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Split seasons: Mulder, Astacio have had their ups and downs

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  • Split seasons: Mulder, Astacio have had their ups and downs

    Split Seasons: Mulder, Astacio have had their ups and downs
    By Derrick Goold

    Mark Mulder shrugs off the night-and-day difference between his sunlight starts and star-bright starts as a statistical fluke. A quirk. An oddity that has little basis compared to a real day-night difference in seasons.

    Like his season a year ago.

    Like his opponents' season this year.

    Mulder's peculiar day-night differential - 2-5 in afternoon games vs. 14-3 on the night shift - pales compared to the stark contrast of Pedro Astacio's season. San Diego's starter for Game 2 of the National League Division Series was scuffling in Texas and had been demoted before the Padres signed him and rode the revitalized righthander to a division title.

    While the Cardinals acquired Mulder to pitch in a game like this, the Padres never expected Astacio to be in this situation.

    And it's a daytime start.

    "My few bad games happened to all be day games," said Mulder, who with 16 wins had a fifth consecutive season of 15 or more wins, the longest active streak in the majors. "So, that's just the way it happened. That's the furthest thing from my mind."

    His way is not to worry, as he recently sported a T-shirt with the phrase "whatever" on it. The lefty, acquired in an offseason trade with Oakland, has dismissed many such statistical rivets from his season.

    He walked seven in his final start and talked about how he had good stuff but just couldn't get strikes. Whatever. The shortest outing of his career was his second-last start, a five-out humdinger in which he allowed seven earned runs. He was off. Whatever.

    In 11 daytime starts this season, Mulder's earned-run average was 6.86, more than 4.5 runs worse than the 2.26 ERA in 21 night starts. Yet, the best game of his season was the 10-inning shutout of Houston, which was a 1:15 p.m. start. He kidded reporters for missing that his last win of the season was a daytime start, too. On the afternoon of Sept. 17, Mulder held the Cubs to one earned run in a win the Cardinals deemed their title-clincher.

    That victory was actually Mulder's only win in his last six starts of the regular season. He was 6-1 with a 2.54 ERA in July and August. Subtract the seven-run blip, and his September ERA was 1.54.

    "For a long time he wasn't comfortable with his delivery," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "I think as he got more comfortable with his delivery, what you saw was more strikes, No. 1, and more quality strikes in the bottom of the strike zone. Whenever he has not pitched well, it's always been because he's not getting the ball in the strike zone."

    Mulder said it is through refining his delivery with Duncan that he regained the consistency that lapsed late last season. There was a contrast: He went from 12-2 at the All-Star break to 5-6 to end 2004.

    Astacio, meanwhile, struggled this season in Texas with a 2-8 record and 6.04 ERA. He didn't win a road start for the Rangers and was released the day he allowed six runs in a 4 1/3-inning start on June 14. The Padres signed him to a minor league contract, no promises.

    "If you'd told us when we signed Astacio to a minor league contract that he would be starting Game 2 of a playoff series for us, it'd be pretty hard to believe," San Diego general manager Kevin Tower said.

    Astacio has won his past four decisions. He had a 1.89 ERA over his final three starts and like Mulder, he pitched his team's champagne game. That is a day-night difference to a season. It got him a postseason start.

    At 3 p.m.

    Late in the day. Not yet night.

    "Maybe Mulder will be in the middle," Duncan said. [/b][/quote]


    Record: 16-8
    ERA: 3.64

    His first postseason start as a Cardinal will be the fifth playoff start of his career, and all have been in the division series. The lefty was 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA in the playoffs with Oakland. He won just once in his past six starts, and recent outings have been marred by walks (seven vs. Cincinnati) and runs (seven at Milwaukee). Lost consecutive decisions just once this season.

    Record: 6-8
    ERA: 4.69

    Plucked by the Padres out of the minor leagues in July, Astacio posted a 4-2 record and a 3.17 ERA with San Diego, a significant improvement over his numbers in Texas - 6-8 with a 6.04 ERA. He won his last three decisions of the regular season and didn't allow more than two earned runs in any of his past seven starts.

    (Statistics are from regular season.)

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy