Like most things in the year 2020, cheering for the Houston Astros has been a muted and distant experience. With no one in attendance, the shortened season, the modified rules and the shadow of COVID hanging over baseball and our lives the baseball experience was a blurry version of the norm.
But most of all the attitude and performance of the team created an atmosphere where fun was not on the menu. The team played as though they were embarrassed by the cheating scandal that emotionally gutted them in the off season and rightfully so. They had no strut to them. On top of this the rotation and bullpen had been devastated by free agency, injuries and illness (Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, Will Harris, Hector Rondon, Collin McHugh, Justin Verlander, Jose Urquidy, Roberto Osuna, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski). The position players had some strategic losses and time lost due to injury between Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, George Springer and Jose Altuve.
The Astros had to rely on a slew of newbies and young pitchers most of whom had never pitched above AA ball to lop up a bunch of innings. They struggled in tight games and with extra inning games under the revised rules. The team never looked right and limped down the stretch into the last spot on the AL side of the playoffs. Last year they would not have been even in contention for a playoff spot.
But the playoffs seemed to give the team new life. And Carlos Correa stepped up both on the field and off the field to remind the baseball world that the Astros were here, had beaten the Twins legitimately and the world better get used to it.
The victory over the A’s featured an offensive Renaissance for the Astros as baseballs were flying out of Dodger Stadium. Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Michael Brantley brought back the vibes from the last three seasons.
And watching the Astros having fun playing baseball allowed their loyal fans to have fun.
Will the fun continue? You shouldn’t bet against this team that has finally found their mojo.