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Monday, August 23, 2004

Astros: Getting Their Phil 

Can we seriously play Philadelphia every night? For some reason, when Houston squares off against the Phillies, they remember that they're not only a Major League club, but also one that was supposed to contend this season.

Tonight the Phils jump on top of Roger Clemens 2-0 in the 1st inning. No big deal, says the Houston offense. They respond with a four-spot in the bottom of the inning, and then Rocket settles down to pitch seven strong.

Not content with a two-run cushion, the offense actually (gasp!) scores more runs for Roger, and even Mike Gallo's best attempt (i.e., giving up a two-run bomb in the 8th) can't prevent Clemens from moving to 13-4 on the season. Oh, and the 8-4 win moves Houston a game above .500, keeping those feeble playoff hopes alive.

I'm not giving up my postseason hopes until the day we're mathematically eliminated, so no "looking toward next year" posts until that day. But, two things I'd like to say about 2005, based on milestones reached tonight, are:

1. Craig Biggio deserves a final season in Houston. He collected his 2600th hit tonight, and it's not unreasonable to think that he could reach 2750 by the end of next year, which I think would erase any doubt of his Hall of Fame credentials. He'll play somewhere in 2005, if he wants to, and it'd be a shame to see him put the finishing touches on a HOF career in another uniform. Granted, he could likely wind up with another team after 2005, but he's got at least one season left as an everyday player. It should come as an Astro.

2. Re-sign Carlos Beltran. Do whatever it takes. He wrapped up a 30 HR/30 SB season with a HR tonight, and he also made an outstanding catch to save at least one run. With Minute Maid's expansive center field, Beltran's glove proves just as valuable as his bat. Drayton might have to open the wallet more than he'd like in order to keep Beltran, but if you asked me who I'd honestly rather see Houston build their club around -- Beltran or Lance Berkman -- I'd vote for Carlos. That's not to say that I don't appreciate what Berk has done, but five-tool players like Beltran are rare. Streaky power-hitting outfielders with suspect defensive skills are not.

I keep thinking that Houston has to have a seven- or eight-game winning streak in them. Are four in a row really the best we're going to see from them this year? Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Montreal have all done better than that this year. At this point, even eight straight wins might not get Houston into the playoffs, but the club hasn't given up. Maybe they have enough scrap to claw they're way back into the race.


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