H-Town Sports

Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It's Teater Time on Tour

Longtime friend of yours truly and avid reader of H-Town Sports, Josh Teater, is representing us all this weekend in his PGA Tour debut at the Deutsche Banke Championship in Boston. Teater is paired with Darron Stiles and D.J. Brigman in the 1:30 group off the #1 tee on Friday, and we'll all be watching closely and living vicariously through "J-Tizzle", as the kids call him. Josh is currently 79th on the Hooters Tour money list, and he has a well-known propensity for late season heroics, as his 3rd place finish at the 2004 Hooters Tour Championship illustrated. So far, Josh's only real disappointment was that neither Tiger nor Vijay showed up for the complimentary movie viewing last night for the players.

No pressure, Josh, but I added you to my ESPN "Drive to the Mercedes Championship" team this week, along with Tiger, Zach Johnson and Mark Hensby.

Yao Signs Extension

Sorry Los Angeles. According to Jonathan Feigen, Yao has signed a five-year extension with the Rockets that will guarantee the Great Wall 25% of the Rockets' salary cap each season through the 2010-2011 season.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 30

AAA: Albuquerque 6, Round Rock 4
Round Rock's postseason dreams are slipping away after another close loss to the Isotopes. Jimmy Anderson's attempt to pitch the Express into the postseason surprisingly failed, as he allowed 11 hits and five runs in five innings on Tuesday night. Brooks Conrad and Mike Rivera each provided two hits, and newly promoted Charlton Jimerson got a hit in his first AAA apperance after being promoted from Corpus Christi to replace Luke Scott. I think that promoting Jimerson's a decent move. The guy is still a strikeout machine, but he's obviously got talent, and he's likely always going to have trouble making contact, so there's no reason to keep waiting for him to turn into Sean Casey or Juan Pierre. Jimerson was hitting only .259 on the season, but he was hitting a much better .283 with 13 HR in the second half in AA.

AA: Corpus Christi 4, Midland 0
The Hooks climbed back into a three-way tie for first place behind the awesome arm of Jason Hirsh. Hirsh allowed only two hits over six scoreless innings to drop his ERA under 3.00 for the season. DH Hector Gimenez provided the big blow on offense with three hits, including a three-run HR in the fourth inning. The Hooks other catcher, Dax Norris, also had three hits last night. Jeff Bagwell is expected to start his rehab stint in Corpus on Wednesday night.

High A: Salem's game was suspended after two innings on Tuesday night. Salem and Wilmington play doubleheader tonight and will resume the suspended game Thursday night before playing the scheduled game.

Low A: The Legends were rained out Tuesday night and will make the game up in a doubleheader on Wednesday. Beau Torbert was deservedly named the South Atlantic League's Batter of the Week.

Short Season A: Oneonta 20, Tri-City 4
Clearly, little positive can be said about this game. As fellow Pirate and friend of H-Town Sports Jason Koy tipped to me this morning, Koby Clemens was promoted from Rookie ball to Tri-City. Several roster spots were opened up for the Valley Cats when Wladimir Sutil, German Melendez and Luke Barganier were promoted to Lexington. Sutil was an All-Star in the NY-Penn League, mostly known for his defense at shortstop, and Melendez is a pitcher (converted from catcher) who went 7-0 in relief with a 2.86 ERA.

Rookie: Greenville 6, Pulaski 5
Eli Iorg continued his stellar hitting with a 2-4 night. Koby Clemens' last game in Greenville was marked by an 0-3 night at the plate and his 12th error of the season. His final numbers were .297/.398/.477 with 4 HR and 17 RBI.

Breaking News: McHale releases Angry Pirates postseason lineup

In by far the biggest scoop yet for H-Town Sports, sources have informed us of Skip McHale's tentative lineup for tonight's championship quest:

Koy - LCF
Thompson - LF
Pawlik - P
Townsend - C
Guidry - 1B
Vandenberg - 2B
O'Rourke - RCF
Castille - RF
Moore - SS
Landers - DH
Maguire - 3B
Murillo - DH/C
Thomas - DH/2B/3B/RF

Our sources say that McHale has yet to scribe the lineup in his legendary yellow tablet, indicating its temporary nature, and knowing his whimsical nature and tendency for impulse-based decision making, changes could be made. Our sources also reported that McHale's focus has been on seeing a fundamentally-sound defense which keeps the ball in front of them and does not allow any extra bases.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tourney Time at the BOSL

If you think March Madness is scintillating, then wait until you've experienced August Anarchy, BOSL-style.

Game 1: Chaos Unloaded v. Throwdown Inc.:
As the names and records suggest, these teams spent more time coming up with totally radical team names than perfecting their on-field skills. Therefore, assuming both teams do not find a way to somehow lose this game, I'll take the Incorporation of Throwdown in an intimate contest, but that by no means has to anything do with the sexual preference of either team, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Game 2: Porn Stars v. Throwdown Inc.
Should Chaos upset Throwdown in the first game, we could be forced to watch Gay v. Porn in Game 2, but hopefully the stars will intervene and prevent such a disturbing development. Porn should win out in this one, like it so often does.

Game 3: The Rac v. Old School:
This is an intriguing first-round battle between a crew of wily veterans (The Rac) and a ironically named, up-and-coming team in Old School. Old School can slug, but the Rac is just too balanced to go out early.

Game 4: Angry Pirates v. Imogene:
I will admit to some significant bias, but I personally think that this is the dream bracket for your beloved Pirates. Should the seedings hold form, the Pirates will get a chance to take out each of their fiercest rivals in order on their way to the crown. First up is Imogene, who has engaged the Pirates in a series of roller-coaster tilts over the past three seasons, including last week's overtime Imogene victory. I fully expect the Pirates to come out ablaze and cruise to an easy win over Imogene.

Game 5: The Rac v. Angry Pirates
This is the championship match, in my opinion. The Rac will not beat itself, and the Pirates must bring their A-game to this one or be forced to walk the proverbial plank. The Pirates' loss to the Rac earlier this season came without their star LF and incredibly drunk DH, and I believe that a full ship of Pirates will smell Porn in the water and win a close one here.

Championship Game: Angry Pirates v. Porn Stars
In a matchup that would be more appropriately broadcast on PPV than ESPN, the championship match should be incredible. So good in fact that I am going to hold off on making a prediction in this one. The Porn Stars come in with a swagger and narrowly defeated the Pirates earlier this year in extra innings. Let's hope that Skipper McHale is able to unscrew the bubbly in a truly ceremonial fashion this time around.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 29

AAA: Albuquerque 11, Round Rock 1
The Express failed to gain ground in their pennant chase as Brandon Duckworth and Taylor Buchholz were both shelled in Albuquerque. Royce Huffman, Todd Self and Cha-Cha each picked up two hits in the loss. Luke Scott is now a big leaguer for the second time, as the Astros called him up yesterday and released Chad "Stuff" Harville. Also, Brian McTaggart noted in his Chronicle Minor League Notebook Tuesday that Fernando Nieve is lost for the season due to an emergency appendectomy and Carlos Hernandez continues his quest to be traded to the AL by obtaining yet another injury on the basepaths, this time a pulled quadricep.

AA: Midland 6, Corpus Christi 5
The Hooks lost a thriller at home to Midland to fall one game behind the division leaders. The Hooks gave up three runs in the top of the ninth to fall behind 6-1, but rallied four runs in the bottom ninth only to lose by one run. Brandon Backe allowed two hits and two runs in three innings on his first rehab start, and newly acquired Joshua Miller kept Corpus in the game with five great innings of relief. Marc Saccomanno had three hits, and Mike Rodriguez and Josh Anderson kept up their hot streaks with two hits apiece, but it was not enough.

As for Backe, the Caller reports that he was hitting 93-94 with his fastball and claimed to fell great after the game. A fresh, healthy Backe would certainly be a boost for the Astros at the plate, not to mention on the mound. The Hooks hopes for the playoffs fall to ace Jason Hirsh tonight in the series' second game.

High A: Winston-Salem 6, Salem 0
Between his recent pitching performances and his work in Heartbreakers, Ray Liotta's image is sure to haunt the Avalanche's minds for months and years to come. Liotta shut the 'Lanche down for six innings last night to help the Warthogs push a half-game ahead of Salem in the standings. Matt Albers had five rough innings pitched for Salem.

Low A: Lexington 9, Lake County 5
Ronnie Martinez ran his record to 12-3 with a win last night for the Legends. Beau Torbert continued his ridiculous run with four more hits, including a double, a HR and three runs scored. In his last six games, Beau Torbert's gone 13 for 24 with four HR, three doubles and 12 RBI. Lou Santangelo and Justin Humprhies also homered for the Legends.

