Can I Manage, Please? Or At Least Hit For Hayes?

added 5/21/2001 by Steve Cutchen

How many times can you make decisions that seem counter to winning a game and still win? Well, the answer is at least one less than the number made by Larry Dierker in Sunday's 6-5 loss to the Reds.

What a FRUSTRATING game to watch!

The Pregame; A Personal Tour by Larry Dierker!

If you've read my other At The Game reports, you know that my son Ryan and I like to get to the game early. Well, we arrived at the game today to find out that the Astros were not taking batting practice. We were bummed! Then we found out that the reason was that Larry Dierker was not going to be on the field. Instead, he was making himself available to lucky fans for a personal pregame tour of Enron! And because we got there so early, WE were selected!

First, we met Larry behind the box seats on the first base side. You can see how early it was. Very few folks in the seats, and the lights were still off. We were a bit bummed to find the roof was closed today; we are not afraid of sweating at a baseball game and think baseball should be played outdoors when possible. But Larry told us that most fans wanted the air-conditioned comfort... Wimps.

Behind us on the main level are the various eating establishments. There is no doubt that the food at Enron is a big improvement over the Astrodome. And Larry is justifiably proud.

We next got to go to the press box and meet one of Larry's old mates, Joe Morgan. Imagine how cool it was to see Joe dressed in his classic Rainbows! Joe took the time to show Ryan a few tips on hitting the curve ball. For him, picking up the rotation early is the key. But Joe mentioned that some of the great hitters he's talked to such as Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn just relied on their natural instincts and didn't try worry about spin.

Next we walked around to a special part of Enron. In the area over the visitor's bullpen in left center is the Conoco Home Run Alley, where banners hang saluting the best Astros sluggers in history

And, of course, at the top of the list is one of Dierk's favorites, Jeff Bagwell! Going into this season, Jeff stood at 310 home runs, all in Astros gear!

And it's not just Jeff that is launching the ball out of Enron. The Conoco Home Run Pump stood at 165 at the start of business today. That 165 home runs by the Good Guys since the park opened last year!

Sure makes a manager's job easier, right Dierk?

We were very excited to get to meet Larry. What a thrill.

And then they announced the starting lineups...

The Starting Lineups

As I got my scorecard ready for the opening lineups Ryan and I were pretty excited. Would Lima have good stuff today? And we were looking forward to seeing new Astro, Vinny Castilla!

Leading off for your Houston Astros, #4, shortstop JULIO LUGO!

Batting second and playing second base, #10, JOSE VIZCAINO!

What? Where's Biggio? Must be giving him a day's rest! Well... OK...

Third, #17, center fielder LANCE BERKMAN!

No Bagwell, either? Ward playing first?

...RICHARD HIDALGO! ...MOISES ALOUUUUU!!! ...DARYLE WARD!

And seventh, playing third base, #14, CHARLIE HAYES!

WHAT?!? Bagwell, Biggio AND Castilla out in the same game? On a Sunday when the house is almost full? Why not one at a time? Why not on a weekday game when there aren't so many paying customers here for the first time to see the, ahem, Astros? Do I get half of my ticket price back?

Vizcaino is OPSing a stellar .608! Ausmus territory. And Hayes is at .365! And even though Ward is hitting much better than these two stones, he's still a big drop-off from Bagwell...

I get the distinct impression that Larry is simply mailing in this game. Lima's pitching. We're gonna lose anyway. Let's just chunk out the "B" team and to heck with it. Let everyone have a day off.

Shoot, we'd have a better chance of beating the Reds with the Zephyr's starting lineup and pitching staff...!

Nice tour, Larry, but now I'm ticked off at you, big time...

(If only I'd known...)

