Bottoms Up!

June has been pretty good to the Houston Astros. Photo Courtesy: Tom Hagerty
June has been pretty good to the Houston Astros. Photo Courtesy: Tom Hagerty

By Will Martin

A month that has been quite successful in terms of learning how to win and string together a set of victories says plenty about the youth of the Houston Astros. A trip to Wrigley Field would serve as a reminder of just how far Bo Porter and group have come…and must continue to climb. Fans of the old school Astros would learn Thursday about the announced retirement of ‘El Caballo’ Carlos Lee.

A one-time fixture in the Houston lineup, having also played in Chicago (where White Sox homer Ken Harrelson gave Carlos his horse nickname), Milwaukee, Miami, and Arlington a career that began in 1999 winds down with 358 career home runs, 1,363 RBIs and 125 career stolen bases. Not a bad 14 year career for Mr. Lee.

Coming into action on Sunday the Astros in June were 14-10. One of the reasons for the nice turnaround was the maturation and success of starter Jordan Lyles. Since May 17th Lyles had the second lowest ERA at 1.71 while going 2-0 in that timespan.

The Cubs and Astros represent the bottom of the barrel where records go in 2013. One reason was best exemplified this day with a comedy of errors leading to a 14-6 Cubs win. When the homers fly the wind is blowing out. As for the errors…

“We didn’t play fundamentally sound baseball,” Porter said. “When you don’t catch the ball, you increase the other team’s chances of scoring runs. Give the Cubs credit, they took advantage of our miscues and put up a lot of crooked numbers.”

“Guys make errors, but then again I make errors all the time,” Lyles said. “I put balls over the plate and balls get hit hard at guys and they pick me up. I need to do a better job of picking them up when things don’t go our way. Overall, I definitely have to do a better job of pitching out of those jams.”

Innings two and three the ugliness reveled themselves. Outfielder Marc Krauss would make a bad relay throw which led to a couple of runs scoring early. Marwin Gonzalez would be flub an easy double play ground ball in the infield. All of a sudden eight runs were plated across (only 5 earned) giving Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija (5-7) all the run support he would need.

Ryan Sweeney offered another thought on the travails of Jordan Lyles.

“I think we got him to throw a lot of pitches and his velocity started to go down from 94-95, to 90-91, so that’s a huge advantage for us to get a guy,” Cubs outfielder Ryan Sweeney said. “Coming in, the scouting report said he threw 50, 60 percent fastballs and today he was throwing a lot of offspeed stuff. I felt we made him get away from his strength of the heater and made him throw more offspeed stuff.”

Houston would commit four errors in the last two games at Wrigley Field in losing two of three (1-3, 4-3, 14-6) after a very successful homestand in which they took three of four from the White Sox and two of three from the Brewers (2-1, 5-4, 4-3, 2-4, 10-1, 1-3, 7-4). The finale with the Brewers won in dramatic walkoff fashion on a Carlos Pena blast which earned him a pie to the face.

Now coming home for a two game series with the St. Louis Cardinals (swept by the Rangers and having completed play early Monday morning after a three hour rain delay) Houston sporting a 29-48 record and 14.5 games out of 1st place in the ever tightening AL West.

Their first Texas Two Step visit to Arlington will be July 5th-July 7th. Chris Carter with the hot bat as he is riding a 7 for 13 streak including a 4 for 5 game Sunday in Wrigley. Three doubles were the first since Mike Lamb in 2006.

Upcoming Schedule
6/28 vs Angels 7:10P.M.
6/29 vs Angels 3:10P.M.
6/30 vs Angels 1:10P.M.