The Astros got an assist from the broadcast booth yesterday

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The Astros have a secret weapon. But he’s only really needed once a year.

Former big league pitcher Steve Sparks is a radio broadcaster for the Astros. Sparks also happens to have been a knuckleballer. The Astros faced current knuckleballer R.A. Dickey last night so yesterday Sparks tossed knuckleballs in BP to Astros hitters to prepare them. It worked too: the Astros got five runs on six hits in seven innings off Dickey and won the game.

This is the second time Sparks has provided this service for Houston hitters, doing so before they faced Dickey last season. They roughed Dickey up then too — five runs on seven hits that time — even though they ended up losing the game thanks to their own pitching staff’s follies.

Would that everyone in the broadcast booth could be so helpful. Last night Chipper Jones showed up as a guest during the broadcast of the Braves-Mets game. During his visit he broke down B.J. Upton’s hitting problems in highly technical terms. Which was great, actually. Far more detail than one normally hears from any analyst. He also helped Upton during batting practice. I’d like to say it helped — Upton did go 1 for 4 which, as of late, is an improvement — but I think I’ll reserve judgment.

Brewers-Pirates game postponed

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Wednesday night’s game at PNC Park between the Brewers and Pirates has been postponed, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. No makeup date has been announced yet. As Brink points out, the two clubs meet again in Pittsburgh September 21-23 and both have an off day on the 20th, so that could be a potential makeup date.

Brent Suter and Chad Kuhl were scheduled to square off on the mound. Their starts will likely be pushed back to Thursday. The Pirates will host the Diamondbacks and the Brewers will host the Cardinals.

The Cubs won on Wednesday afternoon, so the Brewers are tied with the Cubs for first place in the NL Central. The Pirates are seven games back in third place.