Billy the Kid is Back
added 6/20/2001 by Darrell Pittman
Tonight's 6-4 victory by the Houston Astros over the Colorado Rockies featured yet another impressive performance by rookie pitcher Roy Oswalt. It also saw the welcome return of veteran closer Billy Wagner from the DL a day earlier than had been expected.
Oswalt put in a quality start, going six innings while allowing three runs on four hits.
Unfortunately, he seemed to tire out in the seventh. Oswalt walked leadoff batter Todd Helton, Jeff Cirillo reached on a Jose Vizcaino fielding error, then Todd Walker walked to load the bases with one out. Rockies catcher Ben Petrick hit a come-backer to the mound that hit Oswalt squarely in the forearm, but Oswalt recovered the ball and made the right play, throwing Petrick out at first, allowing Helton to score. At that point it was 4-2 Astros.
Oswalt was immediately pulled from the game at that point with a bruise to his forearm. I heard on the radio coming home that there was a clear imprint of the ball's seams and stitches on Oswalt's arm. He may have to miss his next start.
Jay Powell was brought in to replace Oswalt. We are (sadly) getting used to Powell's Jekyll-and-Hyde performances of late. Unfortunately, it was Mr. Hyde that came to the mound tonight. Powell walked pinch-hitter Brooks Kierschnick and gave up a single to Juan Pierre, putting men on first and second with two outs, before Nelson Cruz was called in to put out the fire. Cruz got Neifi Perez out on a called strike to end the inning.
In one final scare in the top of the eighth, Mike Jackson gave up a double to Helton and an RBI single to Cirillo before getting Todd Walker and Ron Gant to fly out.
The return of Billy the Kid
Just before the top of the ninth inning, the first few beats of Billy Wagner's distinctive introductory music played over the P.A. system, and that familiar figure trotted out from the bullpen to the mound. Before any announcements were made, Susan knew immediately what was happening, and she rose in applause. Susan had told me beforehand that he was warming up in the bullpen, but I figured he was making a few practice throws. I was taken somewhat by surprise when he came out to pitch, since the Houston Chronicle had said that he would not pitch before Wednesday and I was thus expecting Octavio Dotel, but I am glad I was wrong.
The crowd immediately came to its feet in applause and anticipation.
He did not disappoint. He got Petrick to fly out to left on a 3-1 pitch (he had come close to walking Petrick, letting the count get to 3-0, and that was a bit of a scare), then he fanned Terry Shumpert and caught Greg Norton looking, both for strikeouts, to end the game.
I kept an eye on the Billy's pitch velocity. He was consistently reaching 96-98 mph.
Just a word or two on where Susan and I sat, Section 225, Row 3. These are the best seats I've been in yet, and I've been in some good ones on field level. In 225, you're right by first base, you still feel right up close to the game, yet you have just enough elevation to see the entire field. To those who want to spring for $28 a seat, these are, in my view, primo seats.
Biggio streak at an end
Sadly, Craig Biggio's hitting streak came to an end at 18 games. The closest he came to a hit was a grounder to third in the ninth inning... he reached, but it was ruled a fielder's choice. Still, he did score in the second on a passed ball after having been put on base via being hit by a pitch.
Both Susan and I were convinced that, having had their "noses rubbed in it" so badly in the 13-5 loss the Astros dealt them the night before, the Rockies would come out bent for vengeance. And indeed, they showed signs of trying. I'm just glad that Oswalt, Jackson, and Wagner were there to stop them, and that manager Larry Dierker managed not to out-manage himself.