Duo departs early as Astros fall
Rodriguez leaves with sore groin; Cooper ejected in seventh
HOUSTON -- Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and manager Cecil Cooper both left Saturday night's game earlier than expected, Rodriguez in the fourth because of a sore groin and Cooper in the seventh because he was sore at the umpires.
They didn't miss much other than the conclusion of another Houston loss, this time by a 3-2 score to Colorado at Minute Maid Park. It was the third consecutive loss and 12th in 18 games by the Astros.
Brad Hawpe's RBI single off Houston reliever Oscar Villarreal (0-3) in the fifth drove in the deciding run, but the Astros and their fans will remember this frustrating evening for other plays that didn't go their way.
Like the one in the bottom of the seventh that led to Cooper's ejection.
With the Astros trailing 3-2, Geoff Blum's drive to deep center was caught by Ryan Spilborghs, or so went the call by second-base umpire Mark Wegner. But Spilborghs had his back to Wegner and had to leave his feet to make the grab. One replay showed the ball clearly came out of Spilborghs' glove after he hit the ground, but when the center fielder raised the ball up in his bare hand, Wegner made the out signal.
"It's just another bad call," Blum said. "That's the beauty of baseball. It relies on human beings making calls and sometimes they make the wrong call, but that's how things are going right now.
"It was a hit, I saw the ball go in his glove, I also saw the ball bounce and I also saw him raise the ball with his bare hand, which is not the glove where the ball went in. When a guy dives and makes a catch with the ball in his glove and raises it with his bare hand out of the other side, it's kind of a little fishy, but they made the call."
Astros pitcher Doug Brocail believes the call was wrong, but gave credit to Spilborghs for a fine play.
"He didn't catch it, but you know he did a great job of dramatic work," Brocail said. "I'd expect our guy to do it too. You can't blame the guy for doing what he did. There's no way the umpire can see that. I tried to help, the bullpen tried to help. But he's got to sit there and watch the play develop and it happened so quick."
Cooper came bounding out of the dugout as the crowd of 34,540 continued to boo the men in blue. Cooper said Wegner told him Spilborghs caught the ball.
"From his angle he caught it, but from my angle he didn't catch it and they all got together and said the same thing that nobody saw it any different," Cooper said. "And from my eyes, they blew it plain and simple -- big part of the ballgame and they blew it. It's simple. If they want to censor me and fine me, whatever, then they have to fine me, but I'm going to tell you just the way it is, I thought he blew it. I thought they all blew it. I said all four of you guys got together and you didn't get it right [then it was] 'see you later.' "
Cooper was ejected from the game by plate umpire Rick Reed, and the crowd booed louder.
"I thought the fans were going to help overturn it," Brocail said. "But you know, they still got the out and the next two guys pitched well."
Said Wegner: "The best I can tell you is from the angle I had, I never saw the ball hit the ground. Coop asked me to get help and none of us could see the ball hit the ground, and the fielder came up with the ball like he caught it."
"The ball was originally caught and then it looked like it came out of the glove, you can't tell whether it's on his person or on the ground," Reed said. "We had a consultation and we go with majority rules on the consult. Cecil didn't want to listen to it and was pretty upset. If replay can't show conclusively what happened on the play, I don't believe he should be that upset about it. Yeah, the tying run would be possibly at second base, but we made every effort to be where we were supposed to be."
The crowded chanted "cheater" when Spilborghs came to bat in the eighth and booed loudly each time he stepped into the batter's box. Perhaps their loudest cheer of the night came when Spilborghs then grounded out.
"That was probably my favorite at-bat I've ever done," Spilborghs said. "I've never been booed like that before. I don't expect to ever get booed like that again. Maybe a year from now, they'll still boo."
As for the play itself, Spilborghs said: "He hit the ball really well. I ran after it, caught it in the air. Then I just showed him the ball ... that I caught."
So why hold it up with the bare hand?
"You're trying to show the ball. You're trying to prove that you caught the ball. You do everything instinctively to prove that you caught it. It's part of our instinct, you know?"
When asked if he could feel where the ball was the whole time, Spilborghs said: "It was in my glove."
"I think he did whatever he thought he had to do to make a catch, to show that he made a catch," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've been on the other side of the coin a number of times here."
Rodriguez was pulled after four innings because of a sore left groin. The lefty wasn't as sharp as he had been recently, allowing a run on five hits and three walks, but he left the game with the score tied. He is day-to-day.
J.R. Towles drove a 3-1 pitch from Rockies starter Aaron Cook (2-1) into the left-field seats leading off the third to give Houston a 2-1 lead. With four homers in 34 at-bats, Towles is already halfway to matching the entire home run output of the four catchers which Houston used in 2007.
The Astros will try to salvage the final game of the series on Sunday, which can't come too soon after this frustrating defeat.
"I learned early on in my career that going out there yelling and screaming and raising a hoot isn't going to do anybody any good," Blum said. "You know, I've got a great deal of respect for what those guys do. If it was 8-1, it probably wouldn't have mattered as much, but when you're losing by one run it's magnified.
To Blum and the Astros, it will always be the hit that wasn't.
"Immediately I saw it was a hit," Blum said. "When I saw [the umpire's] hand up calling an out I was shocked. I heard the shock from the fans, I saw the shock from the guys in the bullpen. That's how it goes."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.