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News » At least the offense looked good JUSTICE: Keppinger a bright spot


At least the offense looked good JUSTICE: Keppinger a bright spot


At least the offense looked good JUSTICE: Keppinger a bright spot
Russ Ortiz hadn't thrown a pitch in the major leagues in 597 days, so it's not like anyone expected him to be perfect.

Sure enough, Mike Fontenot slammed Ortiz's first throw of the season out of the ballpark.

"It wasn't a bad pitch," Ortiz said. "He just caught it."

He was also guessing fastball. Had Ortiz thrown him a change-up, he might have fallen all over himself.

Anyway, it didn't seem to matter at the time because Brian Moehler started the night with his worst outing in almost a year, allowing seven runs in 12/3 innings.

Never mind the two broken-bat hits or the ground ball that skipped inside the right-field foul line. They're all line drives in his sporty 37.80 ERA.

"Those things can happen when you put (the ball) in play," Moehler said. "I didn't give us a chance."

Fontenot's home run off Ortiz made it 8-0.

"Uphill battle," Cecil Cooper said. "If we'd started the game in the third inning, we'd have won."

The Astros lost to the Cubs 11-6 on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park, but it still got interesting.

Jeff Keppinger homered in his first start for his new team. Actually, he called his shot.

When Cooper went out to the mound for a pitching change, he decided to mix in a pep talk.

"You're going to hit a two-run home run and you're going to hit a two-run home run and you're going to hit a two-run home run," he said to the players gathered.

He skipped Keppinger.

"I want in on the action," he said.

Keppinger delivered in the bottom of the third and Lance Berkman followed with one. Pudge Rodriguez, Kaz Matsui and Hunter Pence all went over the wall before the night was gone.

Pitching did them in

And you thought offense was going to be a problem.

"We're going to be OK offensively," Cooper said. "We need to pitch to have success."

If they'd gotten the relief pitching they'd had Tuesday night, things might have gotten really interesting.

Not to worry. How many times do I have to tell you this is a terrific Baseball team? And if it's not, we won't admit it until August at the earliest.

As for Moehler, the last time he gave up more than seven runs was almost three years ago.

That's the beautiful thing about Baseball. You just never know. Actually, the game itself was a bonus.

Sometimes, you don't even have to buy a ticket to get a thrill. First, they named a street for Milo, changing Hamilton on the east side of Minute Maid Park to Milo Hamilton Way, a nice touch for the Hall of Famer.

Mayor Bill White and Drayton McLane were on hand for the ceremony, as was an assortment of players.

Imagine what fans driving down Texas Avenue thought when they saw Big Puma returning to the ballpark in his game jersey.

Look at that, Wanda, Lance wears his uniform to work.

That ceremony would have been enough most nights, but Drayton pulled out all the stops, bringing in seven shuttle astronauts to throw out ceremonial first pitches.

Three of them had better command than Moehler, but that's beside the point.

Keppinger got his first start for his new team. Someone gave him Adam Everett's No. 28. I just hope he knows the responsibility that comes with that number.

Too early to tell

That number stands for the things that once made the Astros great: pitching and defense. A few knuckleheads couldn't wait to get Adam out of town and get a shortstop who would provide offense.

They've got that offensive shortstop in Miguel Tejada, and that offense looked pretty good when the ball began flying out of the park.

They took a game that was lost and stayed in it.

"If we'd thrown up a zero there in the sixth, you never know," Cooper said.

Actually, if Moehler had gotten just a bit luckier, the Astros might have won.

So the Astros lost two of three to the Cubs to open the season and now play three in St. Louis and three in Pittsburgh.

These early games are baby steps of an unfolding season. If the Astros have taught us anything in recent years, it's that these games don't really tell you what the club will be in August and September.

Let's remind one another of that along the way. The joy is in the journey, or something like that.

richard.justice@chron.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 10, 2009

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