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Astros still looking for light at end of tunnel


Last updated 8/15/2012 at Noon

What few Houston Astros fans that remain had a glimmer of hope last weekend that the huge transformation process of what’s left of their major league baseball team may possibly be nearing an end.

Despite the fact the Astros record this season was 1 and 64 when the team was behind after eight innings, the Good Guys of Minute Maid Park actually roared from a 3-2 eighth-inning deficit Friday night and captured their first walk-off victory of the season 4-3 over the Milwaukee Brewers on Brian Bogusevic’s RBI single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Bogey’s teammates mobbed the pitcher-turned-outfielder as if the Astros became eligible for the World Series and carried their beehive dance all the way into the outfield of Minute Maid Park to the delight of the 21,025 surprised fans who were hoping something good would happen on this night when the Astros wore their throwback white uniform with the blue and gold star from the 1994-1999 seasons.

“It was so huge,” newcomer outfielder Steve Pearce told the reporter from the Houston Chronicle after he tied the score at 3-3 with an RBI single to center field. “We’ve been in so many games like this going down to the wire, and haven’t been able to pull it out.

“This game, it was just huge. New series, new team came into town. It’s great for everybody in the clubhouse. We needed it. To be able to just come back and pull out a W, it was just a great feeling,” Pearce continued.

It was only the Astros’ fourth victory since the All-Star break and just the fifth in the last 39 games, but it snapped a five-game losing streak.

And just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, Houston duplicated the feat 24 hours later on Saturday night and even went one step farther by winning their FIRST extra-inning game of the season on a walk-off single by another newcomer, versatile infielder Scott Moore, who poked a single to left field past a drawn-in, five-man infield to down the Brewers 6-5.

Actually Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke brought left fielder Ryan Braun in to play third base and had five infielders drawn in on the grass in hopes of cutting the winning run off at home plate after Houston loaded the bases with nobody out.

Once again there was a mob scene and the beehive dance around Moore as the Astros celebrated the victory again wearing their same throwback white uniforms with the blue-and-gold-trimmed logo from the late 1990’s.

The extra-inning win prevented Houston from becoming the first team since the 1969 Montreal Expos to go winless in 12-straight extra-inning games. The Astros now are 1-11 in extra innings this season.

“When you don’t do it all season and you do it in back-to-back nights,” manager Brad Mills told the Houston Chronicle reporter, “it’s really nice and everyone enjoys it.”

However, the magic of the throwback uniforms wore off after only two games as the Astros dropped Sunday’s contest to Milwaukee 5-3, despite having the tying runs on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. But they did win the three-game series, which is a step in the right direction.

Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow had been wheeling and dealing for the last two months, trading off some of the high-salaried veteran players and getting young, raw minor league prospects in return and obtaining a few major leaguers through trades and the waiver wire.

This transformation has been driving new owner Jim Crane batty, but he is all for letting Luhnow and his baseball staff evaluate Mills between now and the end of the season with the players he’s given to use.

Crane said in an interview over the All-Star break that he’d never lost this much in anything in his life and then watched his team flounder and struggle after the All-Star break.

The new owner talked Friday after losing four straight home games to the Washington Nationals about the pains of the rebuilding process which he said was necessary to improve the farm system, but bad for the heart.

Crane doesn’t see doom because of the prospects Luhnow has brought in—15 of them in six July trades plus a good draft and a few recent transactions.

He is hopeful Houston can rebound from the trading activity as quickly as the Oakland Athletics did after trading away two of their best pitchers in the off-season.

“When you look at Oakland, they weren’t supposed to be able to compete for a few years, and yet they’re running after the wild card today,” Crane told the Chronicle.

“The good thing about our situation—we have a lot more money than they will at the end of the day, and we should be able to build.”

Crane is smart enough to realize that the Astros will have to do some wheeling and dealing and scrutinize the free-agent market during the coming off-season.

After all, his team is playing in the fourth-largest city in America that has the potential to be a baseball town again and will have a new television network for the fan base. That’s got to be some steps in the right direction.

KWICKIES…The United States led the way in the 2012 Olympic Games with 104 medals, with 46 being gold, their highest total at a “road” Olympics. Mike Krzyzewski upped his U.S. Olympic basketball coaching mark to a record 62-1 as his team edged past Spain 107-100 to win the gold medal. China finished second in the medal count with 87, including 38 gold, Russia was third with 82 and 24 gold while the hosting Great Britain was fourth with 65 medals including 19 gold.

Sunset Grove Country Club’s Women’s Golf Association had its annual tournament last weekend to decide the club championship and President’s Cup winners and Debbie LeBlanc won the club championship and Nancy Wood finished second. The President’s Cup was won by Debra Norman with Joann Alford finishing second.

And while on the subject of Sunset Grove golfers, Bob Hoepner shot the best round of his life last weekend with a 38-40—78.

The Houston Texans used a 90-yard kickoff return by former LSU scatback Trindon Holliday and a blitzing tenacious defense orchestrated by defensive coordinator and Orange native Wade Phillips to throttle the Carolina Panthers 26-13 Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C. But the Texans will have to replace defensive lineman Shaun Cody who suffered a disc injury to his back.

The Dallas Cowboys, who played Monday night after this Korner was put to bed, have hired former defensive lineman Leon Lett as an assistant line coach. Hopefully Lett will use the coaching philosophy of “do what I say and not what I do” referring to his blunder on that snowy Thanksgiving Day when he unsuccessfully tried to recover a blocked kick and it cost the Cowboys a win against Miami.

Aging wide receiver Chad Johnson (who changed his name back from Ochocinco) was recently given a chance to make the Miami Dolphins’ team but blew that chance last weekend when the team released him one day after he was arrested in a domestic battery case involving his wife of barely a month.

Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu was booted off the LSU football team Friday for breaking an athletic department rule. The junior defensive back—nicknamed Honey Badger for his tenacious style, small stature (5-9, 175 pounds) and blonde streak of hair—came out of nowhere to become one of college football’s biggest stars last season. Don’t be surprised if Mathieu shows up on the roster of a Southland Conference team before long.

JUST BETWEEN US…Young Rory McIlroy stole the show Sunday that was supposed to belong to Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and a few of the PGA Tour veterans in the final round of the PGA Championship. Instead the 23-year-old phenom from Northern Ireland put the pedal to the metal and left the field in the dust to win by a record-setting eight strokes over runner-up David Lynn. Due to inclement weather conditions on Saturday, McIlroy was forced to play 27 holes Sunday and his young, strong body held up to the challenge. His 13-under-par 275 earned McIlroy a cool $1.445 million with his second career major victory, the same number Tiger had won at his age.


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