It's tough doing the work of six men, so that's why this game report is winging its way to you about a day late. Rob at least has a good excuse - he and his wife were due on Monday to bring their first child into the world, so I hope you'll all join me in hoping that mother and child did and are doing well and that the new proud father will soon return bearing cute baby photos, tales of sleepless nights and big happy smile all over his face.
Roger Clemens won't be smiling though. He's having to do the job of not six men, but about fifteen or so, and at the age of forty-two, more than half of which you've spent hurling a baseball at hapless hitters, that can take its toll. Clemens had been cruising - he'd retired ten hitters in a row. But, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, he then walked Enrique Wilson, which is about as clear a sign as any that a pitcher's injured. A coaching visit to the mound followed, and though Clemens retired the next batter to end the inning, he immediately left for the locker room, leaving the final four frames and a 2-0 lead in the hands of his bullpen. Injured groin or not though, he may have been better advised to stay in the game given the way the Cubs put together a four-run rally off the wild Brad Lidge in the eighth to secure their fourth come-from-behind win in their last seven games (over which they're 5-2).
It's becoming increasingly difficult to assess a pitcher when they're throwing against the Houston offence, but, even taking that into account, Sergio Mitre turned in a pretty impressive outing. Only Craig Biggio seemed able to generate any really hard hit balls, two foul down the left field line and one that on any other given day without the wind blowing in would have made its way out of the park for a home run. Instead, it held up just at the ivy at the kink in the left field wall, and though it was a far from routine play, Dubois at this level ought to have made it rather than leaping and coming up with nothing but air. Faced with second and third with no outs, Mitre remained composed, following with three meek groundballs and a strikeout (both runners in scoring position did score though, the first on a botched fielder's choice, the second on a botched double play). And that, coming in the fourth inning, was all the Astros could muster off Mitre. He threw all four of his pitches for strikes, mixing them up and changing speeds well, and getting his usual strew of groundballs. He walked just the one and struck out five. Encouraging. It must have been the facial hair holding him back last year.
When he left after the seventh inning, it looked as though his performance would be in vain. Clemens had dominated, and the Astros' bullpen had added two scoreless innings. Jason Dubois though went a long way to atoning for his earlier fielding "error" by leading off with a double, and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Todd Hollandsworth singled him home with one out. With the tying run on board, the Astros turned to Lidge. Two walks, two wild pitches and a huge clutch Jeromy Burnitz single with two outs and the bases loaded did the job of turning the game around. Ryan Dempster then went 1-2-3 in the ninth again. And with that, the Cubs ran their winning streak to three.
And Todd Walker will be back for tonight.