H-Town Sports

Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Could This Really Happen?

A comment from Mark in response to my teeth-gnashing about the Texans:

"Why even discuss the Path-exans when the Stros are breathing down the Cardinals' necks? I doubt Detroit fans are talking about the Lions! Bring back Astros-talk!"

Valid point, and my excuse for silence about Houston's only winning team was simple. I didn't want to jinx what the 'Stros were doing. I was content to continue whistling past the graveyard while Garner & Co. clawed their way back to a shot at the postseason. I mean, I am the moron who declared them dead about a month ago (see toe tag image), but I still want nothing more than more October baseball from Uncle Drayton's boys. That said, I am nothing if not a tool (of the reading public, that is), so jinx be damned!

After being 8 1/2 games out of the NL Central lead a week ago, Houston has won seven straight to move a mere game and a half back of St. Louis. Much ado is being made of the Cardinals simultaneously dropping seven straight to allow the 'Stros to get back into it, as it should be. We may be witnessing the most epic collapse in baseball since the 1964 Phillies. But this isn't a blog on STL Sports, so let's turn our attention to the Astros' situation.

What the hell happened? For starters, it certainly helps that the Cards aren't very good. They have one starting pitcher worth a damn in Chris Carpenter, and even he's been shaky of late (witness last night's seventh inning meltdown for the alleged likely NL Cy Young winner). The Astros' far superior staff was on parade during the four-game sweep of the Cards this past weekend. A rotation of Carpenter, Suppan, Marquis, Reyes, and the Gas Can That Is Jeff Weaver doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of men. At the very least, it's no Oswalt, Pettitte, Clemens, and the other two guys (I know it's Wandy and Hirsh, but their names do not belong in the same sentence as the other three).

But most importantly, the Astros have been hitting the daylights out of the ball when it matters most. If Lance Berkman isn't the most valuable player in the National League, he's surely the second most valuable behind Ryan Howard. And I'd argue that Howard has Chase Utley, whereas Berkman has the Peanut Dude. Regardless, Berkman has been Berkman, and he's finally getting some help from guys who haven't produced all year. My boy Craig Biggio, after much criticism (some of it admittedly deserved), has put together a nice streak of big hits over the past few games, with none bigger than his walk-off game-winning single last Friday against the Cardinals. Aubrey Huff has finally started to hit like T-Poo envisioned when he was acquired back in July. Luke Scott has continued his torrid hitting (.361 BA/.449 OBP/.675 SLG ) and has shown an uncanny patience at the plate, as well as a flare for the dramatic with his walk-off HR on Saturday night. Even Orlando Palmeiro (huge RBIs) and Jason Lane (timely HR against Philly) have gotten into the act. I thought there was a better chance of Gallo getting a September call-up than either of those two stiffs contributing. Shows what I know.

So the question is, can the Astros do it? I say yes, but it's obviously going to be very difficult and statistically mind-boggling. I think Houston has to win the next two against the Pirates and take two out of three from the Braves to have a shot. Even then, I believe a one-game playoff with the Cards is still in the cards. Although St. Louis can undoubtedly choke on the pressure of each pitch, I think they'll win just enough to go into their make-up game against San Francisco on 10/02/06 (which I do believe will become necessary). Assuming they win that, what happens next? One last head-to-head battle between Houston and St. Louis for all the divisional marbles. Where? Minute Maid Park, but virtue of T-Poo's victory in a coin flip a couple of days ago. And based upon what the 'Stros have shown us the last couple of weeks, there's simply no way you can bet against them in that scenario.


Anonymous Mark said...

Good post -- and two wins coming after it. The streak continues! Even if the Astros don't pull off the miracle, they showed a lot of guts and I am proud of 'em.

We are lucky that we are going to get to watch Oswalt and Berkman for a long time. They are two of the biggest "gamers" ever to put on an Astros jersey.

Thu Sep 28, 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Mark. Regardless of whether the 'Stros pull this off (and I think they will), it's been a privilege to watch them battle to the very end. Despite being written off numerous times throughout the season, they refuse to give up.

The Wizard and Puma deserve statues in front of MMP.

Fri Sep 29, 03:28:00 PM  

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