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Monday, July 26, 2004

Astros: Bring on the Snakes! 

Can you believe that I haven't done an Astros preview since the break?

I don't think I have to stress how important this week's series is with Arizona. The D'Backs have lost 14 in a row -- 14 IN A FRIGGING ROW, you think we Astros fans have been hurting? -- and if that streak significantly alters in Houston, then you can go ahead and put up a "For Sale" sign in both clubhouses come Thursday afternoon.

I look for Houston to win their second four-game set this year (they're 1-3 so far: won 3-1 v. Pittsburgh, lost 3-1 v. LA, and got swept by Chicago and Cinci), and I don't thnk that a sweep is out of the question.

Here are the pitching matchups:

Monday Andy Pettitte (6-3, 4.14) v. Brandon Webb (3-11, 3.82)
Tuesday Roy Oswalt (9-8, 3.92) v. Edgar Gonzales (0-2, 12.46)
Wednesday Roger Clemens (11-3, 2.85) v. Casey Fossum (2-9, 6.17)
Thursday Tim Redding (4-6, 5.66) v. Lance Cormier (0-2, 14.73)

Poor Brandon Webb. His ERA is lower than every Astros starter not nicknamed The Rocket, yet he sports an impressive .214 winning percentage.

The only game that worries me is Thursday's tilt: (a) Redding pitched well this past weekend, but he's still Tim Redding (b) The day game after a night game means that Garner will shuffle the lineup to rest at least one of the older guys (granted, that's not necessarily a horrible thing), and (c) We all know about Houston bats and rookie pitchers.

You know that blackout period that spacecraft faces upon re-entry? Because of magnetic fields or whatnot, NASA can't communicate with the astronauts for a period of time once they enter the Earth's atmosphere, and it's always a tense few minutes as the control room awaits word that their crew didn't burn to a crisp. Well that's this series in a nutshell, except Astros fans face four excruciatingly nerve-wracking days.

Re-entry to Earth seems like a rudimentary exercise, but any of a number of slight malfunctions can spell disater for the flight. For Houston, a team that looks re-energized and focused on righting the ship, a potential sweep is there for the taking. But the margin of error is slim, and if something goes wrong, then the renewed hope of the past week could evaporate like a shuttle with a defective heat shield.

Of course we won't have a communications blackout to endure, but we will have Bill Worrell. The difference is negligible.


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