Is It Tombstone Time or Clutch City Time?


The postmortem from a two-day crash and burn of the local nine in the World Series against the Nationals is a bit soul crushing. The Astros put their top two bullets into their gun (Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander) at home and ended up shooting blanks with Cole getting his first loss in five months and Verlander mostly pitching well, but moving to 0-5 with a 5.73 ERA in six career WS starts.

In Game One, the Astros died on their inability to knock in their teammates when on base and from an uncharacteristic poor start from Cole (five runs given up in the first five innings).

Game Two was more of a team effort as the Astros combined their hitting woes (9 LOB and 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position), questionable managing tactics (putting the rookie Kyle Tucker in a two out bases loaded spot where he failed, removing JV’s designated catcher, removing JV from the game, etc), a poor two-run first inning of starting pitching by Verlander, fielding meltdowns by Alex Bregman (failure to keep the game at 3-2 with a fumbled two out grounder and a later wild throw to first) and a bullpen that gave up eight runs in three innings.

And other than that – were you enjoying “Our American Cousin” Mrs. Lincoln until the third act?

What are the Astros facing at this point?

  • They are facing the monumental task of winning four of five games with three of them on the road. Remember when picturing come from behind rallies, that the Astros have not come back to win any game this season, including the playoffs, that they trailed after 8 innings.
  • They will be putting their faith in Zack Greinke in the 3rd game and TBD Mystery Starter in the 4th game.
  • They will be playing a team in the Washington Nationals that is on an absolute tear – having won 3 of their last 4 against the Dodgers to take the NLDS, followed by a 4 game sweep of the Cards in the NLCS. And of course they have taken the first two games of the World Series from the probable AL Cy Young winner and his runner-up.
  • The Nats are on a physical and emotional high. They had made the playoffs in 4 out of 6 seasons (2012 – 2017) as division winners with high expectations and failed to get past the division  series all four times. This season they started poorly, made a run to be a Wild Card with much less expectations and had to make an improbably late inning comeback against Josh Hader to get past the Brewers in the WC game. Their franchise, the Expos/Nats had never been to a World Series, much less won one in their 50 year history. Right now they are the equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic – they are kings of the world and feeling it.
  • The Astros may feel the immediate championship window closing on them. They are not likely to have Gerrit Cole next season, nor a reasonable facsimile. Their rotation will likely center on 36 and 37 year old starters in Verlander and Greinke. They won it all in 2017, were derailed in the ALCS due to injuries in 2018 and are getting buried by a steamroller, so far, in 2019. It is not likely next year’s team will be better than this year’s best in baseball 107 win model.

After getting pounded by the shock and awe of two unexpected losses, the Astros’ fans and their team may look at this as a crossroads. Looking one way – the tombstone that appeared in the Houston Chronicle (spit!!) on May 24, 2005 may be better applied to this team. They could easily curl up in a ball and go through the motions until an inevitable 4th loss appears on their 2019 WS record.

Or…. they could do like that 2005 team did and rise from the ashes.

The current situation brings to mind the famous Choke City Houston Chronicle (Spit!!) headline, from May 12, 1994, which appeared after the Houston Rockets lost their first two playoff games to the Phoenix Suns at home, including blowing a 20 point 4th quarter lead. The Rockets took the Choke City mantle and turned it into Clutch City as they won 4 of 5 from the Suns, including two on the road, knocked off the Utah Jazz and then held off the NY Knicks for their first championship.

Three of the thirteen World Series teams that have lost their first two games at home have come back to win the WS. During the regular season, the Astros won 4 of 5 or 5 of 5 games eighteen separate times. It is do-able. But they have to show Clutch genes that have been missing so far.

142 comments on “Is It Tombstone Time or Clutch City Time?

  1. My first thought was that Hinch over managed when he pulled Urquidy. But, remember that he’s never thrown so many innings in a season He’s just a year from coming off Tommy John. Obviously his value long term is incalculable going forward. And if anyone suggested to me that we’d get 5 shutout innings from Jose tonight, I’d have signed up for a win. I really felt like we were going to hit tonight. So assuming we get 3 more outs, in spite of some dicey pen work tonight, Hinch has managed this group back into a tie in the series with their pen in disarray.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know. I don’t want to give up Brantley’s bat and I’m not comfortable with him in right either.
    Last nights outfield was great.
    I’m for what’s working lately.

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  3. Brantley has been stroking line drive after line drive and he has been playing solid left field. Reddick has been OK in the bat and excellent in the field. I love Yordan, but he has not been doing enough to force a change in my mind.