Short Season A: Tri-City 9, Lowell 4
Not much to mention here other than Brian Bogusevic continued his campaign to be moved to the OF by allowing two more runs in 1 2/3 innings pitched to run his season ERA to 6.63. Don't fret though, Astros fans, as Brian McTaggart's notebook also quoted Astros director of player development Ricky Bennett as saying that the Astros were happy with "the way he interacts with his teammates." In lieu of a separate post, I'll go ahead and award that with the Chronicle Highlight of the Day award.

Rookie: Greenville 10, Pulaski 5
Legends' fans should be excited about next season's team, as current Rookie-ball sensations Eli Iorg and Josh Flores should be opening the 2006 campaign in Lexington. Iorg homered twice and Flores homered once for the Astros in their rout of the Jays. Iorg went 3-5 on the night and drove in seven runs.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Astros Minor League Report - as of Monday 8/29/05

AAA: Round Rock remains 1.5 GB of first-place with eight games to play after winning two out of three over the weekend from Nashville. Friday night's 5-4 victory was especially dramatic, as Mike Rivera hit a 10th inning walkoff HR to win it. Fernando Nieve had a spectacular start, allowing three runs on six hits over seven innings, while striking out 11(!) and walking none. Saturday saw the Sounds defeat the Express 8-5 thanks to three late runs off of Round Rock relievers. Mike Rivera continued his weekend-to-remember with three more hits, and Luke Scott added a pair in a losing effort. Sunday's series finale was a 4-3 Express victory, thanks to Luke Scott's 3-run eighth inning HR. The Express start a crucial four-game set in Albuquerque tonight against an Isotopes team with whom they are currently tied for second place.

AA: Corpus Christ ended the weekend in a three-way tie for first place after losing the finale to Frisco but winning the first two games against Midland. Friday's 4-3 loss to the Rough Riders saw a late Hooks rally fall one-run short. Peter Bauer had a decent start, Hector Gimenez hit his tenth HR of the season, and Charlton Jimerson went 0-4 with 3 K's. The Hooks' bats came out roaring on Saturday against Midland, posting five runs in the first inning en route to an easy 11-4 rout of the Rock Hounds. 3B Marc Saccomanno had four hits, and Mike Rodriguez, Josh Anderson and J.R. Phillips had three each for the Hooks. Rodriguez and Anderson each had two triples for the Hooks, in a rare feat. Sunday's game was delayed an hour-plus by rain, forcing Hooks' ace Jason Hirsh to exit after one scoreless inning, but the Hooks bullpen picked up the slack in a 4-1 victory. Journeyman 2B Jason Clements was the surprising hitting star with three hits, including two doubles and two RBI. Jamie Merchant recorded the victory with four innings of shutout relief highlighted by five strikeouts, and Chris Sampson retired the side in order for his fourth save. Tonight's game will see Brandon Backe throw about three innings in a rehab appearance and should also include Jeff Bagwell in the DH spot. It will be interesting to see if Hirsh comes back after Backe's abbreviated start, especially considering the extra work that the Hooks' pen put in on Sunday.

High A: Salem's lead in the Carolina League South is down to one-half game entering play on Monday after the Avalanche lost two of three to its nearest contender, Winston-Salem. Winston-Salem cruised to a 6-3 victory on Friday and roughed up Josh Muecke in the process. The normally reliable Muecke allowed ten hits and five runs in seven innings in taking the loss. Winston-Salem SP Wesley Whisler, who had been immensely hittable for most of the season, shut out the Avalanche for seven innings. Saturday saw another dominant Warthog pitching performance, though this time from stud Giovany Gonzalez, who held the 'Lanche to one run over seven innings, while Mitch Talbot took the loss for Salem. Salem rebounded on Sunday for a 9-0 rout behind Chance Douglass, who earned the victory with eight shutout innings. CF Mike Floyd was the hitting star, going 5-5 and hitting for the cycle, including two HR, in what may be the best hitting performance of the year in all of pro baseball. Hunter Pence added two hits for the Avalanche, who close out their series with the Warthogs tonight.

Low A: Lexington lost two of three to West Virginia over the weekend. Chad Reineke had another fine start on Friday night, leading the Legends to a 9-3 win behind three hits apiece from Ted William...err...Beau Torbert and Mitch Einertson. Jimmy Barthmaier took a rare loss on Saturday, giving up four runs, though all four were unearned. 2B Drew Sutton homered for the second straight game on Saturday. Paulino Del Guicie met nearly the exact same fate on Sunday, picking up his first loss, but giving up only two unearned runs over five innings, while his teammates managed only three hits.

Short Season A: Tri-City lost two of three to Lowell, with the only positive being LF Matt Cunningham, who had a 7-15 weekend for the Valley Cats.

Rookie: Greenville won two of its three games this weekend. Friday's 10-1 stomping saw a balanced Astros attack, with two hits apiece from Brandon Barnes, Jhon Florentino, Eli Iorg and Koby Clemens. Clemens had a 2-2 night with two walks,, his fourth HR and four RBI. Iorg had three hits in the Astros' Saturday victory, in which Corey Bass, a draft-and-follow from the 2004 draft, earned the win with three scoreless innings and five K's. Iorg continued his torrid hitting with two more hits in Sunday's loss. The Rookie 'Stros have only two games remaining.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Friday's Chronicle Highlight

A subtle blast in the last line of Chronicle reporter Jayne Custred's feature on ex-Texan and new Cowboy CB Aaron Glenn:

Parcells seems about as concerned with Glenn's age as he was with his size back in New York.

"Me and Bill have always had a great relationship," Glenn said. "I go out and bust my butt for him. I try to be the best I can be, regardless. I understand what he wants in a player."

In Glenn's case, a 33-year-old small corner.

I read this primarily as a blast against Parcells and somewhat against Glenn, but regardless, it's nice to see some feistiness from the Chronicle's staff.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 25

AAA: Round Rock 4, Nashville 0
The Express' conglomeration of AAA lifers and major-league washouts continues to win games but remains 2.5 games behind Oklahoma. Jimmy Freaking Anderson pitched a masterpiece Thursday night, scattering seven hits and going the distance to earn a complete-game shutout. Astros' fans had better start praying for an injury, or else Jimmy could pitch himself onto the big-league roster in September, which would certainly be disastrous for the Astros' postseason hopes. Offensively, Royce Huffman had three hits and homered for the second consecutive night, and Luke Scott hit his 30th home run of the year in what he assuredly hopes is one of his AAA games. Fernando Nieve gets the start Friday night for Round Rock.

AA: Corpus Christi 6, Frisco 0
The Hooks continue their excellent play heading into a crucial four-game set v. first-place Midland, who they now trail by only two games, which starts Saturday night. Phillip Barzilla, former Rice standout, pitched six shutout innings to earn his seventh win and lower his season ERA to 3.08. Mike Rodriguez fell a single short of the cycle, and Marc Saccomanno and Charlton Jimerson also homered for the Hooks. Jimerson also rang up his 138th and 139th strikeouts of the season. It will be interesting to see what the front office decides to do with Jimerson (.266/.318/.454) next season. I would assume that he'll start the year in AA again because he clearly still has issues making consistent contact, but there's not much positional talent ahead of him in the system, so they may decide to let him take a shot in AAA.

One interesting twist is that Jeff Bagwell will likely be the DH in the Hooks' lineup for the last game of the Midland series. Hooks' CF Josh Anderson had a great quote: "Even if he doesn't pick up a bat, just knowing he's in the dugout with us will put fear in the other team." Sounds like Anderson's not convinced that Baggy's ready to return to form just yet, eh?

Special thanks to fellow Pirate Jason Koy for providing me with this tip: Jason Hirsh was selected as the 2005 Texas League Pitcher of the Year. Ex-Hook and current Express RHP Fernando Nieve was also selected as a 2005 Texas League postseason all-star.

High A: Salem 11, Potomac 6
The Avalanche completed a three game sweep of Potomac and extended their division lead to 1.5 games over Winston-Salem. Troy Patton was not invincible, allowing two runs in three innings of laborious work. Juan Gutierrez, however, was excellent in his Salem debut after being called up from Lexington, pitching four one-hit innings and striking out six to earn the victory. Mike Floyd had three hits including a home run, Hunter Pence had two hits including a run-scoring double, and Frankie Caraballo continued to play as if he was still in Lexington, rackign put two more hits and two more RBI. Saul Torres also hit a three-run HR for the Avalanche. The division title will now be decided, as Salem heads to Winston-Salem for a four-game set.

In mentioning Caraballos' promotion yesterday, I failed to note that the open roster spot was created when Avalanche 1B was lost for the season with a torn ligament in his left wrist.

Salem's residents continue to come out in record numbers to watch the boatload of young talent on display, setting a franchise record for attendance for the second consecutive season.

