Earlier this year, James from Astros County and I agreed to do something to note each series that Houston and St. Louis played against each other. This time around, it's a blog swap. You can see my comments over at his blog soon (edit--it's up now), but for now, read how a devoted Astros fan sees the upcoming series.
Alright, Cardinals fans, I hope you can put aside the fact that you're going to win the NL Central for a few minutes and listen to the grumblings of an Astros fan. The time before the last time we met, we Astros fans left feeling pretty good about ourselves. The Astros had just swept the Cardinals, and we were riding high - two one-run wins, and a game back of the NL Central lead. And then everything went to hell for the Astros. After that third game, the Astros were 49-46, and I was ready to send a steaming bag of poo to Baseball Prospectus (who predicted the Astros would go 66-96, finishing behind the Pirates for last place). But then age and injuries caught up with the Astros. Lance Berkman went on the DL and Roy Oswalt was dealing with back problems around the same time. Russ Ortiz would be released within a week of the sweep against the Cardinals; and the Astros are 12-17 since that sweep, including winning four of our last five games.
As far as I'm concerned, at least the Cubs are right there with us.
It's astonishing what Matt Holliday has done for you since that trade. Initially I was all for this trade, because Mozeliak was mortgaging the future for a guy who was hitting .286. Then you got Julio Lugo, and I was basically clapping with glee. I may have wet my pants - we'll never know as the evidence has been laundered. Now I'm scared to death that Holliday going to pull a McGwire and love St. Louis so much that he signs an extension. This is the one instance in which I hope he's a greedy SOB allows Boras to be his own personal Uncle Pennybags -as long as it's not St. Louis. And I'm equally scared that Lugo was just sand-bagging his career with the Astros, Rays, and Red Sox, and has decided to explode now. Because with Holliday in the lineup, there's just no comparing the Astros and Cardinals respective lineups. On paper, the Astros should be right there - but they're just...not. They're too old. And that's frustrating. But offense wasn't going to be a big problem for Houston, the question all along was the rotation. I said it before: If Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz are the answer, then Ed Wade is asking the wrong question. Now Ortiz is gone, and Mike Hampton's arm has predictably detached from his shoulder. So this series won't affect the Astros' 2009 too much, but it gives us Astros fans hope, because owner Drayton McLane will most likely be watching, and we're just hoping that he'll notice what a team with a balance in free agency/trades and minor league talent looks like.
On to this series: Part of the reason the Astros swept you back in July was because of the pitching matchups. Now those move more favorably towards you this time around. We have to deal with Wainwright and Carpenter and an emerging Pineiro. Luckily for Houston, we have Oswalt and Magic Wandy going this series. I think Oswalt will take the Wednesday game, Carpenter will take the Thursday game against Moehler, and the rubber match will actually be the first game of the series, with Wandy vs. Wainwright. Your offense gets the nod, and I fully expect you to take the series. With the Cubs hosting the Nationals, there's the potential that the Nationals could screw up and win two of those games.
Basically Houston is 10 back with 38 to play. Even if the Astros somehow pull off a sweep, one of our beat writers tells us, we still have to be seven games better than you - in 35 games - to win the division. That's a tall order, even for a "second-half team," a term meeting a timely end this season. So here's to finishing ahead of the Cubs.