Wanted: wins. Gall saves the day.
Prior to Saturday’s game, manager Cecil Cooper was fuming about the Astros being shut out two times in eight games. As I watched the ninth inning between the Astros and Cardinals later that afternoon, I wondered how Coop would react to the Astros being shut out three times in nine games, which, if an historical account of Grapefruit League stats actually existed, could very well have proven to be a record.
Thanks to John Gall, we don’t have to pretend to research that little factoid. With two outs in the ninth, Gall doubled home Chris Johnson, which allowed the Astros to lose 5-1 instead of 5-0. It’s the little things that keep us going, no?
So even though the Astros haven’t won since their first game of the Grapefruit League season — save for their win over Panama, which doesn’t count as a win in the league standings — there are a few positives to draw from this game. Mike Hampton looked OK, and he said he feels like he’s getting better every time out. Hampton allowed two runs over three innings, but he breezed through his first two frames, retiring six consecutive batters.
Russ Ortiz, my pick to be the fifth starter, didn’t do so well. He allowed three runs over 2 2/3 innings and admitted later he didn’t feel comfortable for very much of this outing.
“I was just off,” he said. “Timing-wise, I was just late. I was trying to force everything, trying to catch up.
“The first inning, I was fine. I came out the second inning and I was just off, from the get-go. You get frustrated and start thinking too much, at least that’s what I did. You’re almost kind of thinking when you want to throw [inside], I tell myself,
‘Make sure it’s in,’ instead of just, ‘OK, fastball in, here it is.’ With those thoughts in your head, you’re fighting an uphill battle.”
The next time through the rotation, Ortiz can expect to start a game, rather than enter in the middle as he has his first three spring outings.
I know it’s only Spring Training, but the Astros could really, really use a win right about now. Sunday in Bradenton would be a good time to start.