Low A: Lexington 7, West Virginia 1
The Legends won their fifth straight in the series opener v. the Power. Lexington's string of excellent starting pitching continued, as Paul Estrada allowed only one run in five innings in his first start of the season following 43 relief appearances. Offensively, Beau Torbert continued to sizzle, hitting a three-run homer. SS Edwin Maysonet had a pair of doubles, and 2B Drew Sutton went 3-3 at the plate.

Short Season A: Oneonta 12, Tri-City 2
Little good to report from this thrashing. Patrick Sellers did homer for the Valley Cats.

Rookie: Burlington 11, Greenville 0
Burlington's Jason Schutt combined with two relievers to cool off the Astros' bats, allowing only a pair of singles (one by Josh Flores). In his last 12 games, Flores is 20-51 for a .392 average and was named on Tuesday as the Astros' only Appalachian League All-Star. Koby Clemens managed to refrain from making an error, ended his streak of "erroroneous" games at five.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

New Feature: Today's Chronicle Highlight

Today we are debuting a new feature, "Today's Chronicle Highlight", in which we will select one tidbit from that day's edition of the Houston Chronicle that we believe deserves special attention.

Today we look at a quote from the cover story by Emily Davis about college football programs sending truckloads of text messages to high school football recruits. If this were sent to an underage cheerleader rather than blue-chip Klein Collins RB Michael Goodson, I think an indictment might be in order:

"I'd die for you." -- sent by an unnamed Southern Cal assistant coach
Clearly adept at evaluating the credibility of such come-ons, Goodson is not ready to run for the warm, brawny arms of that USC coach just yet: "No, I didn't believe him."

Now I admittedly have little room to poke fun at the defending national champs seeing as my alma mater's football team has a consistent history of stinking and cheating, but I think I'll rest a little easier if Louisville shallacks us (again) knowing that the Big Blue is taking their medicine without published reports of our assistant coaches "texting" romantic promises to recruits.

Bellaire Optimsts Softball League Report

Following their second late-inning rally in as many games, the Angry Pirates succumbed to a relentless Imogene offensive attack and lost 16-9 in extra innings. The loss completes the Pirates' regular season with a 5-3 record, a win total that exceeds the cumulative win total of all other Pirates' seasons. However, after roaring out to a 4-0 start, the Pirates are certainly not content with their 3rd place finish and look forward to chasing down the esteemed BOSL League Championship plaque next Wednesday night at the League Tournament. If the tirade thrown by veteran RCF O'Rourke after last night's essentially meaningless loss was any indication, the women and children may want to seek shelter should the Pirates' postseason dreams fall short. The Bellaire Sun reports that riot police and a bevy of neighborhood terriers will be in place to attempt to keep Mr. O'Rourke from single-handedly dismantling the dilapidated shed behind home plate in the event that a single close call fails to go the way of the Pirate.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 24

AAA: Round Rock 7, Nashville 1 - Express remains 2.0 GB of 1st place Oklahoma
Round Rock took advantage of three Sounds' errors in a win at Dell Diamond. Brandon Duckworth threw 6 2/3 strong innings, striking out seven. Also of note was the scoreless inning thrown by RHP Taylor Buchholz, who is returning from his latest bout with shoulder trouble. Carlos Rivera had four hits, and Royce Huffmand had three hits to lead the offensive attack. Brooks Conrad hit a two-run HR, his 19th HR of the season, off of Wes Obermueller.

AA: Frisco 5, Corpus Christi 4 (1st game); Corpus Christi 4, Frisco 2 (2nd game)
The Hooks remain 3 games back of 1st place Midland after splitting a double header against the Rough Riders. The first game was lost in the eleventh inning thanks to a walk and an error. After yet another shaky start from Tim McClaskey, the Hooks' bullpen threw six scoreless innings to keep the game close. Charlton Jimerson was 1-4 with a K, and J.R. Phillips and Eric Riggs each had two hits. The second game was shortened due to the length of the first, and DH Carlos Rodriguez had the big hit with a two-run single in the second inning.

High A: Salem 7, Potomac 5
The Avalanche maintained its one-game lead over Winston-Salem. Matt Albers had a so-so start, and Frankie Caraballo homered in his debut following a well-deserved promotion from Lexington.

Low A: Lexington 3, Hagerstown 1
SP Ronnie Martinez ran his record to 11-3 with seven solid innings of work. Beau Torbert continued his string of great play with a one-man show: three hits, including his fifth HR of the season, two stolen bases and an outfield assist. Following the game, he reportedly cleaned up the sunflower seeds out of the dugout and went to the World Famous Two Keys Tavern, where he set a record at pinball and then took home the two hottest girls in the bar.

Short Season A: Oneonta 4, Tri-City 0
Fresh off the first-ever NY-Penn League All-Star game, in which Valley Cats Wladimir Sutil, Patrick Sellers and Mark Ori were honored, Tri-City was shut out by Oneonta's Burke Badenhop.

Rookie: Greenville 11, Bluefield 9
Josh Flores continues to cause fans to ponder his mortality, bashing two more homers in an Astro win. In just another night at the ballpark, the two teams combined for 20 runs, 26 hits and 6 errors. SS Jhon Florentino had four hits and a stolen base, and Koby Clemens continues his debauchery in the field, running his error streak two five games, tacking on an extra one just for kicks, giving him 11 on the season.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 23

AAA: Albuquerque 4, Round Rock 3 - Express drop 2.5 games behind Oklahoma
The Express' late rally came up a run short at Dell Diamond last night. Jinxed by Brian McTaggart's words of praise, Carlos Hernandez took a step back last night, allowing eight hits and four runs in five innings to absorb the loss. Scott MacRae had another good relief outing, dropping his ERA to 3.09 since being called up from AA Corpus Christi. Charles Gipson had two hits and two steals for the Express, and Royce Huffman had a solo HR in the ninth to pull Round Rock within a run.

AA: Corpus Christi 2, Frisco 2 - Hooks remain 2.5 GB
Mimicking their big-league club, the Hooks played to a 10-inning tie last night. The game was called on account of rain and will be re-played today as part of a doubleheader, but the stats from Tuesday's game will count. Josh Anderson had three hits and his 47th SB, and Charlton Jimerson was 0-4 with two K's. Another wonderful pitching performance from Jason Hirsh went to waste, as Hirsh pitched seven innings, allowing nine hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out seven with zero walks. In 159+ innings, Hirsh has now allowed only 131 hits and 39 walks while striking out 153! Chris Sampson continued his stellar relief work with two scoreless frames.

High A: Salem 8, Potomac 2 - Salem holds 1 game lead over Winston-Salem
Chance Douglass had yet another great start, allowing only one earned run and striking out nine over seven innings to pick up his tenth win of the season. Rodrigo Escobar closed out the win with two scoreless frames, dropping his ERA to 2.07 on the season. Escobar's control has been a little shaky, but he's struck out 73 in 69+ innings while serving as the Avalanche's closer. C Kevin Davidson homered and drove in three runs, and Mike Floyd homered as well. Jonny Ash continued his great second half with two hits, two runs scored and an RBI. Since being promoted from Lexington on June 30th, Ash has gone .349/.394/.488, with an incredible 11:8 BB:K ratio.

Low A: Lexington 8, Hagerston 0 - Lexington's still 5.5 GB
Paulino del Guidice led the Legends on a two-hit shutout, throwing five one-hit, scoreless innings while dropping his ERA to 1.06 since being promoted from Tri-City. Beau Torbert put the Legends ahead to stay with a three-run HR in the first inning. 1B Justin Humphries had three hits as well.

Short Season A: Tri-City returns to action tonight after a two-game hiatus.

Rookie: Bluefield 7, Greenville 1
Greenville missed an opportunity to climb out of the Appalachian League West cellar, getting crushed by the O's. The Astros mustered only three hits, including one apiece by Eli Iorg and Koby Clemens, who made an error in his third consecutive game.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

P.J. Returns

According to the Associated Press, Longhorn PF P. J. Tucker has regained his eligibility and will return to action for Rick Barnes' squad in 2005-2006. At the time of Tucker's dismissal, I heard not a single Longhorn who believed Tucker would be back. I guess he's got a better tutor than Mike Williams. Regardless of how he accomplished it, Coach Barnes has certainly got to be licking his chops in anticipation of fall practice.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 22

AAA: Albuquerque 5, Round Rock 2 - Express 1.5 GB of 1st place
PCL Player of the Week Luke Scott's 29th HR was not enough to contain the Isotopes. If I had not dropped out of Organic Chemistry my sophomore year, I would make a snazzy chem-joke. Drew Niles won it with a three-run double in the eighth inning, making a loser out of Brian Tollberg. John & Lance said this morning (courtesy of Brian McTaggart's Minor League Notebook) that 3B Mike Coolbaugh broke his left wrist and was lost for the remainder of the AAA season, which would be a big blow to the Express' pennant hopes and potentially to the Astros' September bench. The Express wraps up its regular season on Labor Day, so manager Jackie Moore is likely correct in characterizing a Coolbaugh return to Round Rock this season as "miraculous".

