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. I thought it was kind of interesting to see that former Astro Alan Zinter was named hitting coach of the Reds.
    Zinter floated around the minors forever, finally getting a cup of coffee with the Astros at the age of 34 – was a pretty terrible hitter – 19 Ks and 0 walks in 44 ABs in 2002 – .136 BA – though he did hit 2 doubles and 2 HRs amid his 6 hits.
    Of course guys don’t have to have been good mlb hitters (or even mlb players) to be good hitting coaches. Hope he finds success in Cincy.

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  2. And I find it annoying that Astros bench coach Joe Espada is meeting with the Giants about their manager’s job on the team’s day off in the midst of the World Series. There might just be soooooomething he should be working on with his regular job today don’t you think? It’s not really his fault – baseball should make the guys on playoff staffs unavailable while their team’s are still playing.

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  3. Sadly I thnk the Nats have the magic pixie dust this year and we will get a bowl full of humility. I hope in the off season they reevaluate HR or nothing and &^&^ launch angles. The Nats have the right formula get hits , move runners up and over , next man up!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I never make predictions….but I’m very glad there’s no game tonight, I used up my whole box of cuss words last night.
    OP….we need to hear from you! I just got back from my *2nd* MRI since July.
    I’m real tired of getting poked and scanned to death.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It would have been nice to come out of Houston with at least a split, but they could have won both of those games. The score doesn’t tell the whole story on game 2 as the wheels came off and it got out of hand, but Washington doesn’t get to carry any of them over to game 3 either.

    My only concern is that game 3 is a must win at this point and if the team comes out tight it could go downhill in a hurry. No more mental mistakes. As to the actual action, we saw their best two starters and their important bullpen pieces. Win the next two games and suddenly Washington is on the ropes.

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  6. I will never say never until it’s over. The Stros have been punched in the mouth. Now it’s time to wipe off the bloody lips & put in the work to win another WS.
    To a man the Stros as a tm have abilities, some more than others. But winning on the big stage begins with that pump in the chest, believing that you can then playing like you can. You can’t come to the plate, the bases juiced with your hearts pumping koolaide. Offensively it’s a tm effort & it’s every man’s job to get on base, whatever it takes.
    The Nats are hot, on a roll, & cocky playing like it. Want to slow’em down? Get on your own roll. It’s been done before.

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    • I haven’t talked to him about it, but I’m not surprised. MLB had some pretty harsh things to say about it. Now…my only concern will be about Luhnow, because he took up for Brandon. There’s always a price to pay when you let your butt overload your mouth. He had a promising future and an AWESOME job and now it’s gone.

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  7. Oldschool63….Bregman went from hero to goat by trying too hard last night.
    His error set that inning to complete meltdown. It really pained me to see the look on Verlander’s face when our guys screwed up soo badly. I hope Cole gets another chance to start, he needs to go into the off season with a better taste in his mouth.

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  8. The Taubman story is again on NBC Nightly News tonight. From the action itself to the clubs initial reactions, this is a huge blemish on the organization, one that will continue to take focus from the World Series in the coming days and beyond. I’m embarrassed for the Astros.

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  9. Taubman screwed up. But as I posted when it happened, it was insane to call SI and all those ladies liars. We can speculate but in the end, at least two or more screwed this up. Totally unprofessional all around. I don’t believe “if a woman says it – it is true.” But you better get your facts straight before calling people liars.

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  10. At this point, it’s all about winning tonight. Greinke has to have a good game. And as roadthriller reiterates above, the team has to hit like it used to. It’s pretty simple.

    At the same time, the Nats have remarkable momentum going for them. They’ve got a heck of a home crowd. Today, the Nationals have absolutely no doubt in the outcome of this series. So our guys really have to make statement tonight.

    We’ll see about tomorrow, tomorrow.

