Tag Archives: ASTROS

A ONE OF A KIND GAME

This week, former Major League pitcher Ken Johnson passed away, at age 82. Johnson pitched 13 years in the Major Leagues, from his debut with the Kansas City Athletics in 1958 until1970 when he ended his career with the Montreal Expos, his seventh team.

As a right handed starting pitcher, he had a mediocre career, winning 91 and losing 106 and compiling a career 3.46 ERA. Not exactly the stuff legends are made of but he did accomplish one thing that no other pitcher in baseball history has ever done. He pitched a nine inning no-hitter and lost the game, 1-0.

On April 23, 1964, he started on the mound for the Houston Astros against one of his old teams, the Cincinnati Reds, in Colts Stadium. In the first inning, after striking out Pete Rose for the first out of the game, he walked Vada Pinson but got out of the inning with no scoring. In the bottom of the first, former Chicago White Sox second baseman and future Hall of Famer, Nellie Fox, finishing his career with the Astros, doubled for Houston but was thrown out trying to steal third.

In the second and third innings both Johnson and the Reds’ Joe Nuxhall got the sides in order. In the bottom of the fourth, Astros first baseman Pete Runnels singled to center but center fielder Johnny Weekly hit into a double play to end that threat. In the top of the fifth, Johnson walked the Reds left fielder Bob Skinner for his second walk of the game but got out of the inning with no scoring.

The Astros threatened in the last of the seventh when Fox singled, Runnels reached on an error but Weekly hit into another double play to end that rally. In the eighth the Astros wasted a lead off double by center fielder Jim Wynn and left him stranded on second.

The game went to the ninth, 0-0, with Johnson still throwing a no hitter. He got Nuxhall, who, surprisingly, hit for himself, to ground to third. Rose then hit a ground ball back to Johnson who threw wild to first allowing Rose to reach second with one out. Third baseman Chico Ruiz then grounded out with Rose going to third. Center fielder, Vada Pinson, then hit a grounder to second which Fox misplayed and Rose scored the game’s only run. Johnson then got another future Hall of Famer, right fielder and cleanup hitter, Frank Robinson, for the last out of the top half and the game went to the last of the ninth with the Reds up 1-0 but Johnson’s no-hitter still intact.

In the last of the ninth, Nuxhall, who had given up just five hits, got shortstop Eddie Kasko on strikes and got Fox to ground to short for the second out. Runnels then reached on an error by first baseman Deron Johnson but Nuxhall struck out Weekly for the third out and the Reds had won a game without a hit and Ken Johnson had become the only pitcher in baseball history to lose while throwing a complete game no-hitter.

Only 5,426 fans were on hand for the game which lasted just one hour and 56 minutes. Johnson walked just two batters and had nine strikeouts en route to his no-hit loss. The two teams, between them, had just one less error than hits in the entire game as they both committed two miscues, Houston’s two in the ninth costing Johnson the game.

The Astros finished in ninth place that year, with a record of 66-96 and the Reds finished in third at 92-70. Johnson’s opponent Joe Nuxhall, who pitched a complete game, five hit shutout, finished the season at 9-8.

Johnson won 11 and lost 16 in 35 starts that year with a 3.63 ERA. He was traded from the Houston Astros to the Milwaukee Braves on May 23 of the 1965 season and had his best year in the Majors going 16-10 between the two teams with a 3.21 ERA in 37 starts.

Ken Johnson may not have been one of the greatest pitcher to play the game but his performance that day and the lack of support from his teammates combined to make it a one of a kind game, a distinction I am sure he would rather not have had.

CUBS VERSUS ASTROS IN WORLD SERIES??

AZ 2014 004What could be more exciting than a Playoff Season that started out with all four of the Underdogs ahead of the Favorites two games to one after three games? So far, both American League Favorites, the Blue Jays and Royals, have come back and won Game 4 to avoid being eliminated. But both the Dodgers and Cardinals, winners of their National League Divisions, are down two games to one, to the Mets and Cubs, and facing possible elimination tonight.

What could be more exciting would be an American League Championship Series that pitted the Houston Astros, who finished in fourth place in the Western Division last year, against the Texas Rangers, who finished in last place in the Western Division last year, in an all Texas series. If you have forgotten, Houston won only 70 games while losing 92 in 2014 and finished 28 games out of first. The only thing that kept the Astros out of last place was those Texas Rangers, with a record of 67-95, 31 games back. Texas was the only team in the American League that lost more games than the Astros, who were tied for the second worst record in the League. Tomorrow night both of them have a chance to advance to the American League Championship Series.

