Late-inning moves bode well for Mills

The return of Lance Berkman was a great deal for the Astros, who got two RBIs from Puma in their 7-5 win over Florida on Tuesday. The Astros have suddenly won four of five games and three in a row and continue to put their 0-8 start in the rearview mirror.

All three wins — the final two wins over Chicago on Saturday and Sunday and Tuesday’s win over Florida — have been nail-biters, although Jason Michaels put Tuesday’s game out of reach with a two-run homer in the eighth.

For the first time we’re starting to see manager Brad Mills pull some strings late in games, and he seems to have this thing down despite his days in the burly American League.

In Saturday’s 4-3 win, the Astros carried a 4-0 lead into the eighth before the Cubs scored three times of Brandon Lyon. Mills yanked Lyon with a runner at second and two outs in favor of Chris Sampson, who did his job by getting a ground ball to end the inning.

In Sunday’s 3-2 win at Wrigley, the Astros were down 2-0 heading into the eighth before rallying for three runs in their final three at-bats to win in 10 innings. Michaels delivered a big pinch-hit sac fly in the 10th, and Mills pieced the bullpen together nicely with Brian Moehler and Tim Byrdak pitching scoreless innings.

Yes, Mills has used 13 different lineups in 13 games, but expect things to settle down now that Berkman is back. He deserves kudos for keeping Jeff Keppinger in the lineup while he’s hot, and on Tuesday Mills dusted off Kaz Matsui and got him to put down a perfect bunt to score Hunter Pence with winning run. Matsui handles the bat very well, so he was the ideal man to hit in that situation

For a team that’s 4-9, it’s so far, so good for Brad Mills.


A lot of this speaks to how players can make the manager look very smart or very dumb depending on how they perform. I think Mills has done a good job of putting his players in a position to succeed thus far in the season.

Here’s my suggestion: Bench Manzella, move Kepp to SS, Matsui at 2nd. Manzella has a big league glove (despite the early errors) but a minor league bat…and I don’t think anyone expects that to change. Matsui on the other hand, may actually start to hit, so why not give this a try? If the lineup shows some success, I think you send Manzella back down.

Austin: Jeff Keppinger is not a shortstop. He does not have the range to play the position full time; he would cost us far too much on defense to make up for his production on offense. Manzella may not be a great option, but he’s the best we have.

Oremlk: He played over 100 games at SS for Cincy in 2008.

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