The Houston Astros lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-0 earlier today. They're now 1-6 for the season. Really. What more is there to say?
That they suck? I've said that. That they're really bad? I've said that. That they're historically bad? Well, maybe since the Astros are now off to their worst start in 25 years.
Unlike yesterday's game, Kaz Matsui didn't lead off the game with a hit. He ground out to second base instead. But the first hit of the game came from Miguel Tejada who, for some unknown reason, was batting second. Tejada got a hold of a pitch and drove it to straightaway center. Pirates centerfield Nate McLouth was able to get his glove on the ball, but couldn't hold on and dropped it as he was hitting the wall, giving Tejada a double. A double that was wasted when Lance Berkman struck out on a change up and Carlos Lee ground out to second base.
And so it went. The Astros did not get another hit off Pirates starter Zach Duke until the top of the seventh inning when Jason Michaels, starting in place of Michael Bourn, singled with two out. Jeff Keppinger, starting for Geoff Blum, then doubled down the left field line, but Michaels was held up at third. That scoring threat ended when Humberto Quintero, starting for Pudge Rodriguez, ground out to short. Then, with two outs in the eighth, Tejada singled. And went nowhere when Berkman struck out for the third time.
The good news. The Astros got more hits than yesterday. Four. But for the second day in the row, the opposition pitcher pitched a complete game shutout. Zach Duke threw 112 pitches in the game. He gave up four hits while striking out five and walking two. And if not for the Astros scoring two runs in the ninth inning on Saturday, they would have been shut out for three games.
Meanwhile, the starting pitching today sucked. Wandy Rodriguez pitched a good game for the Astros yesterday. Brian Moehler did not pitch a good game today, though I'm sure the injury he mysteriously suffered in the third inning had a bit to do with that.
The Pirates took the 1-0 lead in the first when Ryan Doumit singled in Freddy Sanchez from third. The Pirates then waited until the third inning to do more damage. It started with Freddy Sanchez hitting his second double of the day. Nate McLouth then singled to score Sanchez and make the score 2-0. After Doumit flew out to deep center, Andy LaRoche got a hold of a pitch and drove it deep into the right field stands to give the Pirates a 4-0 lead.
Then Brandon Moss singled. At this point, Moehler suddenly developed his injury and was replaced by Tom Byrdak. Byrdak then walked the bases loaded. Zach Duke then hit into a fielder's choice with the out at home plate. But the bases were still loaded, and Nyjer Morgan hit the ball up toward Miguel Tejada who couldn't field the ball, allowing two runs to score while Morgan was given a single. Finally, Sanchez ground out, and the inning was over with a score 6-0.
The Pirates took it easy on the 'Stros for the rest of the game until Doumit homered in the eight inning to make it 7-0.
It was ugly. Really ugly. Luckily, the Astros have Tuesday off before playing the Pirates on Wednesday night. Mike Hampton (0-1, 5.40) will pitch against Russ Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00). The series will end on Thursday at 11:35 with both Russ Ortiz for Houston and Jeff Karstens for Pittsburgh making their first starts of the season.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
That was a masterful game by Duke today. It was the fourth complete game of his career, and it was the third shutout of his career. It was also the first complete game shut out by a Pirate in a Pittsburgh home opener since April 8, 1978.
I noted above that Brian Moehler left the game with an injury in the third inning. He's suffering from a right knee sprain, and he will have a MRI tomorrow. The rotation might get shaken up a bit if Moehler can't pitch. It might also be shaken up because Russ Ortiz, who is set to pitch on Thursday, pitched in relief today. Then again, the pitching sucks, so maybe things need to be shaken up a bit with the rotation.
Now here's some injury news that is really going to shock you. Kaz Matsui left the game early with a stiff lower back and he is day-to-day. Wow. Matsui injured. That's just hard to believe.
As I said above, the Astros are off to their worst start since 1984. The team has been shutout in two straight games in two straight days. And both games were pitched by pitchers who threw complete games.
The Astros have yet to score a run in the first or second inning this season. They are the only major league team that has failed to score in the first or second inning. They have also been held scoreless for 27 of the last 28 innings.
Manager Cecil Cooper tried to shake things up a bit, but some of the moves just didn't make sense. Hunter Pence was moved from second in the order to fifth in the order. And I like this move. I've long thought that Pence should bat behind Berkman and Lee. Miguel Tejada sure hasn't been producing from this spot so it's time to let someone else try.
However, Cooper decided to try Tejada in the second spot. And while Tejada had two of the team's four hits today, this is just a disaster in the making. The guy is a ground-into-double play just needing a guy on first to happen. And Pence batting fifth means nothing when Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee aren't hitting.
Jeff Keppinger got the start at third, and frankly, since I don't care much for Geoff Blum, that move doesn't bug me. Jason Michaels starting in center for Michael Bourn didn't make sense because Bourn is one of the few guys on the team that's actually been hitting.
Our Classless Act of the Week Award goes to Miguel Tejada. Tejada doubled in his first at bat. The double involved the Pirates' Nate McLouth running into the wall trying to make a catch, then involved McLouth falling to the turf in pain. Tejada, meanwhile, stood on second base celebrating like he had just won the World Series.
This guy really needs to be dumped from this team.
Watching the Astros today play almost like they did yesterday put me in mind of this classic song from The Kinks, "Do It Again."