AA: Corpus Christi was idle Monday and remains 2 GB of first-place Midland.

High A: Salem was also idle Monday and maintains a slim 1 game lead over Winston-Salem.

Low A: Lexington and Hickory were rained out on Monday night and the game will not be made up.

Short Season A: Tri-City was idle Monday and will be Tuesday as well.

Rookie: Greenville 5, Bluefield 0 (1st game), 9-1 (2nd game)
Greenville swept a doubleheader from Bluefield. SP Brad James starred in the first game, allowing only three hits and striking out seven over six shutout innings. Koby Clemens made his seventh error in the afternoon game. The nightcap was a rout, starring Eli Iorg, who had a perfect night with two hits, two walks, a three-run HR and scored twice. Four other Astros had two hits apiece, including Josh Flores and Koby Clemens, who also added his eighth error in the nightcap. But the Stone Hands award clearly belongs to SS Tim Johnson, who committed his 21st error in the second game, his 40th of the season. Greenville's trio of Josh Flores (.328/.371/.485 with 11 2b, 5 3b, 5 HR and 17 SB), Eli Iorg (.311/.377/.505) and Koby Clemens (.341/.418/.529) has been spectacular this summer.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Rockets add DA

What a great move! Derek Anderson, star of the 1996 National Champion Kentucky Wildcats, has reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with the Rockets. Anderson likely did not feel the need to hold out for more money because he will already receive $18.8 million from the Blazers as a result of the amnesty cut rule implemented in the new CBA.

Anderson is a classy guy who plays hard at both ends of the court and does so unselfishly. He will be a fantastic addition to the Rockets in both tangible and intangible ways. I could not be more impressed with the Rockets' offseason moves. Now if they can pick up something for Wesley's expiring contract, that would just be icing on the cake.

PG: Sura, James, Head, Ward
SG: Anderson, Barry, Wesley, Head
SF: McGrady, Bowen
PF: Howard, Swift, Baker
C: Ming, Mutombo

I would not be surprised to see the Rockets cut either Ward or Norris and possibly deal Wesley or Baker's expiring contract prior to the start of camp. The only thing that I think this team could still really use is an athletic backup SF. DeMarr Johnson is still available on the FA market, and he would be a solid fit for that role. Dealing Wesley's cap-friendly contract would potentially also allow the Rockets to bring in a such a player.

I think the Rockets should now, along with San Antonio, be considered as co-favorites to win the NBA title. I am not convinced that Flip Saunders will be able to continue the team-first mentality that pervaded Motor City under Larry Brown's watch. I'm also not real high on the additions of J-Will and Antoine Walker to the Heat's roster. That team needs more Swift/Anderson/Barry/Sura types to complement Wade/Shaq, and they have instead gone in the opposite direction.

Garner Defies Logic, not just "Convention"

Jim Molony of MLB.com says that Astros' manager Phil Garner defies "convention" with his lineup decisions, but it is beginning to appear that Scrap is defying logic as well in his lineup compilations.

In the last 30 days, Jason Lane leads the team with 18 RBI, is second with five HR, is second with a .373 OBP and first with a .627 SLG, making for a team-leading 1.000 OPS. Despite these impressive numbers, Lane continues to be found in some form of a demented platoon system created by Phil Garner, appearing to be based more on boredom than on logic. Orlando Palmeiro, who has never compiled more than 317 ABs in his 11 major league seasons, continues to receive considerable playing time. Against RHP, OP has a .819 OPS, which is respectable, but by no means does it demand everyday playing time, especially in front of Lane. In addition, OP's OPS as a pinch hitter, the role that he has filled for the majority of each of those 11 seasons, is 1.041 in 2005. Palmeiro always has been a good pinch hitter, and he is certainly most valuable to this young, inconsistent offense as a veteran bat off of the bench. It is time for Lane to play every single day, much like Richard Justice requested last week in the Houston Chronicle.

Since the All-Star break, Mike Lamb has put up numbers of .194/.222/.418 for an OPS of .640, which is flat out terrible. Unfortunately, that OPS is higher than his 1st half OPS of .618. It's not just a LHP/RHP deal, either, because his OPS against RHP is only .649 on the season. On top of that, Lamb is one of the worst defensive players in the National League. Lamb should not start another game in 2005. He should be, at best, one of the last bats off of the bench. In fact, it would not be an imprudent move to put Lamb through waivers and try to get a case of sunflower seeds for him if an AL-team is willing to give him a shot. While guys like Carlos Rivera (.317/.367/.514 at AAA), Todd Self (.305/.413/.476 at AAA, .200/.250/.311 in a brief stint with Houston) and Mike Coolbaugh (.281/.344/512 in AAA) are certainly not going to be building blocks for the future, they, along with Luke Scott, have each earned a shot to help this big-league club, and they could probably step to the plate with a wet newspaper in lieu of a bat or into the field blindfolded without a glove and provide the "help" that Lamb has provided all season long.

While I'm sure the unpopularity of this move at this point makes its likelihood quite unlikely, I also believe that it is time for Craig Biggio to be removed from the everyday starting lineup. Since the All-Star break, Bidge has posted .242/.313/.394 for an OPS of .707, with even worse numbers in August. I cannot put an exact number on the impact that the ever-friendly Crawford Boxes have on his offensive numbers, but let's just say that 16 of his 17 HR have come at home, that he has become a dead-pull hitter and that his road OPS is .640. Meanwhile, Chris Burke has come alive (relatively speaking), with a post-ASB OPS of .785 and an August OPS of .859. His aggressiveness and speed bring an entirely different (and much needed) element to the light-hitting Astros lineup, and his range at 2B would be considerably better than Bidge's.

Adam Everett's OPS after the All-Star break is a sparkling .591 (that's sub-Lamb territory). That really is not much of a departure for Everett, who has only had one month of > .700 OPS performance and who ranks 14th in the NL amongh SS's with his season OPS of .667. Can Burke play SS? For God's sake, Brad Ausmus looked smooth turning two last week in a lost game, and his OPS is mere points behind Everett's. How about a a Milo-in-2006-like platoon, with Everett-Burke on the Road and Burke-Bidge at home?

The numbers that this year's offense have put up are very bad, and they're right in line with what should have been expected from these players. There is little reason for Astros' fans to realistically expect a late-season surge in production from Everett, Bidge, Palmeiro or Lamb. That said, Luke Scott has completed an extended red-hot stretch in AAA. Sure he looked terrible in his early season starts, but the ceiling is considerably higher, and we know that the alternatives stink. Would you not feel better about the Astros' chances down the stretch if Scrap ran out a daily lineup of:

Burke - 2B
Tavares - CF
Berkman - 1B
Ensberg - 3B
Lane - RF
Scott - LF
Everett - SS
Ausmus - C

I know that I would.

Two Yards and a Cloud of Dust

Lawrence Phillips career path must make Rashan Salaam feel like Emmitt Smith. Seems quite predictible for Phillips to take to beating up on teenage boys considering his well-established history of beating up women.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 19, 20 and 21

AAA: Round Rock had an undefeated weekend, beating Nashville 6-4 on Friday night and taking back-to-back games from first place Albuquerque on Saturday and Sunday by scores of 6-4 and 8-5. On Friday night, the Express blew a 4-0 lead but won with two runs in the eighth inning. Brandon Duckworth allowed three runs in six innings, and Luke Scott and Carlos Rivera both had three-hit nights. On Saturday night, Jimmy "Orka" Anderson made his Express debut and stunningly pitched the team to a victory, allowing four runs (one earned) in six innings. Over the years and with multiple bad teams, Anderson has proven to capable of simultaneously being a clubhouse cancer and a terribly ineffective pitcher on a consistent basis. Barry Wesson hit two homers for the Express, and Luke Scott had a bomb as well. Sunday's win went to Fernando Nieve, who allowed only two runs over six innings while piling up six strikeouts. Luke Scott piled up four more hits, to run his weekend total to nine, while also hitting his 28th home run. Charles Gipson and Brooks Conrad also had three hits apiece and a home run. The top three in the Express order went 10-13 on Sunday with three home runs. The Express ended the weekend 0.5 games back of first-place Oklahoma.

AA: Corpus Christi lost Friday night to Wichita 8-2, but rallied for wins Saturday (7-2) and Sunday (2-1). Charlton Jimerson's home run was the only positive note on Friday, as Tim McClaskey was taken out behind the shed by Wichita hitters. Phillip Barzilla struggled on Saturday, allowing nine hits in five-plus innings, but limiting the damage to only two runs to earn his sixth victory. The offense on Saturday was provided by J.R. Phillips and Mike Rodriguez with three hits apiece. Jimerson had two more hits on Saturday as well. Peter Bauer outdueled Wichita's Ryan Baerlocher on Sunday, allowing only one run over eight innings. Jailen Peguero continued his excellent relief work on Saturday and Sunday, throwing a total of three scoreless innings and earning his 12th save on Sunday. Peguero, a 24 year-old free agent originally signed out of the D.R. in 2000, has a 2.80 ERA over 61 innings pitched, while striking out 60 and walking only 21. The hooks finished the weekend two games behind first place Midland.

