Costly loss for Astros on Sunday
If the Astros’ playoff hopes comes down to the final weekend of the season as they have done so many times in the past, they will be able to point at Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers as perhaps the game that sunk them.
One strike away from polishing off a three-game sweep of the Tigers, Brandon Inge hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Jose Valverde to send Detroit to a win. What makes the loss even more difficult for the Astros is they squandered a great chance to gain ground in the National League Central Division.
The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, who began Sunday tied for first place, both lost. Instead of being three games out, the Astros remain four games behind the division leaders.
“This one hurts real bad,” manager Cecil Cooper said. “Probably the worst one of the year for me. We had a chance to sweep a very good team. We held them at bay all day with some great pitching and then we let it slip. It hurts real bad. I’m going to say that. Real bad. It was a chance for us to get close to the guys at the top, but we let it slip.”
Now the Astros will play their final road trip prior to the All-Star break, beginning with a four-game series at San Diego that begins Monday. The Astros will play at San Francisco next weekend.
“San Diego is a kind of youngish team with a lot of talent, kind of a mixed grab of talent,” Cooper said. “But I think they’re very capable, but we have to go there and not take them lightly. We have to go there and play hard and aggressive the way we’ve been playing.
“San Francisco has a great pitching staff so we have to go there and be ready to play. It’s a big [road trip].”
And kudos for Russ Ortiz for another well-pitched game. He went a season-high 7 1/3 innings Sunday and allowed two runs on six hits to lower his ERA to 3.36 ERA. The Astros have a tough decision ahead when Mike Hampton comes off the disabled list, but Ortiz has certainly pitched well enough to stay in the rotation.