Astros fly into the playoffs

Some of the younger Astro fans are probably yawning as the Astros clinched a playoff spot on Friday with 17 games left to go and then Monday clinched their fifth AL West title in six seasons with 14 games to go in the season. Ho-hum, playoff-clinching is so mundane and expected.

The grey hairs and the blue hairs around here remember the old days. We recognize that the Astros did not make the playoffs until their 19th season. We remember what fingernail-pulling torture that the first opportunity was in 1980 as the Astros lost a three-game lead to the Dodgers in the last three games of the season and only made it into the playoffs after a playoff game at Dodger Stadium (thank you, Art Howe and Joe Niekro).

As Justin Verlander told his teammates in language that can’t be repeated here…. don’t take these things for granted. No one is guaranteed to make the playoffs in their careers, much less in any particular year. Verlander made it to the World Series in his second season with the Tigers but recalls the journey of Sean Casey, who in his tenth year was traded to the Tigers and made his first appearance in the playoffs that season and was so grateful. Standing on the mound as the Astro clinched the division last night was pitcher Hector Neris, who missed the playoffs his first eight seasons in Philadelphia before signing with Houston. He helped to anchor one of the best bullpens in baseball and will get rewarded with his first experience in the postseason.

This will be the Astros’ 16th appearance in the post-season, and seven of those appearances have been in the last 8 seasons. In their whole history up until their playoff appearance in 2015, the franchise had only won three playoff series, one in 2004 and two in 2005. Including their wild-card win in 2015 over the Yankees, the Astros have won 11 series in the last seven seasons and have made it to the ALCS five times in a row and the World Series three times in those five.

This is a golden age of Astros’ baseball that we wish could have been shared with those who went before us, like my father, who died in 2001. We may never see a run like this again in our lifetimes, but we did see this, and it has been a remarkable run.

52 comments on “Astros fly into the playoffs

  1. I was one of those sufferers in those beginning days from watching the 45s in the old minor league park while the dome was being built and being shocked when the brainless general manager traded Joe Morgan. I have thoroughly enjoyed these last few years

    Liked by 2 people

  2. 16th appearance in the playoffs? Wow! It took so long for the first – I can’t believe we’ve done it 15 times since!

    Congratulations to the players. Congratulations to the Franchise. Congratulation to the city. Congratulations to us fans!

    Liked by 1 person

    • In case anyone here does not remember – our first playoff appearance was in 1980 – when the team dubbed ‘the Cardiac kids’ won one game but lost four heart-breakers to the Phillies (who eventually won the WS that year) in the first round. It was Joe Morgan, Jose Cruz, Cesar Cedeno, Nolan Ryan and Joe Niekro vs. Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, and Steve Carlton. Of the five games, four went to extra-innings. So it began.

      Like

      • I was 7 years old when the Colt 45s played their first game. Our first playoff game was over a year after I passed the bar exam. Yep – it took awhile.

        Like

      • Mr. Bill – we won 2 out of 5 against the Phillies and were up 2-1 in the series and let the Phillies come back and beat us in games 4 and 5 as I remember.

        Like

  3. For some reason on my normal Astros channel 639 – they have sumo wrestling
    On the “other” AT&T Sportsnet channel 710 – the Astros are on
    Usually the only time they are on 710 is when there is a conflict with a Rockets game.
    Yordan sitting out but Tucker slices a nice double to score one in the first

    Liked by 1 person

    • Another ho-hum victory for the good guys. Good pitching, timely hitting. The guys really look like they’re having a lot of fun. It’s good so that when the playoffs start it’ll be “game time”.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Speaking of the Yankees, I watched the end of their game last night. Down 8-4 going into the bottom of the 9th, Judge led off with his 60th and after a double, a single and a walk, Stanton hit a slam to finish it. It seemed inevitable. What I found curious is that the Pirates gave the inning to Wil Crowe who could not get an out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And the Dodgers (who I don’t think we are catching) were losing 5-1 entering the bottom of the 8th and scored 5 runs with a 2 run homer and a bunch of singles. There was a throwing error by former Astro prospect Josh Rojas, an infield single to Rojas and an infield single that he deflected. Dodgers win 6-5.

      Like

  5. Again, glad to see us win against the Rays, who have been tough on us. Good to see Jeremy Pena catching his second wind. They sit Yordan and win easily. Not that happy they had to bring in Pressly to seal the game, but Abreu got a case of the walks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Not really a young’un but not old enough to have watched the late 60s/70s with any understanding. The 80s were my first foray as a young kid growing up in Beaumont. Dad used to take me to the dome 8-10 times a year. Of course as a 12 year old I loved Jose Cruz.