The Game

First Inning

Lima started off OK. At least the first pitch was a strike. He was getting his fastball over. But the off-speed stuff was off. Off but low and outside, which is OK. Still Reds leadoff hitter Pokey Reese got a leadoff single. While pitching to Tucker, Lima went to first twice. Both times, he ALMOST got Reese. On the first pickoff attempt, Ward lost the ball on the tag. I wondered if Bagwell could have gotten the tag down. Then Lima GOT Reese! Had him PICKED OFF ...but he threw the ball away down the right field line; Reese to third. ARGH! At least he struck out Tucker, after going 3-2. Should be two outs and no one on. But it is Casey at the bat with a runner on third. A grounder to Vizcaino and it's 1-0 Reds. Lugo contributed his own error next, but it amounted to nothing as Lima struck out Rivera to end the threat.

Lugo lead off the bottom of the first with a great at-bat. Dessens threw 8 pitches before finally striking out Lugo. Somehow, though, I knew Julio would go down swinging. The guy has a K/BB ratio of 8 to 3. And he would strike out three more times today.

With the exception of a single by Berkman, the Astros went quietly, 4 up 3 down.

Second Inning

Lima looked great, going 3 up 3 down at the bottom of the Reds order; 11 pitches, 8 for strikes.

Alou hit a screamer to lead off the bottom of the frame, but Ochoa caught the liner off his shoe tops. Anywhere but right at Ochoa and this might be a double.

Third Inning - Lima's Downfall

Well, how many times has this happened... The pitcher Dessens leads off the inning and gets a hit. The pitcher? Well, there goes Jose, right? His mind will be in Spiraling Death Mode... <sigh>

But Ausmus makes a trip to the mound and Lima settles down. An 0-2 count to Pokey and he GIDPs! OK, now! Lima has 2 outs and no one on! But no...

Tucker takes Lima deep on a 1-1 pitch. Lima gets behind Casey 2-0 and HE sends one out of the park. Back to back. Then Ochoa crushes a single... Rivera Ks, but Lima is now getting crushed. We're down 3-0 in the 3rd and Jose's leading off the bottom of the 3rd. Well, with all the power on the bench, let's pinch hit for Lima... Right?

No. Dotel and Oswalt are up in the bully, but Jose bats for himself and strikes out on three pitches. Then Lugo and Vizcaino finish the 1-2-3 inning.

Damn, Larry... it's bad enough that you pull teeth on the offense with Lima on the mound, but when he's got nothing going, you don't call the cavalry? OK... whatever. Let's see what Lima's got.

Fourth Inning - Lima's Collapse

Single-walk-single-K-single. Does THAT answer your question, Larry? The 4th inning Lima experiment will turn into 3 more runs for the Reds, after Oswalt gets through doing what he can to stem the tide. Lima's numbers? 3.1 innings pitched, 19 batters, 41 strikes in 66 pitches, 8 hits, 6 runs; 5 earned. I'm a Dierker fan. But if we are trying to WIN this game, why run Lima out there for the fourth?

Thanks to Berkman's leadoff double and Alou, we break the shutout in the bottom of the inning. But Hidalgo had the chance to contribute before Alou, and grounded out to short... This would become a huge Anti-Clutch performance day for Richard.

Fifth Inning - The Calvary

From the 5th on, the Astros pitching was great. Oswalt was a bit wild, hitting Rivera and throwing a wild pitch to Reese. But he also struck out 4 of the 8 batters he faced, including Casey.

Dotel started really shakily to the top of the Reds order, with 8 balls in a row. But he found his rhythm and struck out 2 while ending the threat. And in the next inning, he put the Reds down with 8 pitches.

Powell has earned the removal of the Pow!! moniker in my writing. This was his third impressive performance in a row. One inning, 3 batters, 8 pitches, 1 strikeout. And Nellie Cruz duplicated this line exactly.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Astros got a chance to take advantage of Dessens. I'm sure the Reds were leaving him in there to get the 5th inning and have a chance for the win. But we were hitting him hard. Ausmus started with a deep fly to right. Merced, pinch hitting for Oswalt, singled. So did Lugo,Vizcaino and Berkman. Two runs in, runners on 1st and 2nd, one out and Hidalgo up! He flew out to center. Alou then grounded out on a fielder's choice at third and the threat was over.

Seventh Inning - Hidalgo misses again

The sixth had Scott Sullivan replace Dessens, and it went three up and down for Houston.

