Qualls has been having a very good year. He's been a great set-up man and has bridged the time between when the starter leaves and the Wheeler-Lidge combo can close it out. Coming in with the bases loaded and one out he managed to get a grounder to Lance Berkman at first, and Berkman threw home for the force out. Unfortunatly Qualls gave up a hit to pinch hitter Shave Victorino, his first hit in two years, to give the Phillies a one run lead.
At this point the Phils bring in Billy Wagner. Billy 100mph Fastball Wagner. Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus didn't stand a chance. Both were down before I had a chance to work up a good rage for the Astros blowing a win. Jose Vizcaino, who came in at third in a double switch w/ Mike Lamb when Qualls, entered came to the plate. He hit a grounder to third which as misplayed and booted by David Bell. Philly boobirds erupt. Vizcaino reaches on the error. A hope springs forth.
Willy Tavaras comes to the plate. Tavaras must be one of the weakest hitters in the game. How he's managed to hit three home runs is beyond me. When I see him swing all I can think of is Willy Mays Hayes from the movie Major League. Astros maganger Phil Gardner really should consider makeing Tavaras do push-ups for every ball he hits in the air because on balls hit on the ground Tavaras can beat just about any throw. Wagner would test this though because he can be downright unhittable against the best hitters, and despite an acceptable batting average no one should mistake Tavaras for a decent hitter.
Willy is quickly down 0-2. He begins fouling off a couple pitches. One of them, a wicked slider, I was really impressed that Tavaras managed to spoil it. Finally Wagner leaves one where Tavars can get a hold of it and he rolls it slowly to shortstop. Eric Bruntlett, the hero of the night before, had come in to run for Vizcaino had taken off for second on the pitch and was able to take the force off, then make Philly SS Jimmy Rollins go to first for the difficult play on the speedy Tavaras. Rollins is a good shortstop. He's a sure fielder and has a strong arm. But Tavars is too fast and he's safe by a hair. Go-ahead run is on first and Craig Biggio comes to the plate.
The folks at AstrosDaily (I'd also like to take the time to thank whatever powers that be for the fact that AstroDay writer John Lauck was found to be safe and sound in NC. He's from the NOLA area and writes a daily summary of the Astros games. He's an excellent writer and I'm sure all Astros fans will be glad to know he's well. So many others were not so lucky. It's strange how important unimportant things like baseball can become in times of such loss.) do a much better job of showing the excellence of Craig Biggio than I will in this space. Suffice to say he's one of the best ever. Wagner pumped in a fastball over the outside of the plate that Biggio reached out for an drove deep into the left field stands for a three run homer and a two run lead.
The Astros would do no more damage, nor would the Phils as Brad Lidge came in to close out the game for the Astros thrid straight win, retaining their one-game lead in the National League Wild Card race.
I say all this above because I love baseball. Particulary Astros baseball. I got into the sport when my family moved to the Houston area when I was a child. I had only gotten to see one game with my dad before he died. The Astros were playing the Reds in the Astrodome. Pete Rose was still their manager (I think the next year would be the one he was banned but I'm too lazy to look it up). The Astros lost, but I wasn't disappointed. I wasn't a fan then.
I became one though. Glenn Davis was my baseball idol. He was denied the attention he deserved by being a power hitter in one of the poorest power hitting enviroments ever. But he was a good player on some poor teams. I remember getting to see Craig Biggio come up and join the Astros. I remember being upset when Larry Andersen was traded to Boston for Jeff Bagwell. You see, Andersen was the first baseball player to ever autograph a baseball card for me. I got to meet Jeff Bagwell after his MVP season when I attended a Houston area sportswriters dinner. I got several autographs from him which I still have to this day.
Baseball takes a beating in the public opinion battle from the 800-pound gorilla of football. I'd like to make some elitiest remark about how football appeals to the basest interests of the TV audience. But I won't. Football succeeds because it's well marketed. Its action lends itself to easy commentary. Its is only played once a week so it can easily become something of an event. Plus, it's easy to bet on, and although the NFL will deny it, they know how important office pools are to their product's popularity.
Baseball though is something different. It's personal. There are 162 games per team per year. From April until October with only a three day break in July there is a baseball game on. Usually one involving your favorite team. The appeal of baseball, to me at least, is its intimacy. Since there is always a game on, I always have something to look forward to. I can come home, relax in the recliner, and watch my team (thank you MLB Extra Innings). When the game is done, win or lose, I know they'llplay again soon. Winning is always preferred, but losing doesn't destroy me because I know, tomorrow, they can make back any loss in the standings.
Anyway, I love baseball. It's late. I'm tired. Tomorrow I've got Worst Recruiter in the World training at 2000h so tomorrow will be a long day. Oh well. Say la vee. La vee.