All Things Baseball

Astros Need Clemens To Provide Spark

The Houston Astros are lagging behind in the NL Central division, 7 games behind the Cardinals at 36-34, and are coming off what might've been their worst weekends in awhile. Friday, the Astros lost 7-2 to the Kansas City Royals (baseball's worst team) at home. They bounced back to win a 7-2 verdict on Saturday, but were again defeated by KC on Sunday, by a final of 7-4. This was just the Royals 3rd series win on the road this season. Losing 2 of 3 to baseball's worst team could not have been expected from the reigning NL champions, and it certainly didn't help Houston gain ground on th Cardinals and Reds. This past week was the easiest on the Astros 2006 schedule, with 3 games against the Cubs (whom the Astros swept) and 3 games against the Royals (of which Houston lost 2). Going 4-2 on the easiest week of your schedule isn't terrible, but it definitely doesn't meet the high expectations Minute Maid fans have for their team.

Not to worry…help is on the way…ROCKET SPEED! (ok, that sounded a little superhero-ish, but that's what Clemens will need to be)

The Astros starting pitching so far this year has been well under expectations. You could point the finger at the early injury to Brandon Backe; you could point at the absence of the Rocket; but you can't explain the sudden downfall of expected Cy Young candidate Andy Pettitte, or the inconsistency of Roy Oswalt. The early savior for the Astros was Taylor Buchholz, the team's top pitching prospect who was described as "Johan Santana without the strikeouts". Hold off on those Santana comparisons for now, because Buchholz has been shellacked his last several outings, and his ERA has been inflated from just over 2, to 5.82.

You know your starting rotation is having problems when your #5 starter is leading your team in wins. If someone asked you which Astros pitcher would have the lead in wins in mid-June, there is no way you would have said Wandy Rodriguez. Well, hindsight is 20/20 and here we are on June 20th with Wandy Rodriguez as the Astros most consistent and winningest pitcher, going 8-4 with a 4.59ERA.

All of this could change very rapidly on Thursday, when Roger Clemens makes his 2006 debut against the Twins and top-rookie Francisco Liriano. If the Rocket comes back and doesn't miss a beat (pretty unlikely), he could quickly end the Astros starting pitching woes and make the starting rotation a strength. On the other hand, if Clemens struggles, the Astros will likely find themselves out of playoff contention by August.

This shows the importance of Roger Clemens to the Houston Astros. He's a 40-something year old guy with an attitude who might be out of baseball after this season, but he's also the only person who can help the Astros get back to their 2005 form.


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