High A: Salem lost two out of three to Winston-Salem over the weekend, with a 6-5 loss on Friday, a 3-2 win on Saturday and a 9-3 loss on Sunday. Troy Patton had an un-Patton-like performance on Friday night, allowing three runs in five innings, while Jonny Ash had three hits. and Ben Zobrist had two hits including a home run. Josh Muecke continued his campaign for the league's Pitcher of the Year award by allowing only two runs over seven innings pitched to earn his tenth win o fthe year. Offensively, Ben Zobrist continued his late-season surge with two hits, and Hunter Pence added a bases-loaded triple for the 'Lanche. Jeremy Wigdahl continued to pitch well after being promoted from Lexington. Wiggy's produced 17 saves and a combined 2.42 ERA between stops in 2005. Mitch Talbot was knocked around on Sunday afternoon, and three hits from each of Jonny Ash and Mario Garza were not enough to overcome said shallacking. Salem ended the weekend with a 0.5 game lead over Winston-Salem.

Low A: Lexington took two of three from Hickory over the weekend, but could not get closer than five games to first place. Friday was a 7-2 loss, as the normally-reliable Juan Gutierrez was roughed up. Saturday was a 6-3 win, with all six runs coming in the third inning for the Legends, capped by a three-run homer from Edwin Maysonet. Chad Reineke had another fine start on Saturday, allowing only two runs (one earned) over five innings and striking out eight. Sunday's 6-5 win was closer than it should have been, as Hickory rallied for three in the bottom of the ninth off of Legends' closer Ryan Thompson. Jimmy Barthmeier continued to sew up his spot in the 2006 Salem rotation with another great six innings of work. Mitch Einertson was the offensive spark on Sunday with three hits.

Short Season A: Tri-City took two of three from Lowell, and the loss Friday was a painful one. Tri-City lost a 4-3 nailbiter Friday night with Brian Bogusevic allowing three of the four Lowell runs in the last two innings. Wladimir Sutil raised his average to .343 with three more hits. Saturday's 8-3 win was highlighted by a three-run jack by RF Matt Cunningham, and Sunday's 4-2 win came behind the strength of three hits by Michael Thompson and four innings of one-hit relief from Adam Knobel, a 2005 draft pick out of Rocket fan favorite Bryce Drew's alma mater, Valparaiso University in Indiana.

Rookie: Greenville completed a successful weekend for the Astros' affiliates by taking two of three from Elizabethton. Ryan Mitchell led the Astros Friday night with five shutout innings in a 4-0 win, in which Josh Flores continued his push for a promotion with two more hits. Elizabethton returned the favor on Saturday, shutting out the Astros 4-0 on only three hits. Twins prospect Ryan Mullins, a third round draft pick out of Vanderbilt, lead the charge with seven innings of one-hit ball. Greenville took Sunday's rubber game 6-3 behind two doubles and two RBI from Eli Iorg and a three-run HR from C Ralph Henriquez, his first of the season.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 18

AAA: Round Rock 3, Nashville 1 - 1.5 GB
Carlos Hernandez pitched seven shutout innings as the Express defeated the Sounds in Nashville. Carlos' ERA is still a shiny 5.67 on the season, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. Barry Wesson homered for the Express, and Charles Gipson made Robin Roberts proud with a pair of doubles and an RBI.

AA: Wichita 10, Corpus Christi 3 - 2.0 GB
Hooks' pitchers suffered a rare terrible evening as the Wranglers crushed Corpus. Mike Rodriguez had three hits for the Hooks, and Charlton Jimerson added two hits (including his 15th HR) and struck out once. Dax Norris homered for the second straight game.

High A: Salem 4, Kinston 2 - 1.5 game lead
Matt Albers continued his impressive climb back to prospectdom with seven great innings and ten strikeouts, and the Avalanche ralled for a pair of runs in the ninth to defeat Kinston. Jonny Ash had two hits, two walks and drove in the go-ahead runs in the ninth.

Low A: Lexington 8, Greensboro 2 - 5 GB
Despite another HR from Brian McCann, the Legends routed Greensboro. Three Legends pitchers combined to scatter six hits. Edwin Maysonet had a three-hit game, and Louis Santangelo, Mitch Einertson and Drew Sutton had two hits apiece.

Short Season A: Lowell 8, Tri-City 3 - 5.5 GB
Little to report from this one other than Matt Cunningham's seventh HR.

Rookie: Pulaski 8, Greenville 7 - 20 GB
Greenville could not hold onto a 7-3 lead and lost late (again). Eli Iorg busted out with a four-hit night, and Jhon Florentino blasted a three-run HR for the Astros.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 17

AAA: Round Rock 9, Nashville 4 - 1.5 out of 1st place
The Express and the Sounds put on a home run derby Wednesday, with the Express blowing the game open with a four-run ninth inning. For the Express, Luke Scott had three hits including two home runs and five RBI, and Mike Coolbaugh hit his 27th home run, leaving him only 6 shy of his age. Tommy Whiteman also went yard for Round Rock. Brooks Conrad had another good game with two hits, and Raul Chavez and Carlos Rivera had two hits apiece as well. Brian Tollberg was the winning pitcher for the Express. The Sounds' Prince Fielder hit his 28th home run in a losing effort. There's no way that the Brewers can keep Fielder out of the starting lineup in 2006 (.291/.388/.569) with 28 HR and 86 RBI. They should be able to fetch a nice return for current 1B Lyle Overbay if they do not create some way to get both guys in the lineup on a regular basis. EDIT: Clearly I'm cut out to be a big-league GM. According to Fanball, the Brewers called Prince up to their big-league roster in time for the four-game set in Houston. I guess they just plan on having him serve as a big bat off of the bench since Overbay is healthy and hitting well.

AA: Corpus Christi 8, Tulsa 0 - 1 game out of 1st place
Jason Hirsh continues to make easy work of AA hitters, cruising through six shutout innings Wednesday night to win his 12th game of the year. Hirsh allowed five hits and struck out eight with nary a walk. The offensive attack was balanced for the Hooks: Josh Anderson had three hits and his 42nd stolen base (he has been caught 16 times, which is an awful lot); Dax Norris, Marc Saccomanno , Mike Rodriguez and Eric Riggs had two hits apiece. Charlton Jimersron was 1-4 with 2 K's, running his total to 24 BB and 130!!! K's in 2005.

High A: Kinston 4, Salem 2 - 0.5 game lead
Chance Douglass had a subpar night (for him) allowing four runs in six innings in taking the loss. There was little to be excited about offensively, as the Indians' pitchers piled up a dozen strikeouts.

Low A: Greensboro 3, Lexington 1 (12) - 5.0 games out of 1st place
Legends' pitchers allowed only six hits in 12 innings, but the bats could not follow suit, and the result was a Legends' loss. Paulino del Guidice continued his stellar pitching with four scoreless innings and five strikeouts. Grasshopper 1B and Marlins' superprospect Brad McCann hit his 24th home run in the 12th, which proved to be the difference.

Short Season A: Vermont 8, Tri-City 5 - 4.5 games out of 1st place
Vermont put a touchdown and a PAT on the board in the 1st inning and never looked back. Patrick Sellers had another two-hit game for the Valley Cats. Douglas Arguello failed to exit the first inning on his own terms, retiring only one batter before allowing three hits, five walks and seven earned runs.

Rookie: Greenville 11, Pulaski 9 - 19.5 games out of 1st place
Greenville overcame five errors by pounding out fifteen hits to defeat the Blue Jays. Josh Flores was the star again, ripping five hits in five tries, including a two-run HR. In just over 200 ABs, Flores has posted .332/.371/.500 as well as 15 SBs. Koby Clemens marked his return to the lineup with a two-run homer, his third of the season.

The Popularity of Piling On

ESPN.com hack Jason Whitlock is the latest to lamely criticize Tiger Woods for leaving the PGA Championship at Baltusrol after the suspension of play on Sunday evening. As even Whitlock admits, Tiger was right. Sure it could have backfired on him, but who are any of us to quibble with any golf-related decision that Tiger makes? Tiger is many things, but it is fiction to call him a quitter.

Tiger obviously believed strongly that it was highly unlikely that the entire trio of Mickelson, Bjorn or Elkington would fall back to 2-under, such that he would become part of a playoff for the championship. Not only was he right about that, he was really right about that, as none of the trio fell back to 2-under. In addition, when play was suspended, Davis Love and Vinjay Singh were each at 2-under with two par-5's yet to play.

