Brower Showers Early

added 5/15/2001 by Darrell Pittman and Susan Evans
On Sunday night, the Astros celebrated Mother's Day by shelling Reds' starting pitcher Jim Brower (now 2-1, 6.11 ERA) in the first inning.  One hopes that Mother Brower had a fine Mother's Day, for her pride and joy certainly did not, baseball-wise.

The four runs the Astros scored on five hits allowed by the hapless Reds' starter in the first inning not only chased Brower to the showers (am I a poet but don't know it?), but ultimately proved to be all that was necessary for the Good Guys to get the win.  It was fortunate for the Astros, because the Reds' bullpen combined to hold them scoreless over the next eight innings as the Reds chipped away at what originally seemed like a huge 4-0 lead to close the score to 4-3. Closer Billy Wagner pitched a brilliant ninth inning to chalk up his eighth save of the season.

Julio Lugo opened the game by going yard to center field.  After {Craig Biggio} grounded out to third, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman both singled, then Moises Alou hit an RBI single that drove Baggie home. Richard Hidalgo drew a free pass, loading the bases, then Chris Truby doubled, scoring Berkman and Alou.

For the Astros' starters, the hitting was fairly evenly distributed.  Of that crew, only catcher Brad Ausmus and pitcher Kent Bottenfield went hitless.

One of the bright spots of the game was that Chris Truby seems to be breaking out of his recent hitting slump.  Tru went 2 for 3 with two doubles, two ribbies, and two walks for the night.

Immediately after the game ended with the clutch Houston victory, one of the Reds' fans nearby, an elderly gentlemen, rose from his seat to leave and said to all who would listen, "8-2/3 innings of brilliant relief pitching... wasted!"  He was right.  The Reds had to dig deep into their bullpen early, and they were equal to the task, holding Houston scoreless the remainder of the game. Unfortunately for them, as in all such contests, someone has to win and someone else lose, and their obstacle proved too high to surmount.  Mr. Brower had dug them a 4-0 hole to climb out of, and the Reds couldn't come up with quite enough offense to make up the deficit.  As The Mahatma, Branch Rickey, once said, "Luck is the residue of design."  But for the Reds' bullpen, the residue that Brower left them wasn't "design".

Kent Bottenfield looks like he came out of the beer leagues of Milwaukee, but he really can pitch  He delivered a strong message to both Astros management and fans alike that he belongs in the starting rotation, just as he has said since the beginning of the season. While only lasting 5+ innings, he delivered some gutsy pitches in key situations.  While giving up a single or two here and there, he absolutely dominated in the fourth and fifth innings, retiring the Reds in 1-2-3 order both times.

Both Susan and I noted how Jeff Bagwell seemed uncharacteristically impatient at the plate on Saturday night.  Several of his swings seemed forced. He didn't have his usual, natural Bagwellian swing. Either he was being jammed, had trouble seeing the ball, or both, but he just didn't seem himself at the plate Saturday.  That being said, he still managed to pick up an RBI single and two walks on Sunday night.

Billy Wagner's performace Sunday night was a breathtaking sight.  Susan and I watched the radar meter during Billy the Kid's performance.  His pitch velocity notched ever higher and higher... 94, then 96, 98, and finally 99. His "off-speed" stuff was coming in at 88.  One has to feel compassion for the opposition: it's awfully tough to hit an aspirin, which is what the ball must have looked like to the Reds.

You'd think that with 140+ years of experience with professional baseball, the Cincinnati fans would be educated in the game.  Instead, all they can seem to think of to yell out is "You s**k!", even to their own players if they don't perform perfectly.  Apparently, they draw a lot of fans from the backwoods.  One fan in particular, an elderly, toothless "gentleman" sitting nearby, had a special vehemence for Jeff Bagwell, even though he didn't know his name.  Whenever Jeff came up to bat, this guy would start yelling.  When it was possible to make out his words (for he was clearly three sheets to the wind), one could hear him yell "Hey '5'... get outta there... you s**k".  Apparently, what little he had to say was of such importance that he couldn't be bothered with actually finding out Bagwell's name before insulting him.