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  11. The key to winning the WS for the Astros is to win tonight.
    You win tonight and then you win tomorrow night and get this thing back to even and get the series back to Houston.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am torn a bit – I know that Drellich was very much against this bunch when he was reporting for the (spit!!). But I’m not saying he is wrong. Of course this same thing might be said about the Patriots who also value the bottom line and winning over other things. Maybe I’m a coward, but not sure I want to look behind the curtain.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t subscribe to The Athletic, but had been considering it. Seeing that Drellich writes for them I’ll keep my money. However, I don’t doubt a word of what is reported in the story Billy linked.

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  12. Yes….tonight is *THE* biggest game in this series. I guess it’s a good thing Greinke has the personality he has, maybe he won’t feel the stress of tonights game. At least I hope so. As we saw Thursday….*ONE* error can doom your season.
    I hope we will all meet back here tonight to celebrate an Astros WIN!
    OP…soo good to see your name! Your name was called last night, as I do everynight my friend. Becky

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  13. Well, as my son Thomas texted me (which matched what I was thinking) – keep your chins up. Your team is where 28 other teams would love to be. If they do like they did in games 4 and 6 of the Yankee series and win games started by Greinke and a bullpen game – they could be back to even by tomorrow night.
    Just like losing 12-3 only counts as one loss – tonight’s game only counts as one win (the biggest win on the season for each team). But we know the truth – the team has their back against the wall and they must come through. Apparently, according to Evan Drellich if they don’t come through, the evil Game Control front office will start hurting babies and small animals and tell the players they know where they live.
    The plus side is that so many times when we have become discouraged with this particular version of the Astros, they find another gear and rip off a bunch of wins in a row. The Nats look oh so tough, but will they start doubting themselves if this series starts slipping away? Only one way to find out and that is to win tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m not discouraged with our Astros. I remain disgusted by the crass, arrogant, socially inept actions of Brandon Taubman, who however unwittingly, hijacked the World Series. I hope he never sees a job in professional sports again. And I have no desire to pay The Athletic for Drellich’s opinions either.

    I know the Astro organization is not perfect. I still think the Osuna signing was a questionable one. But a low turnover rate is not at all indicative of a sick corporate culture. And I see the on field employees of this club far more than my own family, although admittedly only the on stage version. Regardless, I’m positive the great majority of those guys are men of character. Unfortunately, it only takes one Taubman to undo any amount of goodwill. Any organization not attuned to that deserves whatever that comes their way. I sure hope our own club spends a lot of time this winter in making sure every employee working for the organization should be.

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  15. -I’m glad Taubman lost his job. If others covered it up, I hope they lose their jobs, too. There’s plenty of people out there with skills.
    – I think the Astros do hire from within. How did Taubman get that job in the first place?
    – Why would anyone trust anything Drellich says about the Astros. Why in the hell would I trust some guy who is writing an opinion based on something Drellich says? Drellich made a living covering an Astros organization he never liked.
    -Plenty of people don’t like the Astros, which wasn’t the way things used to be when others generally beat the Astros to death for 50 years and loved us being losers.
    -Got the date scheduled today for Mrs. 10p’s surgery next month and it seems I may have dodged my own bullet by needing drugs for my heart and not stents or surgery.
    -Happy to be here. Going to pick up the Grandkids at school.
    Bye.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Glad that you are doing OK – hope Mrs OP comes through with flying colors.
      – If it is found that Luhnow or Crane orchestrated the cover up – what happens then
      – It is weird that such a savvy organization could be so tone deaf on this subject. If only they had said they were investigating it rather than tossing out a quick us vs them statement without talking to anyone about it. They could have had Taubman give a true apology and send him off to alcohol rehab or anger management or wherever and it might have blown over. By doubling down without making a real effort to find out what happened they set it up so that they had to sacrifice Taubman to take the heat off the organization.
      – There have been a lot of folks that do not like what the Astros have done to win. So it is hard to not think they are being targeted at times (Whistling in the dugout). But….. there is a huge difference between winning by being pioneers in applying what you have learned statistically or by new technical means and cheating. I don’t have a problem with players stealing signs and relaying it to a hitter. I don’t have a problem with changing a pitcher’s grip or what % they throw a high four seamer, based on stats. I would have a problem if they were using cameras and computers to steal signs or had found some new invisible stick’em pine tar they were using to increase a pitcher’s spin rate.
      – I would rather go back to 2013 than to cheer for a bunch of cheaters (that was tough to type)

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      • Daveb
        No evidence of this – just accusations
        My concerns run from life experiences that tell me that people that make morally questionable moves in one situation may make them in another. I pray that is not true that this was just people defending someone they believed based on him not being this type of person.

