Random thoughts after an Astros win.

A close game became a laugher Monday night thanks to a collective defensive meltdown on the part of the Braves, who threw the ball around long enough for Chris Johnson to get that rare inside the park single, also known as a good old fashioned “Little League home run.” But even without that gift inning, there were several positives from this game that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Since his callup, Brett Wallace has sat out a couple of games when the Astros were facing lefties, but manager Brad Mills assured him he was not going to make this a platoon situation. He was true to his word in the opener with the Braves, and Wallace answered with two hits — both off left-handed pitchers.

If a lefty hitter is going to have success at the big league level, he’s going to have to be able to maintain a respectable average against left-handed pitchers. It’s just how it is, and there’s no real way around it. There are often growing pains, as we’ve seen with Michael Bourn, but in my humble opinion, the best way to get a hitter acclimated to hitting lefties is to simply play him. In a season such as this one, where the team is not headed to the playoffs and the club is looking at a slew of young hitters in an effort to figure out what it has for ’11, there’s no better time to play against the percentages and play these lefties against left-handed pitchers. The Astros are without a doubt attempting to win every game they play this year, but with playoff implications not on the line, I say, throw the kids out there and play them, regardless of the numbers.

I’ve heard from a lot of you wondering if there’s cause for concern regarding Jason Castro. I apply the same line of thinking: this is the perfect time to keep playing him, no matter what, and give him all the time he needs to figure things out. In the past, young players barely scraping the .200 mark found themselves shipped off to the Minor Leagues after a short sampling, because there was much, much more on the line. Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett come to mind. They were the starting third baseman and shortstop on Opening Day in 2002, but they both were sent out pretty early to work on their offense. Back then, the team was considered a contender, and there wasn’t much time to wait for them to figure things out. These days, there’s time.

I like the youth on this club and I think a lot of these guys have a future in the big leagues. But there are always growing pains involved, and Castro was rushed to the big leagues after less than a half-season at Triple-A. So let’s give this time, let it play out, have him continue to work with hitting coach Jeff Bagwell and see where we are at the end of the season.

That brings me to the next topic: Bagwell. I will be the first to admit that as much as I respect his knowledge and admire his keen ability to work with young players (we received a taste of this during the Elite Camps from a few years ago. He has no airs about him, blended in well and really was able to communicate with the young hitters), I didn’t think adding him to the coaching staff was going to make that much of a difference. I’m still hesitant to give him all of the credit for what’s been going on here lately, but I do believe he’s made a difference. As a player, Bagwell was probably one of the smartest hitters and baserunners in the game. He could see hitting as a science, but he was also so, so good at not letting the mental part of the game wear him down.

If he can pass that along to the kids on the team today, it could reap huge rewards.

Some notes from the Astros’ win over the Braves Monday night:

The Astros have won six consecutive games at Minute Maid Park, dating back to their previous homestand. It’s their longest home winning streak since they won nine straight in August and September of 2008.

Bud Norris has pitched six-plus innings in four consecutive starts.

Hitting third in the lineup, Jeff Keppinger is hitting .480 with two walks, two homers and eight RBIs. The Astros are 5-1 in the six games he’s hit third.

Bourn leads the National League with 36 stolen bases.

______________

Other stuff:

Matt Lindstrom will meet fans and sign autographs at the Whataburger restaurant located at 7418 S. Sam Houston Parkway West, Houston, TX 77085 from
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday. The appearance, part of the Whataburger Ultimate “Whatafan” promotion gives fans the chance to register to win the title of Ultimate “Whatafan.” The Ultimate “Whatafan” will win suite tickets, autographed jerseys and caps from the Astros, Round Rock Express and Corpus Christi Hooks, an on-field batting practice visit, the chance to participate in a pre-game ceremony and an opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

The Astros Wives 21st Annual Black Ties and Baseball Caps Gala will be held on Thursday (Aug. 12) at Minute Maid Park. Chaired by Morgan Keppinger and Heather Byrdak, the event benefiting the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) will be attended by current and former Astros players and will be emceed by Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton.

The signature event, themed “A Night in Paradise” includes a cocktail reception and silent auction at 6 p.m. followed by dinner and a live auction at 7 p.m. The mission of the Houston Area Women’s Center is to help individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence in their efforts to move their lives forward by providing shelter, counseling and advocacy to live lives free from the effects of violence.

Members of the Coca-Cola Astros Buddies Kids Club are invited to attend the end of the summer, members-only autograph party on Friday (Aug. 13). The event is at Minute Maid Park from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. and scheduled to appear are Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon, Bud Norris, Castro, Pedro Feliz, Johnson, Angel Sanchez and Jason Bourgeois. In addition to the autographs, kids will enjoy free games, magicians, balloon artists, face painting and other entertainment.