At that point, I was beginning to think I had awakened in the middle of the movie "Deliverance".   Susan and I felt compelled to move three different times because of such fan behavior, all in similar vein.  The common mantra of Cincinnati fans seems to be "you s**k".  I was embarrassed for them, because some parents with young children still try to bring their kids to the ballpark.

The F-word is in abundance there too.  It's "F-ing this" and "F-ing that", yelled out loud.  It's sad.  A ballpark should be a family place where you can teach your son or daughter about baseball and its history, about Ruth and Mays and Mantle and all the other legends, where the kids can see their heroes and reach out and embrace the time-honored American game.  My hat's off to the Cincinnati families who still try.

Is there some natural law that the farther one gets from Texas, the ruder and cruder people become?

Before the game Sunday, Susan and I drove around the city, seeing the sights and shopping.  We drove down the boulevard which runs along the riverfront, in front of the various stadia.  We noted the cosmic irony, or perhaps poetic justice, in the fact that the street where the casinos are located is named "Pete Rose Way."

Irony Strikes Again:  Deion Sanders is "Number 2".  That's his Reds uniform number. How fitting.

Sunday night's game was televised nationally by ESPN.  They had a low attendance of 19,096 (admittedly, with an Elton John/Billy Joel concert taking place at the same time next door at the FirstStar Arena).  You'd think that the Reds would pass out free tickets in order to pack the house to look good for national TV, and to build up fan goodwill.  Instead of having a big party, they wound up with a paltry 19,000 shivering, surly fans.  They'd have made a killing on concessions (hot cocoa and coffee especially on this night).  The 'Stros should do so also in similar circumstances.

To the Reds' credit, they allowed everyone to see Saturday's two games on one ticket, letting anyone with a ticket to Friday night's rainout to exchange it for a ticket to a game of his or her choosing.

Colt 45 Malt Liquor -- The Official Swill of the Houston Colt .45s?  While we were searching for the Kentucky-side approaches to the Roebling Suspension Bridge, we happened across a cut-rate liquor store that was selling cigarettes cheap, and was inexplicably open on a Sunday.  I walked through the store and saw for the first time in my life Colt 45 Malt Liquor.  Thinking I had found something unusual (an Astros connection, sort of), I brought a six-pack of it to the front of the store to show to Susan.  She and the clerk both got a good chuckle at my expense, explaining to me that that brand has been around for years.

What exactly is malt liquor, anyway?

Susan and I were spiffy for our Cinergy Field debut in full Astros regalia, but unprepared for the cold front that had come through, we both bought sweaters in Cincy to wear under our Astros jerseys.  Mine were turtlenecks, one red and one black, to match the jerseys I had brought along.  Having checked out of our hotel Sunday morning, we parked the rental car in a high-rise garage about a block from the ballpark. We both changed into our newly-bought sweaters inside the car before we left for the game, taking turns keeping lookout.  We joked that we were "girding for battle against the Forces of Evil".

The news came as a shock to me, but Jesus Alou now plays for the 'Stros!  I was listening to the radio broadcast of Saturday night's game on WLW, 700 AM, while I was watching the game in the ballpark.  I must have been dozing when, according to the radio announcer, a ball was hit sharply to right field and Jesus Alou magically sprang up out of retirement to make a diving catch for a critical out.  Afterward, he must have flipped the ball back to his nephew, Moises, before speeding back to the Astros' dugout, undetected by anyone but the radio announcer.  If this is stealth outfield technology, I say bring it on!

In the unlikely event that you would like to view photos of our trip to Spring Training in Kissimmee this past March, you can catch them at http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?m=27492433103&n=1931386957

Also there are pictures of my preseason tour of Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco at http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?m=18792433103&n=1683157104

The Cards are doing us a favor by doing a number on the Cubbies just now. I thought the Cubs were supposed to wait for June to swoon!  It seems that the preseason predictions of a Cards-Astros dogfight for the Central Division may come to pass after all.

The 'Stros next travel to Chicago in what may well prove to be *the* pivotal series in this season.  Let's hope that Lima Time in the Windy City will be Winning Time as well.

Susan and I are both back home in Houston now, having flown home on separate flights to different airports, looking forward to watching tonight's game on TV.

Go 'Stros!!!

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