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      • I said a few years back that we would end up with a dynasty and people would look at us the way football fans look at the Patriots. I had no idea it’d be in this way

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  16. I’m not necessarily “glad” that Taubman lost his job as I’m just not the type of person who gloats over the misfortune of others, even when they deserve it and this guy did. I’ve always thought that when we all pass from this life God will be the ultimate judge and I’m happy in that knowledge. Hopefully he’ll learn something here but it’s up to him. There are enough arrogant, egotistical, condescending, narcissistic A-holes in the world already. I don’t know where the denial of his nasty comments came from but somebody should take a look at this too.
    But it’s time to move on and focus on tonight’s game. Let’s get the team back on track. As Yogi said, “It’s not over till it’s over”. And it sure ain’t over yet. Go get ’em guys!

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  17. Man, that’s cold blooded. They intentionally walk Uncle Mike to pitch to ABreg. The postseason has not been kind & he’s ice cold at the plate. The BP really needs to be stout

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  18. And enough have dropped to score. They keep hitting like that and more will find holes. We’ve only scored 1 off a HR and we could have scored more. All the regulars had one hit except ABreg. Got to get that guy going

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    • He finally hits a line drive and gets robbed. Maybe not enough stars in the sky to compare with how many balls that we hit hard but were outs. Just three more outs to go. Come on guys.

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  19. So where do we get nine innings from tonight? Can Urquidy keep us in the game for 4 or 5? Does Devenski have a quality inning or two? Can Peacock throw strikes for an inning? James only pitched to one guy last night. If these guys can come up big and the bats get to Corbin, we’ve got a real shot. I have not checked our BABip, but its got to be low. If our bats keep making contact like they did last night, we will breakout, hopefully before its too late.

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  20. MLB won’t announce findings of Taubman incident (and punishments) until after the World Series.
    Expect Taubmsn to have an indefinite suspension to keep any team from hiring him. Expect the team to be fined for their statement after the incident. There could be other punishments on those who wrote and approved the statement. Would not be surprised by an HR resignation or firing
    Might Luhnow or Crane face a fine and/or suspension or someone else in the cront office? Stay tuned

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    • Dan, I’m trying to shelve this issue until after the series, but one thing keeps coming to mind. If this guy was Luhnow’s assistant GM, presumably a guy who would report directly to Luhnow, how could Luhnow NOT be involved in authoring or at least approving the content of the original statement issued by The Astros?

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  21. Astro post season BABip

    .400 Maldonado
    .400 Tucker
    .370 Yordan
    .349 Brantley
    .333 Jose
    .241 Carlos
    .235 Alex
    .222 Yuli
    .211 George
    .154 Chirinos
    .136 Reddick
    .000 Diaz

    At some point, hopefully in 2019, we’ve got to see some correction. There were signs of encouragement last night. Could tonight be the night some of those hard hit balls find a hole? Looking at last nights play by play today, we hit 10 balls hard that became outs. I think that’s a good sign.

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  22. Tonight is put up or shut up. If they win with their rookie starter (who has shown great poise) they will win the series. If they go down 3-1 I think weee screwed)

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  23. I’m for DH’ing in both leagues. Watching Urquidy’s trying to bunt, and he wasn’t comfortable doing that, is exactly why I prefer not to watch pitchers hit. I don’t understand why MLB split DH’ing up between the leagues anyway. One way or the other for me

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I thought U pitched excellently. I thought he was good for at least another inning. Not good for the BP to come in giving up walks right out the chute, but we’ll see.

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    • That was a bad decision by AJ. Urquidy pitching lights out and now burns two BP pitchers, James, Harris. Also since the pitcher’s spot is up in the 7th we lose Harris. Way too early. Hope it doesn’t bite us.

      Liked by 1 person

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