Astros fail to reach
Primed for a return to the .500 mark Sunday
afternoon, the Astros could not overcome the law of averages. Tough Cincinnati
knuckleballer Jared Fernandez and another
erratic starting performance from Tim Redding condemned the Astros effort.
Redding's struggles were just too damning,
especially considering how dominant Fernandez was while denying the Astros
four-game sweep at Minute Maid Park.
Fernandez, whose slowest knuckleball was
clocked at 65 miles per hour and fastest at 76 mph, had little trouble
beating the Astros
8-3 to collect his first major-league
"We've been playing so well, but it just
seemed like (the Astros' effort) matched the weather outside," Lance Berkman
said after the
Reds snapped the Astros' five-game winning
streak during continuous rain flurries. "I felt draggy the whole day. The
legs felt heavy."
Making only his second Major League start
of the year, Jared Fernandez proved to be the exact remedy the reeling
were looking for.
The 30-year-old knuckleballer lived up
A win on Sunday at Minute Maid Park would
have accomplished a few things. The Astros would have extended their winning
They would have reached the .500 mark for
the first time since May 18.
Redding would have recorded his first win
— in a starter's role — in two months.
But with the loss, none of the above happened
in favor of the Astros Sunday.
Ten starts and two relief appearances later,
Redding is stuck on three wins on the year.
In four of his last seven starts, he has
exited the game before the end of the fifth inning. Obviously frustrated
with the winless streak
after going 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA over five
May starts, Redding recognizes his faults. Now it's just a matter of finding
"I'm running into a bad inning or two right
now every outing," Redding said. "If I can go out there and give up two,
three runs instead of
five, six, seven, put up some zeroes and
eat up some innings and go six, seven innings at a time, I can help this
team a lot. I keep
telling myself I'm working."
Injured left-hander Carlos Hernandez will
not be rushed back to action.
Although the MRI tests came back negative
and showed that Hernandez has not suffered any structural damage, the Astros
taking a very cautious approach with their
prized 22-year-old southpaw.
"We're going to take it slow and be protective
to a degree," general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. "Especially at this
point in the year
when you can't afford any setbacks. I
would guess we're looking at at least a couple of weeks from today before
I can see him
Hunsicker said that while the cause of
the inflammation in Hernandez's shoulder is unclear, a certain degree of
discomfort is not
uncommon for even the healthiest of pitchers.
Hunsicker also announced that Brian L.
Hunter has been placed on the 15-day disabled list after the 31-year-old
an appendectomy Sunday evening.
In corresponding moves, the Astros purchased
the contract of outfielder Barry Wesson from Triple A New Orleans.
With his 16th save Friday night against
Cincinnati, Billy Wagner took over sole possession of the club record for
appearances by a
The outing was the 354th of Wagner's career,
passing Joe Sambito, who made 353 trips to the mound during his Astros
1976-'82 and '84.
Wagner is also alone in fourth place on
the club's all-time appearance list. Only Dave Smith (563), Ken Forsch
(421) and Joe Niekro
(397) had more outings during their Astros
Wagner, who became a full-time Major Leaguer
in '96, hopes to finish his career in Houston.
In this modern age of trades and free agency,
especially regarding relief pitchers that rarely spend their entire careers
with one team,
Wagner's tenure with the team that "raised"
him is more an exception than the norm.
The Astros have won five series in a row
for the first time since they won six consecutive series from Aug. 16 to
Sept. 5, '01.