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

Monday, September 12, 2005

Astros/Marlins Series Preview

When you're fighting for your postseason lives, and you're throwing Roy Oswalt against Richard Helling, it's modest enough to say that you feel rather confident in marking the game as a probable win. Instead, Helling fired seven innings of shutout ball and the Astros returned to Houston with only a one-half game lead over the Florida Marlins, who come into Houston tonight for a four-game set. This is unquestionably the biggest series of the year for Houston, and from my perspective, they're playing against a stacked deck, especially with Morgan Ensberg coping with an injured right hand.

Game One: Dontrelle Willis (20-8, 2.52 ERA) v. Brandon Backe (8-7, 4.99 ERA)
D-Train has not allowed more than two earned runs in a start since July 22, and he's 3-0 over his past three starts with a 1.25 ERA. On May11, Willis allowed only one run over eight innings in defeating the Astros in Miami. In contrast, Backe has made exactly one start since July 23, in which he pitched four innings and allowed three runs. This game could not be more of a lock for the Marlins.

Game Two: Josh Beckett (13-8, 3.58 ERA) v. Wandy Rodriguez (9-7, 5.80 ERA)
Beckett's inability to consistently recreate his 2003 postseason performance continues, but versus Wandy Rodriguez, no further detailed analysis is really required. Beckett has a 2.03 ERA in four career starts against Houston, and he will likely be pumped up by the lingering postseason implications and the chance to pitch in Houston. On a prayer, Wandy will get the Astros through five innings without allowing more than three runs, but the facts are hard to face in game two as well.

Game Three: A.J. Burnett (12-10, 3.43 ERA) v. Roger Clemens (11-7, 1.78 ERA)
Two of the nastiest pitchers in the National League square-off Wednesday night. However, both have been struggling as of late. Burnett has allowed five runs in each of his last three starts, failing to escape the third inning in his last start at Philadelphia. He also has a 5.45 lifetime ERA against the Astros. The Rocket, however, has not fared much better as of late, lasting only three innings in his last start against Milwaukee and obviously straining to combat several nagging injuries. This one is a coin flip and should be the most exciting of the four games. Assuming the first two games go to the Marlins, this one is an absolute MUST win for the Astros.

Game Four: Jason Vargas (5-3, 4.28 ERA) v. Andy Pettitte (15-9, 2.48 ERA)
In a battle of lefties, the Astros certainly have the advantage Thursday night. Jason Vargas has come back to Earth after an astounding debut, and Andy Pettitte has quietly put up Cy-Young worthy numbers for Houston. This is the one which the Astros should feel most comfortable about (sort of like Oswalt-Helling, eh?)


Blogger Tim said...

Now that the series is over, you have to feel good about the split. Sure, three wins would have been nice, but the 'Stros held serve and are back in the lead for the WC. Now the Fish and Phils get to beat each other up the rest of the way. NLDS, here we come!

Fri Sep 16, 02:13:00 PM  

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