After six straight road losses the Astros returned home Friday night looking to change their fortunes. Unfortunately the result was one that is becoming too familiar to Astros fans. Friday’s opponent, the Cincinnati Reds, jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 4-1 victory.
J.A. Happ pitched well enough to win but the offense appeared to be suffering from a serious case of jet lag. Happ gave up three runs on five hits and two walks in his seven innings of work. J.A. struck out seven and threw 66 of his 101 pitches for strikes. Happ induced a couple of timely double-play grounders and managed to keep the ball in the ballpark while he was in the game. Brandon Phillips‘ double was the only extra-base hit he allowed.
The Astros donned their infamous rainbow jerseys as part of the team’s “Flashback Friday” promotion. The uniform that was worn in the late seventies and early eighties failed to produce any magic on this evening. It did, however, take me back to the days of players like Alan Ashby, Enos Cabell, and Bob Watson.
One of the greatest Astros of that era was honored before the game with his induction into the Astros Walk of Fame. The career of James Rodney Richard was celebrated with a 3:00 ceremony that included the unveiling of his star on the sidewalk along Texas Avenue. J.R. also threw out the ceremonial first (wild) pitch prior to the game.
Last night’s festivities were memorable but the Astros performance on the field was not. Happ left the game for pinch-hitter Justin Maxwell, who promptly struck out. Wesley Wright gave up a ninth inning homer to Jay Bruce, (I think Bruce’s contract states he must hit a homerun in every game against the Astros) and Aroldis Chapman came in and struck out the side in the ninth inning. The Astros looked clueless against Chapman and his 100 m.p.h. heater even though they had been quite successful against him in the past.
Carlos Lee left the game in the eighth inning after suffering an apparent hamstring injury on a double-play groundout. The horizontal stripes of the throwback uniforms didn’t do any favors for the big man’s look. I suspect he will miss the rest of the series and a stint on the disabled list is also a possibility.
I got to meet several of my fellow internet baseball reporters at the game thanks to the Astros and Alyson Footer. It was the first ever “blogger night” organized the club and included a visit from Jeff Luhnow. Stay tuned for more on that later.