Struggling to score runs and missing opportunities to move up in the NL wild-card race, the Houston Astros’ frustration is starting to show.
The Astros look to get back on track in the crowded wild-card battle when they host the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a three-game series.
Roger Clemens was again dominant Sunday, but once again failed to get any run support from his teammates as the Astros fell 1-0 to Los Angeles. The Rocket allowed seven hits in eight innings, struck out 10 and walked none, but Houston was shut out for the eighth time in his 27 starts this season.
The Astros lost for the fourth time in five games and missed a perfect opportunity to improve their standing in the playoff race. The four other wild-card contenders—Philadelphia, Florida, the New York Mets and Washington — all lost Sunday.
The disappointment appeared to surface in the seventh inning Sunday. Craig Biggio pinch-hit for Clemens and was hit by a pitch from Jeff Weaver, but was ordered to remain in the batter’s box by umpire Doug Eddings, who ruled that Biggio did not attempt to get out of the way.
Biggio and manager Phil Garner argued with Eddings to no avail. Biggio then flied out to right field and slammed his bat in disgust before running to first base. Eddings pointed to the bat, signifying that Biggio would be fined for his actions, then ejected him for continuing the argument. Biggio threw his batting helmet away and at one point had to be restrained by third base coach Doug Mansolino.
Garner was ejected moments later by Eddings.
“Maybe he read the article where I said that’s never happened to me before,” Biggio said. “I mean, I’ve had some that were questionable—but, come on. I’m sitting on the bench all day, the guy throws a slider at you and it hits you in the middle of the batter’s box. That was only my second ejection. I guess I’m a big troublemaker.”
The Reds have had no such problems offensively, as red-hot Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 534th career home run to tie Jimmie Foxx for 13th place on the all-time list, and Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh 7-2 on Sunday.
Cincinnati, which comes to Houston after having its series finale with the Pirates rained out Monday, has a chance to win five straight for the third time since the All-Star break. The Reds are 5-1 on their 13-game road trip and have won 14 of their last 16 overall.
“If we keep playing the way we are and keep winning, there is no reason to think we will not be up over .500 by the end of the season,” Cincinnati catcher Jason LaRue said. “We are really looking forward to this final month.”
Griffey hit his 33rd homer of the season and fourth in as many games. The homer also extended his hitting streak to 14 games, during which he’s batting .458 (27-for-59) with 10 multihit efforts. Griffey is a career .309 hitter with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs against the Astros.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Astros after they face the surging Reds. Houston hosts the NL Central-leading Cardinals for three games this weekend, then heads to Philadelphia for a three-game set.