I realize that the intensity of deadlines and quotas looming over the heads of the media are likely quite burdensome today with the growth of the internet and 24-hour coverage, and that said deadlines and quotas force many a column to be published which thrusts a pseudo-controversial take about a non-story down readers' throats, but this is really getting out of hand.

Redstone Golf Club

Tom Kirkendall over at Houston's Clear Thinkers provides a very detailed review (including photos) of his first round at the new Rees Jones course, which will become the home of the Shell Houston Open.

As a 25("-ish") handicap and a financially-strapped young lawyer, I'm certainly glad that Tom provided us with his insight about the new course because he's certainly better qualified than I am. The photo of the gorgeous par-3 7th hole at the new course is graciously borrowed from Tom's site.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

[Baseball America] Great Piece with Matt Albers

Baseball America has a nice interview with Astros' prospect and Lexington party Legend Matt Albers, who spent part of last year in rehab after (understandably) having a little too much fun in College Town USA. I, personally, fully understand the situation that Matt endured, as the Heart of the Bluegrass has much to offer to a strapping lad like Matt, to which I can fully attest. OK, well, I had friends who could fully attest. I was probably working up a spreadsheet to track my Canadian football parlays.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 16

Breathe easy, Masses...

AAA: Nashville 7, Round Rock 5
Round Rock blew another lead last night in Music City. Prince Fielder tied the game in the fifth off of Fernando Nieve with his 27th home run of the season, and Travis Driskill lost it in relief. Luke Scott homered, Carlos Rivera homered twice, and Brooks Conrad added two more hits.

AA: Tulsa 3, Corpus Christi 2
Peter Bauer and Chris Sampson pitched well (Sampson has been outstanding since returning to the Hooks in a relief role). Drillers' pitching combined to strike out ten Hooks, including 1B JR Phillips three times and Charlton Jimerson (only) once.

High A: Kinston 6, Salem 2
Mitch Talbot was victimized by two Ben Zobrist errors which lead to four unearned runs and a loss for the Avalanche. Zobrist managed to somewhat redeem himself with another great night with the bat, going 4-4 with a walk.

Low A: Lexington12, Greensboro 3
Jimmy Barthmaier continued his streak of outstanding pitching and earned his 10th win of the season. Justin Towles, Beau Torbert and Louis Santangelo all had three hit nights for the red-hot Legends.

Short Season A: Tri-City 12, Vermont 8
The Valley Cats pounded out 15 hits off of Expos' pitching, including four by stud DH Patrick Sellers. SP Clifford Davis had a great night, allowing only one hit and striking out eight in five innings.

Rookie: Pulaski 12, Greenville 3
Astro SP Jacob Hurry rushed his way to the showers in a nightmarish first inning, and the Astros never recovered. Josh Flores had a three-hit night for the Astros.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Where are they now?

Maybe when I have more time, I'll be more detailed, but I thought it'd be interesting to peek at the Astros' last six drafts and see what remains:

2000: Chad Qualls, Eric Bruntlett, Todd Self are the notable names. Anthony Pluta, Tommy Whiteman and Monte Mansfield are some guys who are still churning in the Astros' minor-league system.

2001: Chris Burke is the only current big-league Astro from this group. Kirk Saarloos, Lance Cormier and DJ Houlton are pitching for other big-league teams this season. Other names still floating about are Mike Rodriguez, Charlton Jimerson, Phillip Barzilla, Brooks Conrad and Matt Albers.

2002: I do not recognize any big leaguers from this bunch. Mitch Talbot and Chance Douglass are the only names that stand out.

: Lots of solid prospects remain from this bunch: Jason Hirsh, Josh Anderson, Josh Muecke, Jimmy Barthmaier, Jamie Merchant, Edwin Mayonset and Marc Saccomanno are some familiar names.

2004: I think that High A is the highest that anyone from this class has made it as of yet: Hunter Pence, Louis Santangelo, Mitch Einertson, Ben Zobrist, Troy PattonJonny Ash, Chad Reineke, Beau Torbert, Jeremy Wigdahl and Patrick Sellers.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 15

AAA: Oklahoma 9, Round Rock 5
The Express fell 1.5 games behind the RedHawks with the loss. Oklahoma jumped out to an 8-0 lead and held on late. Roberto Giron reminded fans why he's 29 and still in AAA, allowing 8 runs in 1 1/3 inning of work. Scott MacRae held the 'Hawks at bay with 5 2/3 scoreless innings, and Todd Self did all that he could do with his bat, providing four hits, including a two-run homer in the eighth, but the early hole was too much to overcome. Mike Coolbaugh hit his team-leading 26th home run for Round Rock.

AA: Tulsa 5, Corpus Christi 4
After such great play of late, it is awkward to see the Hooks on the wrong side of a score. Defense was the killer, with the Drillers getting three unearned runs off of Phillip Barzilla thanks to an error by 2B Eric Riggs. Riggs and 1B J.R. Phillips each homered for the Hooks, and Phillips totaled three hits on the night. Charlton Jimerson was 0-4 with one strikeout. Barzilla deserved better, throwing five innings and allowing only two earned runs and three hits while striking out nine against four walks.

High A: Kinston 8, Salem 4
Josh Muecke was roughed up (relatively), allowing four earned runs in five-plus innings. Jonny Ash had three hits in a triumphant return to the starting lineup after a beaning last week, and Ben Zobrist had two more hits for the Avalanche.

Low A: Greensboro 4, Lexington 2
The Grasshoppers rallied for four runs in the eighth to knock the Legends. Frankie Caraballo belted his 23rd HR for the Legends, and SS Edwin Mayonset had four hits including a homer. The bullpen spoiled an outstanding start for Chad Reineke, who allowed only two hits in six scoreless innings while striking out ten.

Short Season A: Tri-City 5, Vermont 1
Great night for starting pitcher Ryan McKeller, a 22 year-old RHP who was the Astros 38th round pick in the 2001 draft. McKeller allowed only a single hit while striking out ten in seven innings for the Valley Cats, and Brian Bogusevic rebounded from his last outing, which was horrendous, with two scoreless frames to earn the save. Eight of the nine starters registered a hit for Tri-City.

Rookie: Greenville was idle.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lopez's Fix: a one-legged OF

I blog as a part-time hobby, and John Lopez writes as a full-time job, and yet he does not have time to conduct the intensive research required to learn that Moises Alou, his "key" to the Astros making the postseason, is on the DL with a hamstring problem? Maybe Barry Bonds is available? Jim Thome? C'mon, John, the possibilities are endless!

Len Pasquarelli on the Texans

Notes and observations from Len's ESPN Insider report after watching the Texans/Broncos practice August 10 and 11:

- Capers, Casserly and McNair have assembled "one of the NFL's most stable situations and an undeniably positive working environment"

- Carr has been sacked once every 9.6 times that he drops back to pass over the past 3 seasons. That's not surprising for those of us who have watched the Texans each week over those 3 seasons, but the number itself is still staggering to me.

- Carr, Andre Johnson and Dominick Davis are the youngest trio in NFL history to pass for 3,000 yards, catch 1,000 yards of passes and run for 1,000 yards in a single season. Pasquarelli notes that one of the Texans' biggest needs is producitivity from the #2 WR slot.

- Pasquarelli assigns much of the blame for the Texans' inability to rush the passer to Gary Walker's disappointing play and ascending age and to the Texans' front-office's blind loyalty to the aging lineman.

Tom Kirkendall on Astros' Fading Hopes

Brilliant post at Houston's Clear Thinkers that provides a factual and unbiased perspective on the Astros' postseason hopes. I'm afraid that I tend to agree with Tom that the Astros are more of a 7-10 team than a 41-14 team, mostly because the front office failed to bring in a productive bat before the trade deadline.

I'm beginning to believe that the Phillies will be the team to beat for the NL Wildcard. Vincente Padilla's recent return to 2002-2003 form (3.10 ERA in July, 1.69 ERA in August), the emergence of Robinson Tejeda and the budding superstardom of Brett Myers gives the Phils a tough top of the rotation, backed by a studly bullpen with Wagner, Madson and Urbina. The arrival of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on the scene have cushioned the impact of the loss of Jim Thome and the recent, surely limited, slump of Bobby Abreu. Mix in Pat Burrell, Jason Michaels and veterans David Bell and Mike Lieberthal and the Phils have a lineup that is considerably more potent than either the Astros and Nats and at least on par with the Marlins.

Also, Tom beats the same drum that I've beaten here and here about the misplaced infatuation of many fans and media members regarding Willy Taveras. He's a slap hitter who has a long way to go before being anointed as Houston's CF of the future, much less the NL ROY.