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    • I did not even consider Brantley sitting. It would be Reddick on the bench if Yordan started. But I would stay with what is working right now too.

      I also think our bats will continue their resurgence. I don’t care who is pitching for the Nats.

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  4. Bad move to put YA in left field at this juncture. Let’s go with what’s working. This game is too critical to not have your best defense out there. That’s nothing against YA but I wouldn’t do it. Brantley does not have Reddick’s arm if we need it. I like getting YA’s bat into the game but Of course I was wrong in my assessment of pulling Urquidy after 5 innings last night. But I was glad Harris came through again. hopefully not at the defensive end of things.

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  5. Garrit Cole has a chance to wipe that bad taste in his mouth from game #1 tonight. I fully expect to see our *AWESOME* co-Ace to be who he really is.
    Not enough can be said about the unbelievable start by Jose’ Urquidy yesterday.
    He was told over the summer that they expect him to be in the rotation next year! That leaves Verlander, Greinke, Urquidy, and McCullars to start…..they REALLY need a lefty to add to the rotation.
    I don’t make predictions….but I like our chances tonight. GO ‘STROS!!!

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  6. He hasn’t pitched since Sept and pitched around 73 innings.
    Our guys just need to take care of their own business tonight.

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  7. When the Stro’s were getting hammered the booth was very animated. They win a few gms and they are more subdued. Almost as muted as the crowd. Why is that?

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  8. Yes…..I’m superstitious! I put my Springer jersey on one the first playoff game, and I don’t wash it until the entire season is over! In 2017 it walked to the washing machine by its self!!
    Gosh it’s great to have a 4 run lead!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m having such a problem with this announcing crew. They make it sound like this was a lot closer game than the result – like Cole was on the verge of collapse in the 2nd with runners on 1sr and 3rd and that the Nats might have won if not for a couple bad calls by the ump. Jeez
      And at the end of the game they sounded so depressed signing off you would have thought the Astros team bus ran over their dogs.

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      • In all the years that I’ve pulled for the Astros, Rockets, Oilers, Texans, or whomever, I can’t remember any national announcers giving them credit or even more so being a even a little bit biased towards and Houston Team. It always appears that they are pulling for the other team. Let’s win one more on Tuesday and we can let our WS Championship do the talking for us.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Yep….”they’re taking it back”!! ONE MORE GAME!! You KNOW Verlander is going to bring his A+ game Tuesday! Keep your fingers and toes that these guys play a clean game for Justin. Goodnight folks!

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  10. I skipped a post last night. After the Saturday game, Arod suggested the series would be won by the team better at the pitch tipping game.

    All I know if that we outscored the Nats 19-3 in their home park over three games. Maybe their batters were tipping off our pitchers.

    By the way, has the road team ever won three straight after coming down 0-2?

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    • The article would be more legitimate if they’d talked about what would have been strike three on Correa earlier in the game. The ump missed it, Correa fouled off a few mediocre pitches, and then hit a two run homer on a ball that spun over the middle of the plate.

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      • Devin, it has to be extra special to be near those Nats fans, yet so far, far away!

        Side note: Kent Emanuel had a decent year. I’ll bet he lands on feet somewhere else next year, as a fringe Bottom Rotation piece.

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    • I’ve read some posts on Facebook that complained about the bad calls. I started to chime in but thought better of it, at least for now. As I’ve watched almost every minute of these 5 games I’ve seen pitches that were balls called strikes and vice-versa. I even said to those watching with me that I thought it was a bad call even when it would have gone against the Astro’s but also point out those that went the other way. I agree with the 1OP that maybe we should get rid of the box because it seems to breed more controversy, especially at playoff time. But the average fan should remember that these are human beings behind the plate and on the bases and they only have a split second to make that decision. To further illustrate the point, when we look at the pitch and make comments like, the ball was right down the middle, why didn’t you swing, or why did you swing at a pitch six inches off the plate. Remember you only have about the amount of time to blink your eye to decide if you’re going to swing at a 90 mph fastball. The umpires have maybe a second more to decide. I guess that’s why they all make the big bucks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If I can post this here?

        The game was well-called, and amounts to sour grapes by those who “saw” it differently.

        http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/zoneTrack.php?month=10&day=27&year=2019&game=gid_2019_10_27_houmlb_wasmlb_1/&prevDate=1027

        Also, a moment to gloat a little? Cake Walk, Yordan Alvarez, Urquidy on the playoff roster? It’s alll coming full circle! I’ve watched this team fully expecting this dominance. Having to read all the worries and complaints has felt like being on an Island out there with dave.