    I was in my prime fandom through the disappointing 90s-2005, a 15 year period where they were usually good, just never quite good enough. The heartbreak of the team trying to stay relevant but realizing Oswalt/Berkman/Lee with Pence were just not quite good enough to do that with no pitching.

    So the rebuild. Four agonizing seasons. Man we fought over guys like Grossman and Marisnick. For no good reasons. Arguing over whether we should go with this 5 ERA or that 5 ERA guy. Lean years. Desperate for help so much that we thought Jon Singleton was our beacon of hope. Bopert was convinced Jim Crane was the devil.

    Here we are. I won’t forget where we came from, what we saw. It can happen so fast to a franchise. Look at the Rockets. Just 4 years ago they were arguably the best team in the league. Paul and Harden looked unstoppable. In one fell swoop it was taken away. Now they are the Astros of the 2013, trying to draft high and hoping some kid catches fire. The Nationals won a WS in recent history (we remember, we were there). Now they are embarking on a 5-7 year rebuild just hoping it doesn’t turn into a Pittsburgh 25 year rebuild.

    We are lucky.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Steven – the early years were tough. The Astros had a heck of a lot of young talent, but then after a power struggle, Spec Richardson was the GM and he decided to trade youth for experience. So, Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub, Mike Cuellar, John Mayberry and others ended up becoming stars elsewhere. Then we get to watch the Miracle Mets, who joined the NL when we did, win the whole shebang in 1969 and also get to the WS in 1973. We went the whole of the 60’s and 70’s without a playoff appearance.
      You hit the nail on the head with your summary up there, though the team should have done something in that 1997 to 2001 run – but those short series and some insane pitching did us in.
      In the “bad” era I will say that one of the 5 ERA guys did turn out to be something (Keuchel).
      It was a tough time in the late McLane/early Crane era, I argued vehemently against Bopert, but I will admit there was a part of me that wondered whether he was right or not. But I just could not agree with the thought that we would “never” be any good. And here we are with the most sustained excellence in our team’s history.
      Yes we are blessed that is for sure. But I wouldn’t argue with the team earning a non-tainted championship to shut up a few folks out in the world.

      Like

    • Pena is hitting .284 with a .314 OBP when batting second. Its his best spot in the order this season. I assume if you have Bregman or Alvarez on deck behind you that you tend to see better pitches. His aggressive nature probably takes advantages of those pitches. He hasn’t been bad 7th either though, at .269 with .314 OBP. The rest of the spots, he has been awful in.

      Most hitters have really high batting averages on first pitches they put in play, but Pena’s is above average at .390. I didn’t look at the whole roster, but he is better in that regard than Alvarez, Bregman, Altuve and Tucker. That doesn’t surprise me, he is aggressive, doesn’t really command the zone as a hitter (so he isn’t a Brantley type work the count to get your pitch guy) but he swings a hard bat, and batting second he probably sees more first pitch strikes than other spots.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. 100 RBIs by Tucker is a big deal. If Alvarez and Bregman join him there, making us have a trifecta of 100-RBI guys, that would be huge! For middle of the order guys, it’s not OBP or OPS that matters most – it’s actual run production!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. With Lance on the mound – interesting lineup with Bregman sitting out

    Altuve 2B
    Peña SS
    Alvarez DH
    Diaz 3B
    Tucker RF
    Gurriel 1B
    Mancini LF
    McCormick CF
    Maldonado C

    Like

  9. Jose Altuve started the Monday night game with a homer. Tuesday and Wednesday with singles. On the season he’s got an OPS of 1.138 in the first inning. The OBP is .381. And he’s quietly stolen 18 bases in 19 attempts. He’s the glue.

    Another excellent outing by McCullers. Was able to keep the pitch count down.

    Kyle Tucker needs a new contract this winter. Actually, the Astros need it more than he does.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed! We need to get Tucker resigned. He’s got 3 years of arbitration left. Altuve and Bregman’s salaries come off the books after 2024. I would hope that if they’re still playing well that we can do a “team friendly” deal with them after that, and then there’s the pitching staff.

      Like

    • By all accounts, the new shift rules should benefit Tucker. He’s second in MLB with 66 ground ball and line drive outs hit into the shift. What if only a third of those balls turn into hits? With just two fielders to the right of second base and no short fielder unless someone wants to rush the left or center fielder over to help, 33% might be a conservative estimate. In retrospect, it might well in his best interest to negotiate a contract after the 2023 season.

      Like

  10. My first Astro game took place on August 15, 1970. Shocking when you realize it was more than half a century ago. But anyway, I remember that Bob Bailey hit a shot up into the yellow seats in left. The Astros lost. It did not really matter to me at that point as I was still a Mets fan, having just moved from my childhood home, literally the day before. I was staying at the Astroworld Hotel, which I thought was the coolest thing. I had a tab in the coffee shop. I had my first Dr. Pepper. And grits. And mustard on my cheeseburger. All compliments of M.W. Kellogg, my father’s employer!

