Monday, April 02, 2007

The Opener: LIVEBLOG edition

Yeah, that's right, I'm gonna liveblog the opener. I did it last year and I feel the need to do it this year, at least for as long as the game can hold my attention. I'm putting the thread up a little early to get the comments rolling and I'll keep up with them in the comments as much as I can. You know the drill, posts on the bottom are old, posts on the top are new. The more cynical I get, the worse things are going. Zach Duke. Roy Oswalt. The updates will start probably 15 minutes prior to game time or so. Smile people, baseball is here.

9:42- Torres gets a 1-2-3 ninth and makes two of the outs himself. As Cory says, "We don't deserve to win this one." We still did and that's all that counts.

9:35- LaRoche and Paulino K behind the Bay homer. Time for Sully to come get his first save as the official closer.

9:33- Jason Bay! Two run homer off of Chad Qualls after a Jack Wilson infield single! I finally feel vindicated! 4-2 Buccos!

9:25- Strike machine Matt Capps cruises through the ninth on good defense from LaRoche and Bautista to snag liners at the corner. Luke Scott hit a 900 foot foul ball that put my heart in my throat. We're going to extras. I still hate Jim Tracy.

9:20- Time to fire Jim Tracy. After the Nady homer, Jose Bautista hit a double down the line. Tracy then lost his mind and pinch-hit Doumit for Castillo, despite the fact that two straight righties killed Lidge. Doumit drew a walk. Tracy then brought DON KELLY up to the plate for his FIRST AT BAT EVER. This is not Kelly's fault. He should not be up in these situations. Lidge had nothing on the ball. We've got Eldred on the bench. We could still have Doumit on the bench. Instead he brings up Don Kelly. I am stunned and speechless. Kelly actually battles to a good AB and fouls off some pitches and nearly doubles down the first base line, but in the end he pops up to shallow left. That is an unforgivable move by Tracy. Don't bitch about the one run record if these are the choices you make, Jim.

9:11- And just when you thought it was all over after a LaRoche K and a Paulino groundout, Weapon X bares his claws and crushes one into the short boxes in left. Lidge hasn't thrown a pitch over 92 I don't think. He should not be closing.

9:05- Again, I'm an idiot. Marte gets Berkman on one pitch. LaRoche, Paulino, Nady to face Lidge in the ninth. I like LaRoche's chances much better against Lidge than against Oswalt's slow curve.

9:03- Tracy shows a ton of faith in Jonah Bayliss by bringing him out for the eighth tonight. Bayliss rewards the faith by getting two outs, though he does put Biggio on. Tracy comes and gets Bayliss in favor of Damaso Marte to pitch to Berkman. Consider me terrified.

8:55- For the hundredth time tonight, I'm wrong. Bay crushes a ball that just slices foul, then grounds out on a check swing. He was 1-for-12 with 6 Ks against Wheeler before that, so I suppose the move was justified. Down 2-1 with one shot left, assuming the pen can hold.

8:51- After a Duffy out, Jack Wilson hits an infield single. Oddly, Garner comes and takes Oswalt out after he's freaking owned Bay today. Wheeler is good, but this is a curious move. Perhaps he's just being cautious after 95 pitches on Opening Day.

8:48- With one out in the eighth a pinch hit homer is crushed by... Nate McLouth? I guess I'm sorry about that "no discernible baseball skills" comment earlier today.

8:43- And as usual, I know nothing. Duke cruises through the seventh on nine pitches. Besides the complete lack of strikeouts, he's looked pretty good tonight, though maybe it's just the defense bailing him out big-time. In fact, that's probably it.

8:39- And in further response to that, Nady and Bautista go down on five pitches between them. After throwing 24 or so in the first, Oswalt is only at 80 through six seven. Holy crap. 60 of them are strikes. Duke back out for the seventh. I am afraid.

8:36- Bob Walk with some great insight, Jack Wilson's great AB in the first was the only time all night we've gotten Oswalt to a full count. Ronny Paulino responds with a first pitch swing and ground out.

8:33- WOW. Jose Castillo makes a fantastic diving play on a dying Carlos Lee liner up the middle to catch it in the air and flip to Wilson to get Everett off of second. Castillo looks great with the glove tonight. I have a vague recollection of this Jose Castillo playing second base. I kind of miss him. Good to see him again. Ensberg pops out to end the sixth with the Bucs still behind by only two. They need to get Duke out of there now.

8:28- Adam Everett leads off the sixth with a double. Duke walks Berkman on four pitches. RED FLAG! RED FLAG! He's really struggling.

