Something just didn't seem right when Drew Stubbs stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with two runners on, two outs and Francisco Cordero on the mound trying to avoid his second consecutive blown save. It didn't seem right because just the night before, Cordero's blown save had come at the hands of Stubbs, who hit a two-run homer to give the Reds a defining lead.
He did something similar on Wednesday, doubling deep to center field to once again give the Reds a defining lead and prevent the Stros from having any luck in this series. It's been a while since this season was about wins and losses for the Astros, probably long before the All-Star break. This is a bad team, and the focus particularly in the past few weeks has been on dumping the most tradeworthy assets in an attempt to grow the farm system with quality prospects that go with what new management did in the draft this year.
But the series between the Astros and Reds belonged to Houston, and Francisco Cordero's new to the party self had to mess up everything for all of what seemed to be 37 people at Minute Maid Park for University of Houston Cougars Night on Wednesday.
Had to be Lucas Harrell on Tuesday, even though giving up just one run on seven hits in seven innings isn't necessarily a legendary performance, he did what you want this less than stellar pitching rotation to do: give that less than less than stellar batting lineup a chance to get lucky and score a run or two - be competitive in the waning innings of the game.
That's what Harrell did, and that's what he's been doing for a little while now. Harrell's given up one run or less in five of his last six starts, but the only one of those game the Astros won was a 1-0 six-hit shutout against the Padres on June 27.
It's important to recognize the efforts of guys on this team who do their jobs, because unfortunately there are so many who are simply incapable. And it's not a knock on the ... well, yeah it is. It is a knock on the players. They aren't very good.
But Lucas Harrell has been.
Welcome to Houston, Francisco Cordero. This is just a team desperate for a win here and there. Not asking for much. Just for you not to screw up the game when the Astros have the lead late against a far superior squad. Cordero's stuff wasn't bad, and he certainly isn't a bad closer. His breaking ball and fastball were there on Wednesday more so than Tuesday, but the situation and overall outcome were both bad.
As much a I want to dog Cordero here, it's frustrating watching so many pitchers come out of the bullpen for it to get down to Cordero, which illuminates Brad Mills' quirkiness and the bullpen's inability alike
Fans are going to antagonize the new Astros trade acquisition, and since the team is already bad, Cordero has to stand out after this series. Put it like this: Brett Myers blew just two saves in 21 chances this season (although they were both fairly recent), while Cordero has blown two in just two opportunities. Mills didn't even address the closer situation following Wednesday's series finale, as it appears to be a rather complex one.
That's because the bullpen in it's totality isn't very good. Terrible, actually. How terrible?
In the Cincinnati series, Astros starters had a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings. Relievers had a 15.43 ERA in seven innings.— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) July 26, 2012
Terrible like that.
Oh yeah. Losing your seventh straight game to a division opponent, at home and in four minutes shy of four hours time is pretty bad, too. That also happened to the Astros in this series.
The unlucky ties in with the bad since Cordero has so much to do with the Astros' exciting comeback in the eighth inning on Wednesday going down the drain. Jose Altuve hit a double in that inning, with Scott Moore stepping to the plate to follow him. Moore, who had struck out in his previous two at-bats, hit a liner to right field to score Altuve and then advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Then J.D. Martinez hit what everyone was appropriately referring to as a Little League home run when his double hit the wall and errors on Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier allowed Martinez to round the bases. That bizarre chain of events gave the Stros a short-lived, one-run lead. Then the bad and unlucky were overwhelming.
Houston was swept by Cincinnati but should have won the last two games. The Astros can't catch a break for anything.
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