Gunfight at Enron Corral

added 6/17/2001 by Darrell Pittman

Tony McKnight's 2001 debut with the Astros turned out to be a real pitcher's duel.  He allowed only one run on four hits in six innings of work.

Today's 2-1 victory by the Houston Astros over the Texas Rangers shows yet again that good pitching, good defense, timely hitting, and smart, aggressive base-running adds up to victory.

With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Jeff Bagwell stretched a single to center into a double, sliding into second on a very close throw.  Lance Berkman sacrificed to right to move Bagwell to third, then Richard Hidalgo sacrificed to right. Baggie tagged up, then charged home.  Ruben Sierra made an excellent throw to the plate and seemed to have Bagwell nailed.  Replacement catcher Marcus Jensen cleanly caught the ball and was in position to get the tag, but Bagwell slid wide of him, missing the plate by several feet, then dove for the plate to elude the tag and score the winning run.

The Rangers' regular catcher, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, had had to leave the game in the bottom of the seventh with tightness in his left hamstring.  Would Bagwell have still scored had Pudge been there?  I guess we'll never know.

The most awesome defensive play of the day goes to Moises Alou in the top of the eighth when he caught a long fly ball hit by A-Rod just before it went over the wall into the Astros' bullpen.  It looked like it was a goner for sure, but when Alou caught it, he had most of the fans in the ballpark on their feet cheering.  I know we certainly were.  It was still tied 1-1 at that point, and I think Alou's play right there lifted the rest of the team up, almost as if they said to themselves, "to heck with this, let's just win this thing and get it over with."

We had a few Ranger fans sitting behind us, and I was warmed by their compliments for Enron Field that I overheard.  They said they wish they had a retractable roof too, for when the weather was too hot, like today.

Nolan Ryan threw out the first pitch at today's game, to a rousing standing ovation.  Having played so well for both teams, he was the natural choice.  He should have warmed up before-hand, though, because the poor geezer who was catching (was it Tom Hicks?) had to dive to his right to try to catch the pitch and wound up on his belly.  I guess you could say that Nolan was "effectively wild".

It was nice to see the ballpark full again.  Today's attendance was the most ever at 43,245.  In recent games, even those that were "sold out," the seats were not full, but today they were.  There was a healthy contingent of Rangers fans who made their way down from Yankee Country (Dallas) to see real baseball as it should be played, by National League rules.  There were also some with divided loyalties, as we saw more than one fan in a Ranger jersey and an Astro cap, or families with some members wearing Astros gear and others Rangers stuff.

Since tomorrow is Father's Day, dads will get to run the bases after the game.  I'm really looking forward to it. 

Susan and the boys have been sneaking off to The Shed before and after games and coming back with mysterious bags, the contents of which are "classified."  There was also a "secret" meeting tonight amongst the conspirators.  I think I may be in store for a few surprises tomorrow.

Susan and I are going to be married in September.  Today, we tasted wedding cake at the caterer's and took just a little longer than expected, so we were late leaving for the game.  With the closure of US-59 at I-45, traffic was backed up coming from the southwest side of town almost all the way out to the Summit (er, Compaq Center), so we had to divert and take back roads into downtown.  Trooper that she is, Susan dropped her son Kevin and I off at the ballpark about 25 minutes before game-time, then she went to park the car while we went inside to get Bagwell bobble-heads and find our seats.  She parked the car in a garage about six blocks away, walked all the way back to the ballpark, found time to do some shopping at The Shed for my kids, and still met us at our seats in time for the first pitch.  She is really something!  I doubt there's anything she can't do.

One other bright spot for me was watching the usher for section 427 tonight, a lady named Hazel.  She went above and beyond the call.  In addition to performing her regular duties, she lead the section in cheers for every Astro batter that came to the plate during the entire ballgame.  She was tireless and boundless in her enthusiasm for the Astros, and for wanting all the fans in her section to have fun, Ranger and Astro fan alike.  The Astros would do well do hire more people like her.

Back to baseball, it was a real treat to see the Astros play small ball... singles, doubles, and aggressive, intelligent base-running, the way baseball should be played.  Astros baseball.  It was a well-pitched, well-played jewel of a ballgame.

Too often lately, the Astros just seem to get one or two guys on base, who in turn stand around waiting for King Kong to come to the plate and for lightning to strike in the form of a home run, so today's game was a refreshing departure from the recent norm.  Today, we were even treated to a double-steal (albeit by the Rangers).

To you fathers out there, I hope you'll come out to the ballgame tomorrow, and bring your kids.  Afterward, I'll see you on the basepaths.

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