8:24- Bay actually manages to get his bat on the ball, but this time he hits a ball that Ensberg doesn't muff and it's an easy double play. LaRoche K's on another sloooow curveball. Opportunity squandered. We will... not do anything to change the fan's perceptions of us. 2-0 'Stros after five and a half.

8:19- Duffy leads off with a single. On base twice tonight against a good pitcher. He's having quite a game. Then, a break! Morgan Ensberg drops a sure double play off the bat of Jack Wilson. If this were us, the Astros would score five runs this inning...

8:14- Burke follows up with a double on a poorly timed Jason Bay leap at the wuss fence in left. Ausmus rockets a liner to Jose Bautista who makes a nice play on it. Oswalt singles into center just over Wilson's glove and Duffy nails Burke at the plate. He is on pace for 324 outfield assists this year. Meanwhile, the Astros are clearly not nearly as fooled by Duke the second time around. A Biggio grounder ends a fifth inning that could've been much worse than it was.

8:10- Ensberg singles and Luke Scott crushed a homer to DEEP center field. Of course that might mean a flyout in this park, but not this hit. Scott freaking crushed it. The way Oswalt is cruising, that might be enough.

8:04- Oswalt is on cruise control. He gets the Joses and Duke quickly. That's nine in a row.

8:00- Berkman singles, but the Joes turn another nice 5-4-3 double play. This one is aided by Carlos Lee being slower than cement in Alaska. There was third out in there somewhere. No score after four. This game is flying.

7:55- Oswalt's big curve is making LaRoche look foolish. He missed two in a row very badly. Nady hits one almost to the hill in center, but Burke is there. A 1-2-3 top of the fourth for Oswalt.

7:49- And Duke runs into trouble at the bottom of the order. Burke doubles and he hits Ausmus. That's kind of like hitting Cota. Just a stupid thing to do. Luckily Oswalt pops a bunt up and Bautista and Castillo turn a nice DP on Biggio. Threat averted. 0-0 after three.

7:40- Oswalt makes quick work of Wilson and Bay. Bay is thoroughly confused by Oswalt going right after him tonight. It might take him a while to adjust to someone actually throwing strikes to him.

7:37- Wow, Charlie and Cory are both liveblogging as well. Talk about a set of diehard fans. Duke singles to lead off the second but Duffy pops up to Burke who manages to not look like a deer in the headlights in center for once.

7:35-Carlos Lee hits a pop-up on the first pitch of the second that is just that in any other park, but is a warning track ball in Houston. Bay catches this one, but Lee is going to hit a million home runs in this park this year. Duke gets a dribbler from Ensberg and Luke Scott singles into left center, but stupidly runs to second and is thrown out by approximately 89 feet. Duke has thrown 17 pitches through 2 innings. That is a good sign.

7:30- Bautista kinda gets the first hit of the year on a bloop to center that Chris Burke could've had. Still counts as a hit though. Bob Walk and Greg Brown strongly hint that Bautista's job is not safe if he doesn't hit. Castillo, Paulino, and Nady all make outs, though X hits the ball hard and right at Carlos Lee (the only place he can catch it). Still no score after one and a half.

7:24- Jose Castillo is thinner, but he's either wearing his uniform from last year or one of Kevin Young's old unis they had in the clubhouse. Easy 1-2-3 inning to start things off for Duke. A pop-up, a bloop, and a grounder. Not sure on the pitch count, but less than 10 I think (update: it was 8).

7:22- Biggio did not homer. There is a giant counter in the outfield with his total hits on it. I love the old school cream, orange, yellow, and blue Astros unis. Much more personality than reddish and black.

7:19- Jack Wilson flew out but had a great 10+ pitch at bat. Oswalt shocked the hell out of Bay with an inside fastball on a 1-2 count instead of the dying slider low and away that kills Bay and he K'd looking. LaRoche popped up on the first pitch. I can't believe I'm saying this, but why couldn't he follow Jack Wilson's example? No score after the top of the first.

7:10- Holy crap! Chris Duffy opens the season with a walk. That's the most positive thing that could've possibly happened. I'm not kidding.

7:03- Woohoo! We're up and running! Lineups:

Astros- Biggio, Everett, Berkman, Lee, Ensberg, Scott, Burke, Ausmus, Oswalt
Pirates- Duffy, Wilson, Bay, LaRoche, Paulino, Nady, Bautista, Castillo, Duke

Gut thoughts: Wow, their lineup is much better than ours. And Lee+Berkman+Duke and that short wall in left scare me. And I think Biggio is going to hit a leadoff homer.