It is an odd feeling Thursday leading into a final Friday of the season as Astros’ fans are forced to pull for the North Texas Rangers. This is about as satisfying as kissing your sister or pulling for the Yankees, Cowboys or Bill Gates. The Rangers are up 4-2 in the seventh and the Astros may get to start this weekend with a one game lead over the Angels for the 2nd wild card spot.
There are many analogies to be made with the length of a baseball season. Normally, the word “marathon” comes to mind. If this were a marathon, the Astros would be that unknown runner who got out in front of the pack early running at a pace that he or she could not sustain. The last few miles of the race, the runner has been struggling more than running and feeling the heat as the pack has caught up with them. Will the Astros/runner collapse within sight of the finish line or will they gut it out and hold on for the playoffs?
It is a bit reminiscent of the classic underdog movie, “Rocky”. Rocky, like the Astros did not belong in contention. Rocky was given a shot at the title when the challenger broke his hand and seemingly had no business vying for the title. The Astros had an improbable early season 10 game winning streak and stayed in contention mainly due to the fact that no one was playing very well in their division. You can almost picture opposing managers echoing Apollo Creed’s trainer when talking about the Astros, “They don’t know it’s a damn show. They think it’s a damn fight.”
Yes, Rocky fell short in that title shot, giving all he had and perhaps the Astros will do that too. Or perhaps they will do like Rocky did and win it on a second chance. After 159 rip-roaring games, the end is in sight, but the view is a bit blurry.
A few questions heading into the final three games of the season:
- Will Chris Carter continue to be the surprising offensive force that he has shown since practically disappearing from the lineup? (Last 14 days, 6 HR, 8 RBI, .381 BA and 1.744 OPS)
- Will the Three Amigos — Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers Jr. — lead the team to a wild card spot?
- Will Hank Conger see the field again this season? Pat Neshek?
- Who will be an unlikely hero for the Astros this weekend – Jason Castro, Colby Rasmus, Carter, Luis Valbuena, other?
- Will the day off help a tired bullpen pull it together?