b The Longhorn Mafia <$BlogRSDURL$>

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Astros-Diamondbacks 7/21 

I just couldn't do it tonight. I tried to watch the Stros in a game that they almost couldn't lose, and I napped through most of it. Fortunately I was right. I awoke in time to catch the final inning of a 10-3 blowout.

10-3. I honestly don't remember the last time this team got into double digits. Maybe it was against Texas July 4 weekend. The graphic at game's end said it was their second output of more than 10 runs since May 2.

Carlos Beltran homered twice, leading a four-HR barrage from a suddenly potent Astros attack. Remember that stretch in May where Houston didn't top three runs for three weeks? The seven post-All Star games have seen them score no fewer than four ones in every game save one. That Houston's record in that span is only 3-4 speaks to a shaky bullpen.

So what is the outlook now? The Astros traded for darren Oliver today. I'm not sure what kind of role he'll play. If they can close to within a few games of the Wild card in the next week, then perhaps they'll make a move for relief help.

The next ten games will decide the season. Houston hosts Milwaukee for three games, Arizona for four, and then they travel to Cincinnatti for three. Milwaukee and Cinci both sit in front of Houston in the standings, so they represent an opportunity to catch, and possibly pass, those teams. And four games with Zona, the NL's worst team, who might be on the verge of unloading their only two weapons, represent an opportunity to gain momentum heading into August.

Once August arrives, the Stros face three with long-time nemesis Atlanta, before another "catch-up" stretch -- three with Montreal, three at the Mets and three at Montreal.

Now I'm not going to get ahead of myself, but I see the next three-and-a-half weeks as the opportunity this team needs. They can do this. In the last month we've seen Houston struggle with the best of the best. Series against Texas and Chicago, LA and San Diego, have been brutal. But in the upcoming weeks they play some of the dregs of the league.

The time is now, Astros fans. We're going to get back into this race. We've got 22 games to find out if this team has the heart to achieve what we all they could three months ago. I believe that come Aug. 15, Houston will be at least five games over .500. Will that be enough? We'll see.

But don't give up yet.


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