DOWN THE LINE
Three Days in ...
If their hitters aren’t going to help, Astros pitchers are on their own in the chase for the wild card, the defending National League champions’ only remaining route to the playoffs.
Roy Oswalt has a sore wrist, Roger Clemens just gave up five runs in six innings to the Cubs and Brad Lidge is out again as closer.
Right-hander Jason Hirsh, by way of Cal Lutheran, La Canada St. Francis High and Toluca Little League, won his first big league game Thursday and gets a crucial start this week against the Reds.
If he sticks in the rotation, Hirsh will have three consecutive starts on the road, at Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
The probables: Monday -- Andy Pettitte vs. Bronson Arroyo; Tuesday -- Hirsh or Oswalt vs. Kyle Lohse; Wednesday -- Hirsh or Oswalt vs. Chris Michalak.
Donny Rowland, a good baseball man and the Angels’ former director of scouting who drafted or signed Ervin Santana, Howie Kendrick, Joe Saunders, Mike Napoli, Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman and Dallas McPherson, was part of the recent purge in Kansas City, where he was senior director of player personnel.
He missed on a few as well, as they all do, and with the Angels had particular trouble with the seventh round.
Not in finding a good player, but in signing him.
In 2000, the Angels took infielder Aaron Hill, who went to Louisiana State instead.
In 2001, they took left-hander Rich Hill, who returned to Michigan.
In 2002, they took outfielder Jeff Leise -- the only one of the three who didn’t pan out somewhere -- and he went back to Nebraska.
So, in the weeks before the 2003 draft, Rowland’s scouts playfully suggested they should handle the seventh round. When it arrived, Rowland turned to his room of cross-checkers and said, “All right, who are we taking?”
The scouts chose an outfielder from Oklahoma. Reggie Willits signed.
Bats and Pieces
Congratulations to umpire Bruce Froemming, who worked his 5,000th big league game Wednesday in Boston, and along the way, amassed perhaps as many autographed baseballs.
For the first time in the modern era, there might not be a 20-game winner in the majors. There hasn’t been a no-hitter since May 18, 2004, when Randy Johnson stoned the Braves. Pass the greenies.
In a Sports Illustrated poll, major leaguers chose the 10 slowest players. Seven, including Bengie Molina and Mike Piazza, were catchers, a list the Devil Rays were stunned to discover did not include former teammate and current Dodger Toby Hall.
Rocco Baldelli told the St. Petersburg Times, “I’m not going to say for sure that Toby was the slowest, but for him not to be included on the list at all leads me to question the validity of the entire poll. He earned the right to be on that list.”
Wait till they see his first step getting out of L.A.
Incidentally, Molina’s triple Thursday night against the Devil Rays was his first in six years.
If you’re the first-place A’s, is there anything more satisfying than seeing the two teams tied for second rolling around on the infield in Texas?
With the ensuing suspensions, pitching staffs are disrupted, hitters’ routines are damaged, and it is quite likely the American League West title was decided Wednesday night.
One More Thing From ...
The kid from Burbank, and the only thing left to root for in Pittsburgh, on the final weeks of the NL batting race, to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“Are you kidding me? Look at these guys. Miguel Cabrera? Unbelievable player. Chipper [Jones], too. [Albert] Pujols. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that any of those guys can win it with a month and a half left.”
-- Tim Brown