        Enjoy the ride, Chipsters. It’s not nearly over yet, with what we have in the minors, and the steady hands at the helm.

        All the best in upcoming recoveries for Becky, Mr. and Mrs Op, and those suffering. I hope the Astros allow more rays of hope for you!

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  11. Astros batters were constantly getting pitches called strikes that were not strikes all night.
    If they aren’t going automated they should get rid of the imaginary box on the screen because it is ruining the effectiveness of umpires.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The Pirates organization are to baseball what Hawaii 5 o is to television. Utter nonsense.
    Will not be surprised to find out that their front office is run from a food truck.

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  13. -If giving up 4 runs in five innings qualifies as a “really good outing” for Joe Ross, as described several times by Smoltz and Buck, then Urquidy’s five innings must qualify as a World Series MVP performance.
    – Does Verlander even have a tiny chance to win Tuesday night against Superman Strasberg? Not according to Fox.
    – The Nats closer had to throw 36 pitches and gave up 3 runs on 4 hits with a walk thrown in, in 1.2 innings Sunday.
    – The Astros grounded into 3 double plays Sunday night.
    – The Nats outfield has taken away the power alleys and has turned a bunch of doubles into singles. They always seem to give away the left field line because they have Rendon at 3B, who has been terrific.
    – Thru 5 games in the WS, Astros catchers have a slash line of .333/.368/.889/1.257, with 1 dbl, 3 HRs, 4 RBIs and 1 BB and 4 Ks in 18 ABs.

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  14. Up 3-2 and heading home I should be more excited about this series than I am. You all may run me off the blog, but I’m tired of Correa and Bregman. I guess everyone likes to see them admire home runs and pose for the cameras, but I think it’s bad sportsmanship.

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    • Yeah its not my favorite side of these players, Devin – they are cocky. But the Nats were having their huge home run celebrations when they were launching them at Minute Maid (but not necessarily standing there watching their drives head out of the park).
      Hey, I’ve given up on modern sports related to these things. I watch a football game and they make an interception in the middle of the field and are tackled and then the whole defense runs to the end zone to pose. In basketball, they love to perform in your face moves and then show up others with demonstrations like they won the lottery afterwards.
      I guess what I am saying is that I just don’t let anything ruin my joy. I have been here before these players showed up and hope God allows me to be here after they move on and I rejoice in what they do and not how they do it.

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    • MLB has a commercial out now that places today’s stars celebrating their feats in front of crowds from 80 years ago that act like they are at a 1950’s golf tournament.
      It is baseball telling it’s players that it is a new age and they can celebrate the way today’s fans want them to: in your face!
      I’m old school, too. About a lot of things. But baseball is encouraging the players to be show offs and as long as it’s the Astros doing the winning, I am feeling better about it than when other teams are doing it to us.
      Did anyone notice the celebration in the Nats dugout Sunday night after Soto’s homer, during the game that the Nats are getting their butts kicked?
      There is the football player who does a dance on the field after making a tackle on the other team’s backup QB, who is only in there because the QB’s team is winning the game 49-6 late in the fourth quarter.

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  15. And in case anyone is wondering…..yes I am working on the next post – will try to complete it during lunch time today.
    Ross did a decent job considering he was thrown into the rotation on short notice and he had only like pitched 2 innings in the last month. But as you say – not in the same neighborhood as the Big U (we need a nickname for Urquidy – quick somebody come up with one).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, I like the name Urquidy. When you say it, everyone knows who you are talking about and nobody else comes to mind. I hope it’s a name we get to hear for years to come.
      My 8 year old granddaughter showed up at the house last night, from next door, with her dinner plate in her hand and sits down on the end of the sofa eating because she says she “wants to see Altuve!” She’s asleep in Gramma’s arms by the seventh inning.
      We had the family show up with their dinners to watch with us. When Hudson threw his 34th pitch I told them that he looked exhausted and he was going to make a mistake to Springer. When he did, my son looked over at me and said “great call, Dad.”
      The Umps were definitely a topic of conversation during the game. When Cole got his gift from the ump, we all said it was payback for all the rotten calls on Astros batters all game long.

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  16. One thing about staring at home runs…..this used to be self policed. You did not do this because you did not want a fastball aimed at your ear in your next at bat. This does not happen near as much as it used to (don’t get me wrong – I am glad that head hunting is more frowned upon than showing up the pitcher) – but I can’t imagine doing this to Bob Gibson. He’d probably bean you before you got back to the dugout.

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