There are probably a lot of fans, who DVR’d today’s playoff game between the Astros and the Royals. Probably all of those recordings will be deleted unwatched.
This was a game that the Astros were leading 6-2 going into the eighth inning. This was a game that was going to escort them comfortably into the ALCS and perhaps the World Series. This was a game that died a slow painful death for Astros’ fans just like so many times before as the bullpen suffered a Chernobyl meltdown with the help of a fielding error by their young star Carlos Correa and gave up 7 runs in the last 2 innings.
Lord – you owe us. A lot. Think about all we have been through over the years.
1962 – 1979
The Astros went forever before tasting the post-season. While our fellow expansion team, the Mets went to 2 World Series, winning one in 1969, Amazing style, our home team made stumbling an art form. Only 3 seasons above .500 in those first 18 seasons and no post season appearances. Yuck.
1980 – 1986
These seasons featured 3 post-season appearances and so much angst, it burns the insides of Astro fans to this day.
They met the Phillies in 1980 for the right to go on to the World Series (which the Phillies won that season). After losing the first game in a best of 5 series, the Astros won two straight extra inning games to be one win short of the series. Game 4 they held a 2-0 lead in the 8th, gave up 3 runs in the 8th, came back to tie it in the 9th and lost in 10 innings. In Game 5 with Nolan Ryan on the mound they held a 5-2 lead going into the 8th, gave up 5 runs in the 8th (sound familiar), came back to tie it in the 8th and lost it in the 10th. That is the first time I ever cried about a baseball game and the heck with Tom Hanks.
In 1981, a work stoppage caused there to be a first half vs second half champion series and the Astros took a 2-0 lead in the series against the Dodgers before losing 3 in a row to go home.
1986 is almost as painful to Astro fans as to Bill Buckner. The Astros played the Mets and the difference maker was Mike Scott and his spit finger – oops split finger fastball. Game 6 was a classic for the ages, but don’t forget the Astros blew a 5-4 lead in the 9th to lose game 3 and fell 2-1 in 12 innings in game 5. In game 6 they held a 3-0 lead going into the 9th with Mike Scott ready to wipe the floor with the Mets in the wings for game 7. And of course they lost the lead in the 9th and eventually the game in the 16th inning.
1987 – 1996
They were not terrible, but they had a decade drought without the playoffs.
1997 – 2005
Yes, this was the golden age for the Astros. They sported six playoff appearances in nine seasons, but no ring. They suffered four straight first round losses, including the 1998 Randy Johnson led team that just could not hit and only scored 3 runs total in their 3 losses.
In 2004, they finally (after 43 seasons) won their first playoff series, but it was just a tease. They came back from 2 games down to take a 3-2 lead in the NLCS against the Cards and then one win away from the World Series they lost a heart breaker in 12 innings in the 6th game and then watched Roger Clemens falter in the 7th game.
In 2005, they did great things just to make the playoffs after a horrendous start. They had a magnificent 18 inning win against the Braves to make the NLCS against the Cards and seemed ready to roll into the World Series with Roy Oswalt as the Game 1 starter, but….. Albert Pujols highlighted another bullpen failure and the Astros had to use Roy O to get to the WS not to start it. In the World Series, the bullpen led by Brad Lidge lost 3 of the 4 games and it was a sad sweep by the White Sox.
Which leads us to today’s game. What can be said? Paraphrasing the old country song – these losses by the bullpen are a family tradition.
Can they come back on Wednesday? This is the most resilient team most of us have ever seen. But at some point Cinderella’s carriage turns back into the pumpkin and the fear is that time is about to come.