The Crystal (base)Ball: Astros vs Giants Preview

It always stings a little when a former team ‘golden boy' comes back to the park in a different uniform. Jeff Kent enters Pac Bell Park for the first time since moving to Houston and looks to wallop his former team into regretting him ever leaving. <P> But does Houston really have a chance of beating us, the almighty 11-1 Giants? Let's have a look, shall we?

The Astros lost their last series with St. Louis, winning the first with a score of 3-2, but being shutout in the second game 3-0 and losing a heartbreaker 11-8 in yesterday's finale.

Let's take a look at that last game. The Big B's (Bagwell, Biggio and Berkman) combined for 4 homeruns in yesterday's game, each getting at least 2 hits. Kent managed an RBI double for his troubles. The pitcher that gave up 3 of those homeruns and the double? Jason Simontacchi, who throws a bit like our mirror-image Damian Moss. But that's not all.

Over the last three games, Bagwell has hit 3 homers and gone 5-9. Biggio has 31 career leadoff homeruns. Our little Jeffy has hit .302 with most of his hits coming in clutch, 2-out moments. And we haven't even started talking about the pitching.

How bout their closer Billy ‘The Kid' Wagner, who throws a 100 mph fastball and a slider that only looks 105? How bout reliever Octavio Dotel with his 97mph fastball that rises like a softball player threw it? Luckily, that is all we have to contend with. Houston's bullpen - with the exception of Wagner and Dotel - have dependability issues.

The starting pitching is looking to be Wade Miller today against Damian Moss, Jeriome Robertson tomorrow against Kurt Ainsworth (Jesse Foppert, the replacement for ailing Ryan Jensen will not be seen until April 26th) and Brian Moehler against Kirk Rueter. Miller has a lot of pitches he can throw, 4 that are great and 2 that are okay, but has a tendency to be unsettled in the first couple of innings- get on him early. Robertson has 11 SO so far this year, and he can get himself out of a jam, but he also has 9 earned runs. He doesn't go in for the long haul- so the time to rock him will be around the 5-6 inning- if he makes it that long. As for Moehler... if scouting reports are correct, he'll stick around for a few innings and bow out to a succession of middle relievers.

Keys to the Game:
1) Changing it up. Jeff knows the Giants. You think he hasn't shared this information? One thing we've got one them is the fact that nobody on the opposition has seen Kurt Ainsworth pitch more than one inning.
2) JT Snow stays hot. The socks are soooo working.
3) If there is going to be a bench-clearing brawl (and I'm not saying there is even the remote possibility there will be), make sure you have it relatively near to homeplate. I wanna see who throws what punches.

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