added 9/1/2013 by Darrell Pittman
This past Sunday, August 25, I attended the matchup between the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. While I have been to dozens of games there before, what made this game special for me was that my son Vic, home on leave from the Air Force, came with me, and that Comcast SportsNet (CSN) Houston graciously invited us to view the proceedings from their suite.
It was the first time that I had seen a game from a suite as an adult. I had seen Astros games from the Astrodome "luxury boxes" twice as a child in the late 1960s when my father secured tickets through his employer, but being a child, I did not realize at the time just what a treat that was.
CSN's suite is just to the third base side of home plate, so needless to say, our view of the game was phenomenal, and complimentary refreshments were just a few steps away. For a fan, that's about as good as it gets.
The only thing that would have made it better was if the Astros had won, but sadly that was not to be as they fell to the Bluebirds, 2-1.
For the first eight innings we were treated to an old-fashioned NL-style pitchers' duel. Houston starter Dallas Keuchel pitched seven innings of shutout ball, scattering four hits along the way. Toronto's Mark Buehrle was dealing as well, allowing seven hits and fanning seven.
The Astros drew first blood in the second inning with no outs when Jake Elmore plated Matt Dominguez on a double play for Houston's lone tally. The Astros' Josh Fields pitched a perfect eighth in relief.
Trouble came in the top of the ninth in the person of Chia-Jen Lo, into whose care manager Bo Porter entrusted Houston's slim 1-0 lead. What followed was a litany of woe all too familiar to Astros fans this season. Lo issued a walk, a single, and two more walks to force in the tying run for Toronto. He finally recorded an out when he caught Kevin Pillar looking on a called third strike. By then Porter had (finally!) seen enough and inserted Kevin Chapman on the mound, who induced an RBI groundout from Ryan Goins which gave the Canadians a 2-1 lead, the go-ahead run being charged to Lo.
Houston mounted a two-out mini-rally in the home half of the frame but fell short. Facing Toronto reliever Casey Janssen, pinch-hitter Jason Castro worked a walk, then Jonathan Villar singled his way on. Brett Wallace walked to juice the bases, but Cody Clark grounded out to end the game.
As I mentioned before, we were at the game at the invitation of CSN Houston and Mr. Rich Bocchini, who asked me to help get the word out about CSN Houston's Astros telecasts. I am happy to oblige.
Setting aside ongoing carriage issues for a moment, the telecasts truly are better than the previous network, in my humble opinion, especially when seen in HD. The other guys made it abundantly clear that, to them, Houston and the Astros took a back seat to Dallas and the Rangers. Not so CSN Houston.
Sure, we lost Jim Deshaies to the Cubs, but then again, Alan Ashby is back in Houston where he belongs, and Bill Brown's excellence continues unabated.
My sole criticism of the CSN game telecasts is the absence of Greg Lucas, whose depth and breadth of Astros and baseball knowledge are unsurpassed. Hopefully, CSN will remedy this shortcoming by next season.
I hope that carriage deals are worked out in time for the Rockets' season, or failing that, for the Astros in 2014.
As an added bonus, Bobby Vasquez, who operates the Home Run Train at MMP, met with us briefly after the game.
It was really great to meet him, having read so many of his tweets! We commiserated about the loss and plate umpire Mike Winters' incredible shrinking strike zone, but also looked forward to the Astros' bright future.
It will not be long before it is fun to be an Astros fan again.
I'd like to thank CSN Houston and Rich Bocchini for the opportunity to take in the game from their suite, especially since it happened to coincide with my son's visit. Taken together, it was an unforgettable experience that I treasure.