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in the BOX
Jeff Pearlman
June 25, 2001
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June 25, 2001

In The Box

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June 15

Houston righthanded reliever Jay Powell has a simple assignment: Let batters hit the ball, but only on the ground. In last Friday's game at Enron Field, Powell did his job—and failed. In the bottom of the eighth, with runners on second and third, no outs, and the Astros ahead 9-7, manager Larry Dierker called on the sinkerballing Powell to face Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod bounced the first pitch up the middle into centerfield, driving in both runners. The next batter, Rafael Palmeiro, hit a ball back to Powell that should have resulted in an easy double play Instead, Palmeiro reached first safely because Jeff Bagwell failed to touch the bag to complete the play. The next two hitters, Ruben Sierra and Gabe Kapler, hit ground-ball singles. By the time Powell left, having gotten no more outs, Houston trailed 11-9. He was booed mercilessly.

"I feel so bad for Jay," said Dierker. "We count on him to get grounders, and he gets grounders. Sometimes they go to the fielders, and sometimes they don't."