This one hurt.

Hats off to Hunter Pence. It couldn’t have been easy to stand at his locker and explain in full detail his eighth-inning at-bat against Arthur Rhodes, but he did it. And he did it well. He addressed us immediately, got it over with, and I applaud him for how he handled the whole thing.

“I’m going to be a winner,” he said. “I’m going to find a way. In those times, I want to be up to bat. This time, I didn’t get them, but tomorrow’s a new day. This is where you find out what you’re made of, when times get rough.”

The Astros, collectively, are not good offensively right now. They’re either last or close to last in some pretty important categories — runs, average, hits, RBIs. This is a collective struggle. But Monday night, the focus was on Pence, who looked at a called third strike with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Astros down by a run.

Geoff Blum always provides great perspective, and he didn’t disappoint this time when talking about Pence.

“I’ve been hitting behind him for just a couple of games now,” he said. “And after watching last year and hitting behind him this year, even I get to be a part-time fan when I’m sitting on deck. I expect him to do something amazing, because I think he’s built for it. He’s worked hard to get to that point. But this game is harsh. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that time, but there’s plenty more game left. I know Hunter’s going to relish every chance he has to be in that situation.”

____________________________

Cecil Cooper chose Geoff Geary after Mike Hampton yielded a base hit in the seventh inning for a couple of reasons. One was simple default — Jeff Fulchino was unavailable because he’s pitched a lot in the last couple of days, and Chris Sampson was also unavailable. Cooper didn’t expand on it when pressed on Sampson, so I’m guessing Sampson is still not recovered from that hip problem he encountered while executing an out at first base the other night. I’ll check on that tomorrow.

Anyway, back to Geary. Concerned?

“I don’t have any concern, he’s just not pitching the way he pitched a year ago,” Cooper said. “He’s struggling a little bit. All we can do is keep running him out there, and I don’t think there’s anything mechanically wrong.”

___________________________

Puma tied Craig Biggio for second on the club’s all-time home run list with 291. Next up, Jeff Bagwell’s 449. It’s going to be a while.

13 Comments

I’m a little surprised it hasn’t been brought up that it wasn’t Pence’s first time striking out with the bases loaded in this series; I saw him do it in person on Saturday and tonight. I believe he did it one other time as well, and we loaded the bases several times in this series to no avail. I hope we get it together, that pesky LA club flying into town just happens to be 10-3.

Hunter battled hard in that at-bat. Nine pitches — eight of them inside, most of those up. Then Rhodes lays a fastball low and away… that ain’t easy. You’re looking in, looking in, looking in. Fouling them off, fighting for your life. You know he’s going to go outside at some point, you just don’t know when. And when it finally happened, Hunter watched it go by. That was a hard-nosed at-bat. He has nothing to be ashamed of there.

http://houston.mlblogs.com

I didn’t see anything wrong with Hunter’s at bat in the eight. He showed patience on balls out of the strike zone, took several very aggressive hacks, and took what appeared to be ball four, both live and on replay. I know you have to protect with two strikes, but I can’t blame Hunter for not swinging at that pitch. Why the ump felt the need to bail Rhodes out of a bases loaded jam in that situation is beyond me.

The only thing I saw Hunter do wrong tonight was try to stretch a single into a double. I don’t mind aggressive base running, but he had no chance on that one.

107 left on base in 13 games. Bottom 8 in HR, AVG, OBP and SLG. We’re 29th (just ahead of the Giants) in Runs and RBI. Yeah…the offense is hurting right now.

I’m disappointed with the called third strike to Hunter, Lee in the previous at bat took that same pitch twice for balls and Hunter actually got a strike and a ball for that same pitch, then got run up on the third one, not to mention it was below the knees. Hunter and Bourne both have done a lot better with plate discipline and staying away from bad pitches out of the zone.

I don’t mind him getting rung up on that pitch, but the calls for that location were inconsistent.

Cooper isn’t concerned but they lost two games in a row by putting Geary in (and too early too, IMO). I know, if they scored more runs this might be a moot point but they have to find a way to win these close games. They had the lead and it appeared that Hampton had things under control and could go at least 7 innings – then bring in your setup guy and the closer. And what happened to Wesley Wright? Surely Geary isn’t the ONLY choice?

I don’t think Hunter was hosed on that call. It was at the knees and on the corner. It’s a pitch that gets called a strike 90% of the time, maybe 100% of the time in a situation like that. What bothered me was this.

1) Cooper electing to sacrifice Michaels over to 3rd after his lead off double. I suscribe to the Moneyball philosophy in this situation and don’t believe it’s a good decesion to give away an out. I’d do it if Michaels had just got a single and we were sacrificing over to second.

2) Despite my disagreement with the decesion to sacrifice, Lance Berkman’s execution with a runner on 3rd and 1 out hurt more than Pence taking a called 3rd strike. Unacceptable for our best hitter.

Kershaw is going to be tough tonight. That guy is sick.

Oh yeah, not surprised Hunter handled the media the way he did. It’s obvious he’s got a great head on his shoulders. I just hope he can live up to the potential everyone thinks he has because this lineup needs it desperately. Especially if he’s going to be hitting 5-hole. He’s taking the right approach, but an 0-4 start with the bases loaded needs to get turned around fast.

The most frustrating part for me has been how many we have left on base. Over the last 4 losses we have left on 6-7-8-7, that is pretty bad. A few clutch hits and we win those games, well except for that pirates game we lost by 7. But still that is 3 less losses.

Well, I noticed the Phillies just signed David Newhan and assigned him to triple A. Looking at our present situation, Smith hitting .000 and striking out one half of his 17 at bats, well what is going to happen if Matsui goes down or one of our outfielders??? I remember some of Newhan’s plays last year at both 2nd and in the outfield. Didn’t a couple of them end up on Sports Center? And if we end up with an injury at third, I believe, Newhan filled in for a third of a season at Baltimore and batted .313. It’s time for management to look into getting Newhan back. He is a proven Major Leaguer and has more speed than most.

4 to 3 now, Astros! Yea baby! Everything is so much better when they hit! Long way to go in this game though…

I thought Pence had a good at bat, although not a good outcome. A bad at bat would have been Pence swinging wildly at balls in the dirt. (It’s happened before…) I could imagine a little voice in his head chanting “patience, patience, patience….” It could just as well have gone the other way and he’d have tied the game with a walk. And if he had hit that last pitch, where would it have gone – maybe a ground out? Good for Pence for being patient at the plate.

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