Forty-Five years and two days ago, the Houston Colt Forty-Fives baseball club was awarded a franchise by Major League Baseball. Monday, October 17, 2005 was the 45th anniversary of that franchise award to the Colt 45’s, so the day seemed oh so appropriate for the Houston Astros to finally claim a berth in the World Series.
Then the 9th inning changed all that.
Tonight, the Astros will play Game Six of the 2005 National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the game moved back to St. Louis for the sixth (and if necessary, the seventh) game of the series. The press has been abuzz, with good reason, about the grand story of the Cardinals comeback from being down three games to one and having to come through repeatedly from a 9th inning, down two runs, two out, two strike situation. Pujols is pumped, as is LaRussa, as indeed is the rest of the Cardinals team. They earned the best regular-season record in baseball this year, and they are confident that this will help them return to the World Series, to face the Chicago White Sox. I hope, and believe, that the Cardinals are wrong. While the Cardinals are indeed a fine and formidable opponent, the Houston Astros will find the way to claim that long-denied Series berth.
Granted, winning in St. Louis should be harder than it was in Houston. Then again, if you look at the NLCS results so far, we have seen only one game which was decided by a margin greater than two runs. Game one was won by the Cards by 2 runs, Game 2 by the Astros with a 3-run margin, Games 3, 4, and 5 each by one run. The two clubs play even, and it all comes down to who can play well here and now. The Cards lost three in a row before winning Game 5, but the Astros have not lost two back-to-back games in the playoffs. If the Cards win tonight, the two teams play again to see who moves on to face the White Sox, but if the Astros win they clinch now. And while the Cards fans will remember how much they enjoyed the game after Pujols hit that home run, I recall how dismayed they looked just a little while before he did it. I really do not think the same situation will come around again, and even if it does, the Astros won’t repeat the same mistake.
The Astros, whatever they said and did Monday night after the game, look like they got it out of their system and are ready for tonight. I hope so, because as subjective as I admit it is to say so, these guys are due for a trip to the World Series, and they have certainly paid for their tickets, in sweat, dreams, persistence, hope, and drama.