base

Welcome to Foamer Night – Astros vs. Pittsburgh, July 5, 2011

I’m back. Back to Houston, back to being an Astros fan. When you leave your hometown, there’s no telling when you may get back. For me, that time has come, after more than half a decade living in various corners of the country. I am excited to relearn this baseball team, to absorb each player’s style and substance, to track the course of the team from inning to inning, rather than from highlight to highlight. Sound bites will give way to long evenings of baseball. I’m back on home turf, where I’ll spread my blanket and enjoy.

And I’ll do so with this blog, Foamer Night, whose title refers back to a cockamamie promotional effort from the 70s that we’re all lucky didn’t devolve into some disco era nightmare still being written up decades later. History–especially 70s history–is fun fodder, and I think the title is a worthy nod to what seems like a wilder time that the Astros, with their reputation as a Biggio-Bagwell team of calm, metered leadership and reserved emotion, could stand to draw on for some fire and fury.

The last time I followed the Astros day-to-day, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman were in their primes, impressing their local fans without the national acclaim that they’d later gain in other cities. A World Series appearance was on the horizon following numerous playoff showings (I watched the third game of the 2005 series in a Chicago bar full of White Sox fans, and the final game in my living room as my neighbors discharged celebratory firearms into the air). I was in Cubs country for a time, then in Reds country, and most recently and significantly in Mariners country, where I dug in deep with the Mariners, and wrote a lot about Ichiro as one of the most singular players in baseball. I readily admit that even I, a devoted NL fan, fell for the designated hitter, and now I believe it to be the right way to do things. I will also admit that I miss the Mariners already. How could I not? I spent two years with those players, in those trenches, watching them scrap their way to the state of relative relevance that they are enjoying today.

But now, again, I am an Astros fan, and I will dig in with them the way I did in Seattle. But the connection is deeper. This is my home team, and you can’t do better than that. I watched Randy Johnson burn this town up in the playoffs. I watched Derek Bell perplex with his baggy pants, I watched Jeff Bagwell turn on junk and spin it like artillery fire. I watched Craig Biggio hit his 3,000th and I watched him add a few more that same night.

I have returned, a humbler Odysseus, to see what condition the house is in. Well, as many baseball fans know well, affairs are in disarray. This team is the worst in major league baseball, by a good stretch. Oswalt and Berkman are elsewhere, playing good baseball and otherwise moving on in the twilight of their careers. The players who, several years ago, were young and hungry have moved into the heart of things, and have become the gravitational centers of this bad team.

I don’t know if it’s such a good thing, to see the same faces some years later. On the one hand, they are deeply Astros, who’ve established themselves on the team and in the minds of Astros fans. On the other, they are no great stars, and it wouldn’t hurt for them to evacuate the spotlight in favor of a truly elite player. Carlos Lee, El Caballo, no longer occupies that spot. All that I’ve heard of him is the clogging up of the lineup that he does nightly. I don’t know the rest too well: Barmes and Norris, Johnson and Wallace, these are baseball strangers to me right now. They, as regulars on a terrible team, ask for my trust, in a way. Trust that they will improve, that they will dig and claw and get better as each day passes.

Only a few teams reach the destination, the shining palace in the sky. I look forward to the path.

The Cast of Characters

Michael Bourn is a player who receives almost no publicity outside of Houston, but even in his first at bat he drills a single to left center field. I haven’t ever watched Bourn play every day. When I left Houston, he was an unknown trade piece gotten for a flailing closer, Brad Lidge. But even in this first at bat he shows a calmness and solid swing that fans had hoped would develop. I greatly anticipate getting back into Bourn’s daily grind, and his work in the field.

Then there isHunter Pence. The All-Star, the foundation, such as it is, of the Astros lineup. He was the Eric Hosmer of his time of my last check-in, forcing his way into the lineup by hitting the tar out of minor league pitchers. Since then, he’s built himself up with several layers of grown-up muscle, though he retains his boyish fidgetiness in the batter’s box. That he has maintained his manic style while hitting above .300 and hitting for power and earning wide respect is the latest of baseball’s miracles.

 

Carlos Lee is in that school of hitters who can still hit a baseball well, but who does it so infrequently that his stats tank out, and the impression offers more optimism than the reality dictates. He rings a line drive down the left field line this game, but the odds suggest he doesn’t do it too often.

 

Wandy Rodriguez, like Pence, has grown up since I was gone. Real stat heads like him a lot, and he’s on the map nationwide, despite a Pence-esque youthful demeanor that, on a subconscious level, holds fans like me back from handing him ace status. But he’s an ace, and his curveball has an ace’s action.

The rest of this story is yet to be written as the cast removes the masks that distance molds.

Game Notes

These Pirates, like the Mariners over in the AL, are in a half-season revival, displaying the sort of energy that decimates teams like Houston who are still mired in what Pittsburgh can count as a recent memory.

On a July 4 hangover day, Brandon Wood, cast off after years by the Angels, reappears in the NL and cracks a home run off of our best player. He is a big, powerful kid, and deserves mention as someone in the midst of the vaunted “change of scenery.” In any event, the kid puts the Pirates up by two runs very early in the game, and improbably drives in another run in the 4th, putting the game effectively out of reach and rendering Wandy Rodriguez’s night a disappointment.

Andrew McCutcheon swung at bad pitches like a player attempting to prove others wrong. He attacks fly balls in the gaps with equal conviction, and in the 4th he grabbed a soaring Brett Wallace effort and flipped it into the stands before it had time to figure out why it wasn’t kissing the outfield wall. The All-Star-jilted stud, however, had much trouble with Wandy’s vicious curveball.

Clint Barmes, for his part, is a much larger player than I thought, and for a middle infielder. In the top of the 5th, he leaned back and then leaned into a fastball that landed in the 4th row of the left field bleachers.

The rest is something of a blur. A few more good turns for the Pirates, none for the Astros. The later innings breezed past as I pondered my return to the team, a little more wistful than analytical and focussed. But that’s alright. I’ve got plenty of time.

So, once again, welcome to Foamer Night.