Before getting into the recap, I want to thank a few folks:
What to say about tonight's game. Angel Hernandez' strike zone was incredibly inconsistent and bordered on fraudulent. On ESPN's ball-tracker, one could see how obvious balls were being called strikes. It was infuriating to watch as a fan, I can only imagine how the professionals on the field must have felt. Joe didn't Hoover up a few hits that were his way, Vazquez gave up two quick runs (which could have been more), and Oswalt was sitting down the Sox hitters as soon as he could. I'm surprised ESPN didn't put out meaningless graphics like "Teams that score first are x-y-z" as they've been doing for the World Cup.
I'm willing to forgive the first inning. After watching Garcia give up bad innings in the first 3 and then settle down multiple times, I wasn't ready to throw in the towel on Javy and fully expected him to regain his composure and get himself out of jams that he put himself in. For the next few innings, he did. And then came the 5th inning meltdown. ESPN's shots of the droves of people leaving the stadium and the insertion of "must be a blowout" Montero in the 7th led me to believe the fans and the managerial staff had apparently raised the white flag and were ready to call the streak a day.
I guess the memo didn't get to our hitters. Paulie surpassed our solemn first base coach's career club HR total in the 7th. With Oswalt gone, one T. Iguchi put the team on his shoulders and carried us to the promised land of extras in two straight innings, chasing Springer with a 3-run shot that put us back in the game in the 8th (video-audio) and then further increased Brad Lidge's hatred of pitching in the Cell by tying it up with the club's 3rd grand slam in as many days to tie it up in the bottom of the 9th (video-audio).
It must have woken up Ozzie, as he then decided to put our actual relief pitchers in. Unfortunately, BMac's also the one that got hung with the L.
To be honest, this game was a moral victory for me. While it would have been nice to have been an actual victory, it showed the kind of grit our hitters have in the face of what appeared to be insurmountable odds. Houston got the W, but they had to earn it. Our boys didn't take a blowout sitting down and once there was blood in the water, they fattened up on runs.
The interleague series has been a tale of two Centrals. The top two teams in each respectively matched one another, with ours each on a 8-1 tear so far. Even our 3rd place team is currently 8-1 on them (yes, vs. PIT and CHC for 6, but still). Our division has clobbered theirs so far, showing who the "Junior Circuit" really is this season.
So here we are closing in on the All-Star break sitting at around the same position we were during the Championship run, all of our starters have more-than-marginal winning records (including a guy that's 8-0, again), and we're blowing more teams out of the water. Outside of the NL East, ours is the only division that has so much separation between the clubs, with the top two records with the majors. And the top club has yet to prove that they can beat us.
Our 5th starter (at 8-4!) got touched up and our hitters picked him up. We didn't get the 10th straight victory, but took 2 of 3 after the Twinkies and Royals did the same, sending Houston on to Detroit with a chip on their shoulder. As long as Pittsburgh isn't Tampa Bay North, let's go for another 9 straight.