b The Longhorn Mafia <$BlogRSDURL$>

Thursday, July 08, 2004


Back in the days before excessive expansion and realignment, Houston and Los Angeles had a heated rivalry in the NL West. I still remember the day that the Astros traded Phil Garner to LA. All I could think was, "the Dodgers? That can't be right."

Now it wouldn't seem like a big, but in those days it was. Sadly the Dodgers have become any old team -- a non-division foe that we see just six or seven times a year. That can't be right.

I must be getting old. Anyway, there's no time to reminisce this weekend. The Astros visit Chavez Ravine, but the focus is on the here and now. It's crunch time for the Good Guys, and as we head into next week's All-Star break, a series win against first-place LA could pay huge dividends.

Yep, the "first-place" Dodgers. The Stros vaulted LA into first via their win over San Diego, which dropped the Padres from the NL West perch.

Houston's recent slump really couldn't have come at a worse time. Since June 14, they've had one series -- with those scrappy Bucs -- that hasn't come against a team either leading their division, within a game or two of leading their division, or in control of the Wild Card spot.

Sounds to me like the boys need to put the Padres back in front. The "Never Give Up -- Never Say Die" tour hits the City of Angels tonight, and like I said last night, I'm feeling oddly confident.

The pitching match-ups are as follows:
Thursday Brandon Duckworth (1-1, 7.56) v. Edwin Jackson (1-0, 4.05)
Friday Andy Pettitte (4-2, 4.37) v. Jeff Weaver (6-8, 4.26)
Saturday Roger Clemens (10-2, 2.54) v. Wilson Alvarez (2-3, 3.77)
Sunday Pete Munro (1-2, 4.45) v. Jose Lima (7-3, 4.42)

A few thoughts about the series:

- Weird stat -- Houston has not split a four-game series this year. They beat both Milwaukee and Pittsburgh 3-1, and were swept by Cinci and Chicago.

- Jeff Kent rejoins the lineup tonight. It's his first game since June 29. Should I be upset that his return knocks Jose Vizcaino out of the lineup? Viz has only hit .393 in Kent's absence (though not every appearence came at 2nd Base).

- Jeff Bagwell hasn't hit a HR since June 19, though he should have had one on Tuesday. I'm predicting that baggy breaks the slump in LA, even though Dodger Stadium is an infamous pitcher's park.

- What would be a good outing for Duckworth tonight? I'd settle for 5IP and fewer than 4 runs. Unfortunately...

- LA starter Edwin Jackson is only making his third start of the year (sixth career start). You know what that means. Expect a Cy Young-esque performance.

- Lima Time has turned things around in LA, and I'm happy for him. But I'd like to see Houston batters treat him like the rest of the National League did in 2000.

I'm not making a prediction, except to say that I expect to see some fire from the guys this weekend. If they half-ass it and do anything worse than split, then I guess it's time to dust off those UT football tapes and get ready for training camp.


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