The Coca-Cola Astros Buddies Kids Club is for kids 14 and under and membership benefits include Astros tickets, the members-only autograph party, Hunter Pence mini-bobblehead, 2010 Astros Buddies collectible baseball cap and much more for only $15.

Astros are on Facebook

Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter

Check out Astros witticisms at PumaOneLiners 

Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com

11 Comments

Alyson…..Brad Mills FINALLY has a good little club to manage, and it shows! He is as excited as these guys are.
Maybe it was the Oswalt trade issues, or Lance hitting rock
bottom, but these guys are young and hungry. You’re right
about Castro. He HAS to get in there and take his at bats
before ANYONE (Ed Wade) makes any changes. The fans
here will be very happy campers, if this is the team that
comes back for 2011. This team is one pitcher, and one big bat away from contending. I’m having a good time watching
these kiddos go about the business of winning baseball
games! Becky:) :) :) :)

I always love hearing from you Becky, you’re a breath of fresh air! I appreciate your optimism and enthusiam. You’re the best! Alyson

Alyson…as usual you are spot on in your assessments. I have a question for you, do you think Bagwell will want to be full-time hitting coach next season if they do offer him that opportunity? I know right now is a trial for him to see if he enjoys it & to see if he is effective in it.

The team never was able to hit under Sean Berry, & I do think that Jeff has a better grasp of the finite details of hitting that Berry did not. Castro needs to learn from Bagwell & try things out during games. We have nothing to lose at this point but to let him work on it. I am more excited to watch now than at the beginning of the season because I see progress in Brad Mills & Ed Wade growth in the franchise.

I’m with you: Bagwell may have something to do with all the offense we’re getting lately. I think another main reason is all the rookies we put on the field every night. They want to play. They’re happy to be in the big league and it shows on the field. This changes the whole dynamic in this team. Carlos, Jeff, etc they all said it was a different atmosphere in the club house.
At the beginning of the season, some veterans didn’t believe in the team and were simply going thru the motion, with no real enthusiasm. It’s so much more fun to watch the Astros than it was two weeks ago.

Bagwells influence has been a boost to the team, but I believe that the passing of the trade deadline has helped as well. I’m sure many players had concerns about being involved in trades or which teamates might be shipped out. Even players who are playing well must have the same concerns as those who are not.

My family has enjoyed many trips to Round Rock and Corpus. We love watching familiar faces, even if they have to take a few lumps along the way.

One of the things about Bagwell that is forever ingrained in my memory wasn’t all the hitting feats, it was his baserunning and especially his fielding on bunts. In my mind very few people ever put fear into hearts of other teams like Bagwell did when he start to cover a bunt…he literally pounced on the ball, and was all over it. If memory serves, once the word got out that Bag’s shoulder issues were taking its toll, more managers started bunting to his side. He was a true artist in the field, though not your prototype height for a first baseman. But I would have him at 1st over anyone anyday. If Wallace can learn a thing or two from him in the field…his temp role as a hitting coach will pay off. There’s more to him than hitting, that’s for sure. :)

Alyson…I read every one of your blogs and have never left a comment, but I’ll make it short. I’ve looked at other teams’ websites and it seems the Stros are in the minority for having an in depth social networking reporter that provides so much behind the scenes news, notes, and pics. How lucky we are! Also, I am a Houston transplant living in Austin and will be heading to the Diamond tonight to see Lyles’ AAA debut. I’ll try to report back on this fan’s perspective tomorrow. Go Stros/Express! And thank you again for all of your blogs!!!

Alyson…..a lot of us are regulars of Chip Bailey’s fan blog,
and we are all trying to get together at MM, for a “meet and greet” with Chip. He is a life long fan of the Astros, and
knows your Astros beat very well! There are SOOO many
die-hard Astro fans, and we really “care” about this team!
When we set the date up, we would love for you to come
and meet some of the best Astro fans on earth! Would you
like to meet us?? Let me know, and I’ll pass the word along to Chip. We are trying to get a date in Sep. during a home
stand. Thanks for all you do! Becky:) :) :)

Sure, Becky…sounds good. Email me at afooter@astros.com when you have the details. Thanks!

ma2td…thanks for the nice comment. Many other teams have jumped into the social media craze but yes, the Astros were a little ahead of the curve in creating the new position so early. It’s been a lot of fun. Glad you’re enjoying it!

donniebaker, if Jeff wants to continue doing the job I would imagine the Astros will want him too…it’ll depend on if Bags wants to continue on. We’ll see.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 249 other followers

%d bloggers like this: