HOUSTON -- Geoff Blum's .264 batting average is about as meaningful to the Astros as wool mittens in the Houston summer. The veteran infielder hits in the clutch, plays good defense and is a valuable commodity in the clubhouse. The most tangible evidence of Blum's worth happened June 10-11 when he beat the Chicago Cubs, 2-1, on consecutive nights with walkoff hits, the second one in the 13th inning.
"I think experience has a lot to do with it," said Blum, 36, and in his second stint with the Astros. "In time, you learn things and get used to things. Luckily I've been around awhile and been in those situations, and having limited success does give me confidence. "I've had the opportunity to hit behind some good hitters who get on base. It's age, it's teammates and confidence." The biggest moment of Blum's career happened at Minute Maid Park when he played for the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series. He hit a pinch-hit homer in the 14th inning to help the White Sox win Game 3 by a 7-5 score and propel them to a sweep of the Astros. The Astros went into Spring Training expecting Blum and another veteran, free-agent signing Aaron Boone, to share third base. But Boone suddenly needed open-heart surgery and Blum became the regular third baseman, playing excellent defense. "He's been rock-solid at third, and I've put him at first three times and he's done a real good job at first as well," manager Cecil Cooper said. Blum has driven in 34 runs this year, much more likely to deliver a hit in a tie game than in an 8-0 blowout. He said he learned to be more selective at the plate over the years. "You've got to be," he said. "These [pitchers] are too good these days." "Experience helps," Cooper said. "Blum has gotten some huge hits for us last year and this year. He's done a good job for us and been nursing nagging injuries like everybody." Blum, along with outfielder Darin Erstad, fit comfortably into the role of veterans, bringing experience to the clubhouse as well as to home plate. "I hate using the term 'old school,'" he said. "We were brought up in an era when we treated the game with respect. Work hard. There's a certain level of love for the game." He said watching how hard Erstad plays has to rub off on younger teammates. "I think that has a lot to do with why Darin and myself and [right-hander Mike Hampton] can stay on some ballclubs," Blum said. "The Houston Astros have given us the opportunity to help on and off the field, offer advice. "There's definitely a different mentality in young players coming up today, not that they don't work hard. Money's going to affect everybody differently." Cooper appreciates what Blum does off the field. "He keeps the moment pretty light," Cooper said. "He's not one of those guys who walks around with his head down. He's usually pretty upbeat. You need a guy with a sense of humor like that." "I'm older," said Blum with a smile. "I don't know if I'm any smarter.
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.