Baseball America on Jason Hirsh and Eli Iorg

From today's Daily Dish:

Astros righthander Jason Hirsh limited Double-A Wichita to a pair of runs on six hits while striking out nine and walking none over 8 1/3 innings in Corpus Christi's 3-2 win. Hirsh, a second-round pick out of NAIA California Lutheran in 2003, has won three straight decisions and is now 11-8, 3.32 with a 143-39 strikeout-walk ratio in 146 innings. He has struck out at least eight batters in seven of his last 10 starts.

"He did a hell of a job when I saw him," a scout with an American League club said of Hirsh last month. "He's improved his secondary pitches, his slider and changeup. He's athletic and reminds me of (Rangers righthander) Chris Young. He holds his velocity, too—I had him throwing up to 94 in the late innings."

This kid is my favorite pitching prospect in the Astros' system.

On Iorg, who's at Rookie level Greenville:

Eli Iorg went 0-for-4 yesterday in Greenville's game against Burlington to halt his six-game hit streak. The Astros supplemental first round pick (38th overall), Iorg has now had at least one base hit in 13 of his 17 games played. Oddly, on his last hit streak, Iorg only had one multi-hit game.

Iorg had the day off on Sunday.

What Might Have Been...

I will refrain from an editorial about the back-to-back shutouts by Kip Wells and Dave Williams, but I will mention that Adam Dunn is 9-26 against Kip Wells with 2 HR and a 1.123 OPS and 3-10 lifetime against Dave Williams with a HR and a 1.000 OPS.

I cannot help but mention the fact that Scrap's famous "Sunday Specials", generally featuring a heaping helping of Bruntletts and Vizcainos, may seem harmless enough, but by the end of the season, there will have been 15-20 of those, and if the Astros are still fighting for the wildcard in late September, I sure would like to have a few of those back.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 14

AAA: Oklahoma 6, Round Rock 5
- It's the Race for the Pennant, and Brandon Duckworth's on the mound. Sound like a nightmare? It's reality for the Round Rock Express, and surprisingly, the result was an "L" (the only loss for the Astros minor league affilitates on Sunday). This postseason nightmare scenario seems like an appropriate segue to inform our readers that Pete Munro has allowed 118 hits in 98 innings for the Yankee's AAA affiliate while compiling a 4.83 ERA. Chris Tremie, Carlos Rivera and Mike Coolbaugh each had two hits for Round Rock.

AA: Corpus Christi was off.

High A: Salem 8, Myrtle Beach 1
- Astros's fans should take a moment to enjoy this squad because there is some serious talent down here. Troy Patton may well start next season in Corpus Christi; he pitched five scoreless innings yesterday, allowing a solitary hit and striking out three and lowering his ERA as an Avalanche (?) to 1.88. Hunter Pence's three-run homer in the first would prove to be enough. Pence's numbers ths far in Salem are .279/.342/.471 with three homers. Avalanche DH Wilton Reynolds was 3-3 with two homers, and IF Osvaldo Fernando had three hits including his second homer of the season.

Low A: Lexington 7, West Virginia 3
- 1B Ole Sheldon homered for the second consecutive night, and Mitch Einertson continued to regain his old form with two more hits for the Legends. Juan Gutierrez had a solid start, pushing his record to 9-4 and his ERA to 2.82.

Short Season A: Tri-City 7, Vermont 2
- Brandon Barganier was the offensive hero with three hits and three RBI, and Thomas Fairchild closed out the win with three hitless innings.

Rookie: Greenville 7, Bristol 2
- Sergio Severino was outstanding again, striking out nine and allowing only one hit in five innings to earn the win. The offensive production was balanced again with four Astros providing at least two hits. Koby Clemens continues to sit with a leg problem.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Astros Minor League Report - Games of Saturday

AAA: Round Rock 8, Oklahoma 6
- The Express jumped out to an 8-2 lead and held on to beat Oklahoma and take sole possession of first place. While that's exciting for Express fans, the guys who are winning these games, for the most part, are not likely to help the big-league club win many games in the future. 33 year-old Mike Coolbaugh hit a three-run shot, his 25th, and Royce Huffman and Brooks Conrad each provided three hits to lead the offensive attack. Carlos Hernandez gave up seven hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings, striking out two. Veteran Aaron Sele was roughed up by the Round Rock offense.

AA: Corpus Christi 6, Wichita 4
- Similarly, the Hooks held on to defeat their opponent Saturday night and moved into sole possession first place. But contrary to the Express' roster, the Hooks' roster appears loaded with potential big-league contributors. Charlton Jimerson went 2-4 with 0 K's and his 14th home run. Josh Anderson and Mike Rodriguez also provided two hits apiece. Chris Sampson held on to earn his third save. The Hooks are off Monday before departing for a season-long 11 game roadie.

High A: Salem 9, Myrtle Beach 2
- Matt Albers continued his late-season surge with seven sparkling innings, and Ben Zobrist continued his great hitting with two hits and two RBI.

Low A: Lexington 7, West Virginia 3
- Ole Sheldon hit his fifth home run to lead the Legends.

Short Season A: Tri-City 4, Vermont 3
- Tri-City got three in the bottom of the ninth to beat Vermont, lead by a home run by Michael Thompson.

Rookie: Bristol 7, Greenville 1
- The Rookie Astros spoiled what was otherwise an undefeated night for Houston affiliates by getting routed by the Sox.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Astros Minor League Report - Friday's games

AAA: Oklahoma 8, Round Rock 7
- Round Rock blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning in an awful loss to Oklahoma. 1B prospect Adrian Gonzalez's three-run homer was the big blast, coming off of T.J. Mathews. Brooks Conrad went 3-4 with two home runs, driving in four runs.

AA: Wichita 5, Corpus Christi 2
- Absolutely nothing interesting about this game. Charlton Jimerson struck out once and doubled.

High A: Salem 2, Myrtle Beach 1
- Chance Douglass pitched yet another great game to lead the Avalanche over the Pelicans. Ben Zobrist had a perfect night including his fourth home run.

Low A: West Virginia 6, Lexington 1
- The Power shut down the Legends. Louis Santagelo had two hits. Bad night for the Legends, much like every other Astros' affiliate other than Salem and Greenville.

Short Season A: Brooklyn 2, Tri-City 1
- The only offensive highlight was C Jose Lopez's first home run of the season. The pitching was good, but not good enough to win.

Rookie: Greenville 8, Bristol 0
- 1B Antonio Garcia went 3-4 with a home run, and Matt Hirsh pitched seven shutout innings in a great night for the Astros. Hirsh was the Astros' 30th round pick in this year's draft.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Come Early, Be Loud, Stay Late...and Turn Your Phone Off???

Both the rabidity of the Longhorn faithful and the trepidation with which the Burnt Orange considers its plentiful haters are beautifully illustrated in this wire story which would have been more appropriately printed in The Onion.

Associated Press

AUSTIN — Texas coach Mack Brown asked Longhorns fans to leave their cell phones at home after some fans used them to take pictures of injured wide receiver Jordan Shipley at practice.

Brown is worried the pictures could hit the Internet before the coaches have a chance to tell players' families about injuries.

"We cant have videos of practice and have people going home and putting it on the Internet," Brown said Thursday night.

Brown said he saw "way too many" fans getting shots of the injured player and warned practices might be closed to the public if the problems persists.

Unless there was blood profusely streaming from Shipley's head or one of his limbs was detached and lying ten yards away from his torso, I am not sure exactly what helpful info these dastardly photos would provide to future Longhorn opponents. If Mack really feels the need to have J. Jamail flex some legal muscle, he should pursue a restraining order preventing Adrian Peterson from entering the Dallas city limits rather than concerning himself with obsessive Exes proudly emailing pictures of Justin Blalock's tender groin to their buddies back home. Now if there were cameras on 6th Street after the game, that could pose a problem as well...

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 11

AAA: Round Rock 6, Sacramento 3
- The Express rallied for five runs in the eighth inning to win at Sacramento. Todd Self had the big blow, a bases loaded triple, and the Express' MVP was actually Sacramento 2B Andrew Beattie, who contributed three errors in the eighth. Fernando Nieve continued his trend of positive starts with six solid innings and eight strikeouts.

AA: Corpus Christi 3, Wichita 2
- Jailen Pegeuro snuffed out a ninth inning rally by Wichita to make a well-deserved winner out of (Astros' #1 pitching prospect?) Jason Hirsh. Hirsh (pictured) took a shutout into the ninth inning but could not close it out. Regardless, the 8 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks and 9 K's constituted the latest of Hirsh's great performances for the Hooks. Marc Saccomanno and J.R. Phillips homered for the Hooks, and Charlton Jimerson was 0-4 with 3 K's.

High A: Salem 6, Lynchburg 5
- Mitch Talbott pitched seven strong innings to continue his string of good starts. The offense was well-balanced again for the Avalanche, with Hunter Pence providing three hits and four Salem hitters providing two hits apiece, including Erwin Alcantara and Ben Zobrist.

Low A: Lexington 12, West Virginia 1
- The Legends blasted five home runs and three pitchers combined to scatter eight hits in a romp over the Power. Drew Sutton hit two homers (#12 and #13 on the season), Frankie Caraballo hit his 22nd, Louis Santangelo hit his 10th and Ryan Reed hit his second. Lexington pounded out 18 hits, including three each from Santangelo, Caraballo, Reed, Mitch Einertson and Beau Torbert.

Short Season A: Tri-City 5, Brooklyn 1
- Clifford Davis and Brandon Stricklen combined on a sparkling pitching performance, and Wladimir Sutil and Tommy Manzella had two hits apiece to lead the Valley Cats over the Cyclones.

Rookie: Burlington 15, Greenville 8
- In a typical Greenville game, there were 23 hits, 5 errors and the Astros lost. Josh Flores had three hits, a HR and four RBI. Koby Clemens did not play for the second consecutive night for Greenville after coming up lame running out a grounder in the 1st inning in front of his parents on Wednesday night.

Research Tidbits (Friday's games)

Tim, not only is this a hobby...it's an income stream.

* St. Louis has is 1-9 in Marquis' last 10 starts.
* D-Train is 0-2 lifetime v. the Giants with a 10+ ERA.
* CWS is 20-10 v. LHP, 7-1 as road dog of +125 to +150 and have played under the run total in 8 straight.
* Daniel Cabrera has an 8.76 ERA v. Toronto and is coming off of an injury and 3 bad starts.
* Oakland is 10-0 in Danny Haren's last ten starts.
* Between Anaheim and Seattle, the visitor has won the last 8 games, and the Angels are 15-2 after losing the last game of their previous series.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Research Tidbits

* The home team has won the last nine games between Tampa Bay and Baltimore.

* The last nine games for the Rangers have gone over the run total.

* The Cardinals have won 9 of Mulder's last 10 starts, and the Cubs have lost 7 of Maddux's last 8 starts.

* The over is 8-1-1 in Josh Fogg's last ten starts (today: Coors Field).

* The over is 9-1-1 in the Dodgers' last 10 games.

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 10

AAA: Round Rock 5, Sacramento 3
- The Express blew a three-run lead in the seventh inning and then rallied to win with runs in the eighth and ninth. Luke Scott continued his torrid hitting with two doubles and two RBI including the go-ahead hit in the eighth, and CF Barry Wesson also drove in two runs with a double. 29 year-old non-prospect Roberto Giron had another quality start, pitching no-hit ball into the seventh. A's prospect Dan Meyer, part of their return in the Tim Hudson deal, started for the River Cats. Round Rock remains tied atop the standings with Albuquerque in the PCL American South.

AA: Corpus Christi 4, Tulsa 3 (12)
- The Hooks blew a three-run lead and rallied to win in the bottom of the 12th on Charlton Jimerson's infield single (CJ was 1-6 with two K's). Jimerson providing winning hits in the 12th in two of the four games against the Drillers. The Hooks' offense came from the top of the order: leadoff hitter LF Mike Rodriguez was 3-6 with a SB and two runs scored, and SS Wade Robinson was 3-4 with a SB, HR and three RBI. Former Fish Peter Bauer shook off his last start, a subpar outing, to throw seven strong innings, and the bullpen took over after that, with Jailen Peguero, Monte Mansfield and Aaron Williams combining to throw five scoreless frames.

High A: Lynchburg 6, Salem 3
- Continuing a disturbing theme from Wednesday night, Salem blew a three run lead, and unlike the Hooks and the Express, was unable to rally, losing to the HillCats. The Avalanche handed this game to Lynchburg, committing four errors, getting two runners gunned at the plate and having one picked off first (only two runs allowed were earned). On top of that, H-Town Sports' favorite Jonny Ash was taken to the hospital (conscious) after being nailed in the head with a pitch in the first inning. DH Mario Garza was the only offensive bright spot with two doubles. Josh Muecke continued his briliant string of starts with six solid, but not spectacular, innings of work.

Low A: Lexington was idle.

Short Season A: Tri-City 7, Brooklyn 6
- Tri-City blew all but one run of a 7-2 lead and held on to beat the Cyclones. 3B Michael Thompson had four hits, SS Wladimir Sutil had three hits and DH Patrick Sellers and RF Jordan Parraz had two apiece to lead the Valley Cats. Most of the Cyclones' late rally came off of Brian Bogusevic, who had to be pulled in the eigth after retiring only two hitters and allowing five hits, a walk and four earned runs.

Rookie: Greenville 10, Burlington 4
- The Astros rallied for nine runs in the bottom of the eighth to beat the Indians easily. All nine starters had at least one hit and six had RBIs in a balanced Greenville attack.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Astros Minor League Report - Games of August 9

AAA: Sacramento 4, Round Rock 2
- Luke Scott's continued hot hitting was the only bright spot for the Express' offense, with the LF notching another two-hit night. Brandon Duckworth took the loss, giving up four runs (three earned) in six innings. Ryan Glynn shut down the Express for 7 2/3 innings, allowing only the two runs to lower his ERA to 2.76.

AA: Corpus Christi 3, Tulsa 1
- Phillip Barzilla pitched brilliantly again to lead the Hooks past the Drillers at Whataburger Field. The lefty did not give up a hit until two outs into the fifth inning. 1B J.R. Phillips put the Hooks in the lead for good with a home run in the second inning off of Tulsa SP Jonathan Asahina. In a further positive development, recovering RHP Chris Sampson earned his second save by pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings to close out the win. Charlton Jimerson did not strike out (most likely because he did not make a plate appearance, entering the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning).

High A: Lynchburg 8, Salem 5
- Troy Patton was (somewhat) roughed up in a loss to the Hillcats, allowing three runs on five hits in four innings while striking out five batters. According to the Roanoke Times, Patton is on a strict pitch count due to a sore pitching shoulder. The Avalanche rallied in the eighth, picking up four runs, but they were in too deep of a hole to fully recover. LF Mike Floyd powered the rally with a three-run home run. Jonny Ash and Erwin Alcantara also added two hits apiece.

Low A: Lexington 5, Hagerstown 4
- Lexington jumped out to a four-run lead in the first inning and held on to beat the Suns at Applebee's Field. SP Chad Reineke, the Astros' 13th round draft pick in 2004 out of Miami (OH), allowed only two runs in six innings of work to earn the win. RF Ryan Reed, the Astros' 21st round selection in 2004 out of LSU-Eunice, had a perfect night at the plate, going 3-3 and driving in two runs. Mitch Einertson drove in two runs as well.

Short Season A: Staten Island 10, Tri-City 2
- SP Anthony Pluta, the Astros' 3rd round pick in 2000, had a nightmare evening for the Valley Cats. Pluta lasted four innings, allowing only two runs on two hits, but walking six and committing two errors in the process. On the season, Pluta has 43 walks and 26 strikeouts.

Rookie: Greenville 8, Burlington 7
- Greenville held off a furious ninth inning rally by the Indians to hold on to the win. SP Sergio Severino had another solid start to lower his season ERA to 3.74. IF Jhon (not a typo) Florentino provided the offense with a double, home run and four RBI.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fire Joe Morgan

This is great. (Hat tip: Baseball Musings)

File Away for when Drayton Extends Bidge Through 2013...

If anyone has the email addresses of the minority owners of the Houston Astros, feel free to forward this article to them. Precedent is being set for minority owners who feel that their majority owner is acting against the best interests of their team in Atlanta, where Hawks' managing partner Steve Belkin is working to block the sign-and-trade for Joe Johnson.

Belkin's attorney says that his client believes that Boris Diaw, two number-one picks and the Hawks' $4.9 million trade exception "is just too much to pay for Joe Johnson." The minority owners are attempting to oust Belkin, saying that the Johnson trade "is critical to the future of the Atlanta Hawks" and allegedly comparing the pending trade to the Celtics' acquisition of Larry Bird. If I were a judge and such blasphemic remarks were made in my courtroom, someone would be held in contempt.

If the trade was to go through, the Hawks' depth chart would like something like:

PG: Lue, Delk, Ivey
SG: Johnson, Josh Childress, Salim Stoudamire
SF: Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Donta Smith
PF: Al Harrington, Googs, James Thomas
C: Obinna Ekezie, Jason Collier

If this was an 18-under AAU league, the Hawks would be dangerous. Unfortunately, the hypothetical Hawks' fan (if one were to truly exist) is likely interested in winning games in the NBA. Acquiring Joe Johnson for said price and paying him $70 million over five years has to be a breach of some duty owed by these clowns to the city of Atlanta.