Friday, June 11, 2010

Game 61: Houston Don't Dream About Me

Since their inception as the Colt .45s in 1962, Houston and the Yankees have played just six meaningful games against each other. Yet, despite the scarcity of contests between the two the clubs there is a good amount of shared history between the Astros and Yankees.

When Houston opened the Astrodome - the Eighth Wonder of the World - in 1965, they chose the Yankees as their opponents for the first exhibition game to be played there. Mickey Mantle batted leadoff that day, giving him the honor of being the first batter in the first indoor baseball game. He singled in that at bat, and later hit the first home run in Astrodome history.

Thirty five years later, when the Astros opened Enron Field, it was once again the Yankees who served as their first opponent. Once again, a Yankee hit the first longball in the park's history. This time, it was the slightly-less-famous Ricky Ledee.

After Yogi Berra was fired just sixteen games into the 1985 season, he vowed never to return to Yankee Stadium so long as George Steinbrenner owned the team. In exile from the franchise with which he was most associated, Berra spent his final four seasons in a Major League uniform as a coach with the Astros.

When Andy Pettitte didn't feel the Yankees made enough of an effort to re-sign him following the 2003 season, Pettitte returned home to Texas, inking a three year deal with the Astros. That signing was enough to sway Roger Clemens, who had intended to retire, to sign with his hometown team as well. The two combined with Roy Oswalt to give the Astros a potent rotation, and led the team to their first World Series in 2005. Three years later, both Pettitte and Clemens would return to New York.

Between the lines, the two teams first met in an interleague series in 2003. Seven years ago tonight, six Astros pitchers combined to no-hit the Yankees. It was the first no hitter tossed against the Bombers since 1958*. More recently, the Yankees played an interleague series in Houston in 2008, where Chien-Ming Wang notoriously injured his foot rounding third base.

(*Hoyt Wilhelm tossed that 1958 no hitter against the Yankees. Wilhelm was also the surname of George Costanza's boss on Seinfeld, during George's time with the Yankees as assistant to the traveling secretary. One of Costanza's tasks during that time was to host a team of Astros executives exploring the possibility of interleague play. Hilarity ensued.)

Tonight New York and Houston will begin their third interleague series, with Andy Pettitte taking the ball for his first career start against his former team. He'll be opposed by former Phillie / wife-puncher extraordinaire Brett Myers.

Despite their 5-1 career mark against the Astros, the last two series between these clubs have brought some disastrous results for the Yankees: their only hitless game in the last 51 years and what looks to be the end of Chien-Ming Wang's career as an effective pitcher. As Houston brings the Majors' sixth worst record and an offense bordering on historically poor into the Bronx for this weekend series, the Yankees are hoping for something far less eventful, and that their dreams about Houston don't turn into nightmares this time.

Just trying to make high ground
Has kept us on the run
There's no crime in toeing the line
Cause fortune is smiling on us baby
And we're gonna walk in the sun

I might dream about Houston
But Houston don't dream about me
If I could keep this between the lines
Who knows what will be

[Song Notes: I hate throwing up a video that has nothing but the album cover as its image, but I like this song and it works well for tonight. The Black Crowes have performed the tune in concert only fifteen times since debuting it last year, so live performances are a little scarce, just like Yankees-Astros games. I spent last Friday night catching the Crowes at the Cape Cod Melody Tent, I'll spend tomorrow morning scoring tickets to their local stop on their farewell tour this fall, so it only makes sense to use them for tonight's preview.]


The bad news is that Alex Rodriguez' groin malady will keep him out of the lineup again tonight. The good news is that it's nothing more serious than tendonitis in his right hip flexor and is entirely unrelated to last year's surgery. He's day to day. With A-Rod out, Nick Swisher drops to the clean up five spot and Curtis Granderson moves up to the two spot. Brett Gardner will miss his third consecutive start, but took BP earlier today.
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Ramiro Pena 3B
Kevin Russo LF

The lineup isn't yet posted, but I'm fairly certain that the lineup the Bad News Bears brought to the Astrodome during Bad News Bears in Breaking Training is more potent than whatever the Astros will trot out tonight. Sure Lance Berkman probably has a slight edge on Kelly Leak as a big bat in the middle of the lineup, but not by much, and certainly not by enough to make up for the rest of their punchless order.

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