In the seventh, Dotel's spot was leading off. Yeah, baby... Time to spring some of that lumber off the bench. We're within 3, and even though Sullivan had a good inning in the 6th, two of those bats were Hayes and Ausmus. We hit this guy hard this year... let's do it again!

Your attention, please. Pinch hitting for the pitcher Dotel is... Glen Barker?

WHAT!?! Barker? with his .378 OPS? Now I'm CONVINCED Dierker doesn't care about winning this game. This is simply Minimum Play Requirement time for Astros Little League. Everybody's got to play... let's all have fun now, OK? It's not just about winning...

Barker watches a 3-2 strike sail by and he's gone. Duh. What did you expect?

Then Lugo does the exact same. Full count. Watch strike three. DAMN this is frustrating.

But Vizcaino wakes up the crowd... A single. Berkman singles, too... he's now 4 for 4! The tying run comes to the plate in the person of Richard Hidalgo! And he... strikes out on four pitches to end the inning.

Eighth Inning - Can I hit for Hayes?

Well, baby, we had some excitement in the 8th. With Reds Fan screaming in my ear, "Throw a strike, Scott!", Sullivan obliges, and Alou sends a 2-0 pitch into the Astros bullpen. 6-4! And Ward's up!

I'm yelling, "Throw Ward one of those strikes, Scott!". Reds Fan is quiet... Sullivan obliges again, and Daryle sends a 3-2 pitch after Alou's, into the right field stands! Back to back for the Good Guys, Baybee!

Now it's 6-5! With all of the lineup crap... and all of the dumn moves... and all of Hidalgo's frustration... and all of Lima's miscues... we are within one run, and we've got a BENCH FULL of power waiting; chomping at the bit to enter this game!

The Reds pull Sullivan for Danny Graves. So we counter with... Charlie Hayes?

CHARLIE HAYES?

WE'RE STILL GOING TO GO WITH CHARLIE HAYES?!? Why not at least pinch hit Castilla? Hayes has two hits all year!

ARGH!!!!

I'm screaming, "Don't swing, Charlie! TRY FOR THE WALK!"

Well, he doesn't listen. He grounds a 2-2 pitch to short, one out. The Ausmus strikes out. and then (finally) Castilla comes in, pinch hitting for Powell, and the inning is over, with another 6-3 putout.

DAMN!

Ninth Inning - Not Dead Yet! Oh, wait...

To lead off the ninth, Dierker pulls Lugo for... Jeff Bagwell! Great to see ya Jeff, but where were ya in the 8th?

Bags comes through like a champion and leads off the 9th with a double.

WooHOO! OK, baby... this is easy. A simple bunt to third and let Berkman plate Bagwell with the sac fly... Except Vizcaino can't get the bunt down. And he can't even get the ball on the right side of the infield. Granted, he eventually hit the ball hard, lining out to third, but that's not the point. The point is execution. If Vizcaino can't bunt, put Biggio in there to bunt! Whatever it takes! This is the point where even Weaver ball says do whatever it takes to plate Bagwell! Duh!

Three pitches later, Berkman and Hidalgo have both grounded out to short. Game over, man.

Final Thoughts

Berkman was huge. 4 for 5 with 2 RBI and a run scored. Alou was 2 for 4, also with 2 RBI and a run scored. The bullpen pitched shutout ball.

Hidalgo, on the other hand, was clutchless.

Ground to short in the 4th with Berkman on second and no outs.

Fly to center in the 5th with Vizcaino on 2nd and Berkman on 1st with 1 out.

Strike out in the 7th with Vizcaino on 3rd and Berkman on 2nd with 2 outs

Ground out to short in the 9th with Bagwell on 3rd with 2 outs.

I am really frustrated by the game today. This was a game where it seemed that we did everything we could to give the Reds more chances. We were trying all day to win with the wrong players.

That Larry Dierker can be a real Bobblehead sometimes.

My son said, "We must be a good team if we can play like this and only lose by one run."

That about sums it up.

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