With the bases loaded in the sixth inning and Carlos Lee facing Bucs reliever Edwin Meek with two outs, Meek tossed Lee a curveball.
It was, according to the venerable Astros' play-by-play announcer Bill Brown, supposed to be a curveball outside. But this one floated up and in the zone. Lee belted a grand slam to help starter Mike Hampton as the Astros went on to win, 9-1.
Not that Hampton needed any help this time, although a four-run home run never hurts. Hampton's now 13-3 lifetime against Pittsburgh and hasn't lost to them in more than nine years. Wow, that means my almost-nine-year-old youngest son hadn't even been born yet!
On the day, Hampton allowed five hits, one earned run, five K's and no walks. His season ERA is now 4.65.
Also, Hampton's now even on the season with four wins and four losses.
Hampton's* also hitting a sizzling .381 on the season as he picked up a hit in two at-bats as he scored a run and drove in a run.
Michael Bourn, no doubt the star of the next Bourne Identity movie (assuming he looks enough like Matt Damon), did very well leading off, going two for four with two runs scored and is hitting .302 on the season.
Including Miguel Tejada, who had the night off, Houston now has four everyday-players hitting over .300: Tejada (.350), Bourn, Hunter Pence (.344) and Carlos Lee (.317).
We could include Hampton, but, alas, he's not an everyday player. One has to wonder if Houston should use him as an assistant batting coach.**
I also liked this game since Astros reliever Jeff Fulchino pitched two scoreless innings and gave the other Astros relievers a breather for the night. Anytime you have a game where you use only two relievers, it's good. One reliever, it's great.
In other news, the Houston Astros believe they know why left-hander Wandy Rodriguez got shelled in the team's recent 10-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
No, Wandy's not dating Madonna. No, he's not a secret agent sent to destroy the Astros. No, he didn't take a payoff from the Rockies; and, no, he wasn't on the performance-unenhancing drug Prozac.
Instead, according to this article, the team believes it was as simple as him accidentally tipping off his pitches to the Rockies.
As MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports, Houston believes Rodriguez had a subtle difference in his delivery that gave away to batters he was throwing a curveball.
That might explain why the Astros were so puzzled by the Rockies hammering on good pitches. You know, the kind Rodriguez either throws past hitters or gets them to hit into outs.
Understand, this is not an accusation against the Rockies. If you're an opposing team and you see the pitcher having a different motion for his fastball, curveball, change-up, etc., it's only fair that you use that to your advantage. Colorado took advantage of it, and my hat's off to them. That sort of thing is difficult to ignore.
I was worried when Rodriguez gave up four home runs, and I hope this explains it better.
They say the same thing happened in the World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks years back when Arizona was feasting on Yankee lefty Andy Pettitte's normally-tough fastball like it was batting practice.
* Hampton throws left-handed but bats right-handed. I am left-handed but can't do anything right-handed. I wonder if some lefties just feel more comfortable hitting right-handed or if Hampton's just ambidextrous.
** Years ago, in his final stint as the New York Yankees manager, Billy Martin became fed up with how lousy his designated hitters were doing (including, coincidentally, former Astro (and current Astro first-base coach) Jose Cruz and had Rick Rhoden DH.
Rhoden was a pitcher (and would later pitch for the Astros) and had a .239 lifetime batting average at the time.
He would hit a sacrifice fly in the game despite not having had batting practice since spring training.