What would be just as exciting would be a National League Championship Series with the Chicago Cubs, who finished in last place in the Central Division last year, facing the New York Mets, who finished in third place in the Eastern Division last year. The Cubs won 73 and lost 89 last year and finished 17 games out of first. The Mets finished with the same 73-89 record and were also 17 games out of first. The Mets are up two games to one over the Dodgers while the Cubs have the same advantage over the Cardinals. If the Mets and Cubs can each win one of the last two games against the Dodgers and Cardinals, the Mets and Cubs will meet in the National League Championship Series.

The four Underdogs finished with a combined record of 295 wins and 353 losses last year while the other four teams finished with 356 wins and 292 losses. This year, the Underdogs finished with a combined 361 wins and just 287 losses compared to the Favorites record of 380-268.

Imagine a World Series with the Chicago Cubs, who finished last in their division the past two years and the Houston Astros who finished in fourth last year and last the previous year after being moved from the National League Central to the American League, facing each other. Remember also that the Astros finished in last in the National League Central their last two years there and were the only thing that kept the fourth place Cubs out of last.

The Astros have not been in the World Series since 2005, when they lost their only appearance in the Fall Classic to the Chicago White Sox in four straight. The Cubs have not been in the World Series since 1945, 70 years ago, when they lost to the Detroit Tigers four games to three. They have not won a World Series since 1908, 107 years ago, when they beat those same Tigers four games to one.

The chances of it happening are slim but don’t tell Manager Joe Maddon of the Cubs or Manager A. J. Hinch of the Astros, who, by the way, are both in their first year of managing these clubs. The fact that these four Underdogs have gotten to the point that they all have a shot at getting to the Championship Series should be excitement enough for one playoff season.

As I say every year at this time, how can anyone get excited about football, basketball or hockey when baseball is giving us its usual Fall dose of excitement and suspense?

THE RED SOX NEW KILLER BEES

In the nineties and into the early part of this century, the lowly Houston Astros had a trio of players called the Killer Bees, all players whose surname began with a B. Most people can name the first two and most prominent of the three, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, but have trouble with the third.

There were a number of players whose name began with a B in this era. The first was Derek Bell, who played with the Astros from 1995 to 1999. He was an outfielder and the first of the number three Killer Bees. The most prominent and the player most thought of when thinking of the Killer Bees is Lance Berkman.

From 1999 until 2005, these three played together on the Astros. Biggio who came up as a catcher in 1988, mostly played the outfield and second base and was elected to the Hall of Fame this year. He had a career batting average of .281 in his 20 year career with the Astros and accumulated 3,060 hits.

Bagwell, a first baseman for his entire career, played with the Astros from 1991-2005. He had a career batting average of .298 and hit 449 home runs, had 1,529 RBI’s and 2,314 hits for Houston.

Unlike the other two, Berkman did not play his entire career with the Astros. He was an Astro from 1999-2010 and hit .296 with them with 326 homers and 1,090 RBI’s. He went on to play with the Yankees, Rangers and Cardinals hitting an additional 40 homers to total 366 for his career.

In case you were wondering why their fans affectionately called them the Killer Bees, the three of them hit a grand total of 1,066 home runs for the Astros and drove in 3,794 runs.

Those Killer Bees are long gone but there is a new group of Killer Bees making their presence felt in the Major Leagues. Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley are quickly becoming the Red Sox version of the Killer Bees.

If you haven’t looked lately, Betts just hit in his 16th consecutive game last night and has raised his average to .285 with 14 homers and an impressive 70 RBI’s out of the lead off slot. Bogaerts got three more hits last night and raised his average to .321, second highest in the American League, with 169 hits, also second in the league. Bradley, who was hitting .174 on August 14, is now hitting .293 after going 32 for 81 since then, for a .395 average.

The three are all locked in long term to the Sox with Bogaerts and Bradley not becoming eligible for Free Agency until 2020 and Betts until 2021. These are not the only young Sox who make the future look bright for the Boston Red Sox but these new Killer Bees could form the nucleus of many successful Red Sox teams for the near future.