Conversations with the Enemy-Climbing Tal’s Hill-Houston Astros


Dodger Lineup vs. Houston

Justin Sellers 6Mark Ellis 4Matt Kemp 8Juan Rivera 7Andre Ethier 9Jerry Hairston 5James Loney 3A.J. Ellis 2Ted Lilly 1

Ted Lilly -1-0 vs. J.A.Happ-1-0

*Justin Sellers gets his first start of the year at the lead-off spot. Gordon who has been struggling will rest tonight*

The Dodgers go to Houston today to start the first game of a three game set, that could conceivably be the Dodgers final series at Minute Maid park, more commonly known  as the Juice Box. The reason is because the Astros are moving to the American League West starting in 2013, as they begin their final season in the National League. So unless the Dodgers see Houston in inter-league play, this will be the final series in Houston.

Of course we have many memories of Dodger/Astros games from yesteryear. The Astros were one of the original expansion teams along with the Mets, in 1962. They were first known as the Houston Colt 45’s, and then changed their name to the Astros in 1966 to coincide with their move into the Astrodome. The Astrodome was the very first domed stadium in Major League Baseball. The Astros played there until after the 1999 season before moving into their current home of Minute Maid Park, or the Juice Box.

Since this might be the last series between these two teams, I thought I would do a cross between a pregame and a conversation with the enemy series. This time I sat down virtually to talk with Gregory Thurston of the Fansided Astros site called Climbing Tal’s Hill

Greg and I ask each other a number of questions about the two teams and there rivalry over years past. As you know the Astros finished last season with the worst record in their franchise history, losing 106 games. I am sure that Gregory would very much like to improve on that performance. Like the Dodgers, the Astros are also getting new owners, and Greg and I talk about the change of ownership, both managers, and a couple of the more memorable Dodgers/Astros games from the past.  Including the 22 inning game at the Astrodome in 1989, and the 1980 NL west tiebreaker game at Dodger Stadium in which the Number eight LA Dodger Bum of all time Dave Goltz blew

As for the pitching match-up, it pits Dodger lefty Ted Lilly, up against Astros starter J.A. Happ. Ted Lilly has normally pitched pretty well against the Astros in his career. A 7-3 record, 2.64 ERA, and 77 whiffs proves that. Although the current Astros roster is hitting .322 off of him, with many home runs. After all Ted Lilly, is going to be Ted Lilly. The Astros have hit five home runs off of Lilly, with four different Astros taking Lilly deep. Carlos Lee, Chris Johnson, and Justin Maxwell have all ht one, and Chris Snyder has hit two. Carlos Lee is 15 for 45, with a .306 average, and Chris Johnson hitting .417 5 for 12, with a home run and four RBIs. Not good numbers of course.

Happ who is a lefty, was acquired from the Phillies, and has pitched well against the Dodgers in limited innings. Happ is 0-1 with a 1.69 ERA vs. the Dodgers, and is 1-0 on the 2012 season. The Dodgers only have 35 at-bats against Happ, and only Jerry Hairston and Juan uribe have homered off of him. Hairston is 4 for 9, and Matt Kemp is 2 for 7 against Happ.

The Dodgers are 10-3 on the season, and remember while they won the season series last year 5-4, they lost two out of three in Houston. Let’s hope they can turn that around this year, as the Dodgers soft April schedule rolls on.

The Astros will be wearing their turn back the clock Colt 45 uniforms during Friday’s game to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. Here are my questions to Greg, and his answers below. Enjoy the game and stick around for our postgame recap immediately following. Go Blue!


Q: What do you think of manager Brad Mills? What are some of the things he does that you think he needs improvement?

Greg:I am not a real big fan of the Astros skipper. The first thing he did that bugged the hell out of me was continuing to bat Michael Bourn second, behind Kazuo Matsui in 2010, his first season as manager. Then, on the day he finally decided to hit Bourn leadoff, he wrote Matsui first on the lineup card and when Matsui followed Bourn to the plate he was called out for batting out of turn. Mills also seems to have trouble managing the bullpen and leaving tired pitchers in the game too long.

Q: During this off-season, your team voted to change the club’s name, but the fans voted to keep the Astros name. Explain why, and the deep connection between the name Astros, NASA, the city of Houston and the space theme.

Greg:I think the whole name change idea was nothing more than a publicity stunt by new majority owner Jim Crane. During a press conference to announce some great new “fan friendly initiatives” (including lower ticket prices) Crane floated the idea of the name change and fans were quick to react. Everyone was talking about the team for a few days, so Crane accomplished what he intended. The team name is uniquely tied to the city that played a big role in space exploration and the moon landing. Changing the name to anything else would have been a dumb move.

Q: Your team has new ownership also. What do you think of your new ownership? What do you think of the team moving to the Amercian League West next season? Do you like it? or hate it?

Greg: The change in ownership was well overdue. Drayton McLane was a great man but not a great owner. He didn’t put enough money into the draft or player development and it eventually caught up with him. Jim Crane is a smart businessman and has made some great hires. I am excited about the new direction of the team. As for the move to the American League, at first I hated it. But I have come around and am looking forward to a new chapter in the team’s history and the challenges that come with it.

Q: Do you miss the Astrodome?

Greg: I grew up going to games at the Astrodome back in the late 1970’s and yes, I do miss it to a certain extent. But Minute Maid Park is a great place to watch a game, especially when the roof is open. The Astros have always been on the cutting edge and unafraid to take chances. The Astrodome was the first domed stadium and the first to feature artificial turf. The rainbow jerseys were one of a kind and you still see fans wearing them in the stands at every game. MMP brought us the next wave of outrageous ideas with Tal’s hill in centerfield and the flagpole that is in play. All of these things give the franchise a certain amount of character that separates them from the other teams.

(Editor’s Note)-Those rainbow uniforms Gregory is talking about are these classic duds from the late 70’s and 80’s, and what the heck is up with that hill in center field? Are they trying to copy old Crossley Field?)

Greg: This series will be the last time the Dodgers play in Houston without a designated hitter. Over the last 50 seasons the two teams have played several memorable games. A couple that stand out in my mind are game #163 in 1980 and the 22 inning marathon in 1989. ( Of course I remember watching that 22 inning game back in 89, that saw Fernando Valenzuela playing first base, Eddie Murray playing third, and third baseman Jeff Hamilton pitching. The Dodgers lost, and I can still remember Rick Dempsey going 0 for 10 in the game.)

Stacie will have the recap up immediately following the 5:05PM game on Prime Ticket. Stick around later, and Go Blue!