    I think it was sometime during the next season that I traded in my old cap for the Astros version. Plenty of lean years ensued of course, but today we remain in a state of relevance that not many fans ever get to appreciate. One of these seasons we’ll get shut out of the post season. It will happen. But I also think we’ll see quite a few more solid Astro teams at least as long as Jim Crane owns the club. We’re lucky the guy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cool cheese there daveb. We have a bit of a connection as I’ve been with Brown & Root many years, which merged with MW Kellogg in the late 1990’s and became KBR.
      My dad worked for Walgreen’s managing the warehouse area and got transferred here in 1966 when they opened a new warehouse here. We were living in Spring Branch near the warehouse and I remember when we drove in from Dallas I was looking all over the place for the Astrodome – thought we could see it from the roads we were taking – haha.
      Going to the Dome the first time was a bit breathtaking, it looked like some kind of huge spaceship sitting on the prairie there. You went inside and it was the largest indoor space we could have imagined. You had all the colors and because it was indoor, they had cushioned seats, not the wooden benches in so many parks. The big middle scoreboard with the elementary cartoons was a lot of fun. The exploding score board for home runs and wins was great. It was something way beyond anything anywhere else.

      Like

    • It is always a fascinating thing when visionaries make their visions come to life. If you look at the history of Disney, it was Walt with the vision and risking the whole company on making things happen and Roy Disney was the one trying to reel him in. Of course they now have an insanely greedy corporate mole in charge who has totally lost the vision of a place where people of reasonable means can take their children. (Sorry for the commentary, but what is happening with Disney right now is sad).
      Roy Hofheinz had R.E “Bob” Smith trying to reel him in and eventually Smith got frustrated with having money invested and having Judge Roy make decisions without him and had Hofheinz buy him out. Hofheinz ended up where visionaries without someone to restrain them end up – in bankruptcy.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. I did like how Tampa native Kyle Tucker launched a 440 ft home run in the 8th that helped Tampa native Lance McCullers Jr. to grab a win from the jaws of a no decision (after Aledmys tied it up on a goofy single off the infielders glove – where Pena was frozen and should have been charging home)

    Liked by 1 person

    • The play where Pena froze is a sign of his still being a rookie.
      The play that got him to third base in the first place is a sign of his potential. He simply outran Margot’s rocket arm after tagging up on a line drive out to RF. The guy has a ton of talent.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Oriole prospect Gunnar Henderson is having quite the major league debut in his late-season call-up. Over his first 20 ML games he is slashing .324/.375/.929 with 3 HR, 6 DBL, a TPL, and 10 RBI.

    Watch out for this kid, JV.

    Like

  13. I know I’ve used up all my challenges, but wouldn’t it be more sensible to simply leave Pena in the 2 slot and have A. Diaz lead off?

    And while Chas has been struggling, he hit the ball hard twice last night and had two hits. Has Verlander ever said that Frenchy is his guy in center?

    Happy to see Yainer. He might have a night tonight!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. With all these minor league seasons and playoffs ending, it will be interesting to see who might get promoted up, who might go to
    Arizona (most if all are named already), and who will be sent home. Some will be home permanently.

    Like

  15. Verlander had some problems in one inning and then settled down. The Astro hitters treated the O’s pitcher like he was Verlander. There was really not a hint of a rally all night. Are we that dependent on Altuve to set the table? Maybe.

    Liked by 2 people

      • He was part of the Angels deal to get Dylan Bundy. And as it has turned out, the Angels lost him and a couple other prospects and later lost Dylan Bundy. This is one of those “wait three years to see if a good trade” and I believe we can all say – BAD for the Angels.

        The only reason I say that is the Astros got two at the deadline that can be gone in a month. However, currently, it looks like the Astros did not give up a whole lot. Three years from today, we might be saying how dumb Click had to be.

        Like

  16. Finally saw Dusty get animated tonight. When the O’s executed the first double steal, he threw his toothpick down and had some choice words for the club.

    Like

  17. I spent the evening at Minute Maid last night. No, I didn’t get lost on the way to Baltimore. Billy Joel came to sing the old songs again, and we went to sing along. So don’t blame me for what happened to the Stros – I am an ‘Innocent Man’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • – We didn’t start the “dumpster” fire
      – It feels like the longest time since we scored
      – Only the good strike out young
      – We are waiting for Yordan to deliver another big shot
      – Don’t ask me why the Astros sweep the Rays and sleep walk through the first two games with the O’s
      – We just need to approach our team with a Matter of Trust

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s