By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
The Astros positively put on an offensive explosion in the third, with a slow-roller base hit, a grounder where the pitcher failed to cover first, a sacrifice fly where the pitcher failed to realize he had the runner dead to rights at third, and then a wild pitch. For the Astros lately, that’s a regular Murderers’ Row.
Prior to that, it looked like it was going to be a very long night for Astros fans. Mostly because the Fox announcers spent the bulk of the first inning regaling us twice with how some Astro had joked on the flight to St. Louis about how you could see Pujols’ Game Five home-run ball from there. Neither time was the story told in any manner that would actually solicit a chuckle; instead the comic timing was more of the “Oh, wait, I forgot to say that they were on a plane” variety.
Despite that, and because of Oswalt’s mastery, the Astros cruised to a victory with only a few tense moments. And the ´Stros, after 43 seasons of close calls, outright ineptitude and occasional injustice from the baseball gods, had finally reached the World Series.
Jeff Bagwell, interviewed on the field after the final out, said, “I’m ecstatic.” Being Jeff Bagwell, he said it in the same tone as someone saying, “You know, I’m kind of hungry right now.”
The local TV stations went wall-to-wall, providing comprehensive coverage of what drunk people thought about the Astros. The transcript of one sports-bar interview by KHOU’s Vicente Arenas:
Arenas: What was your favorite part of the game?
Very Excited Fan: The Astros winning, maaaan! Wooooooo!
Arenas: No, but what was the best part of the game?
Very Excited Fan: [pause for deep thinking, then a light bulb goes off] The whole thing, maaan!
Arenas [utterly determined to get to the bottom of this Vital Question]: Right, but what was the best part?
Very Excited Fan: The Astros winning! Woooooo!
KPRC kept going back to poor Lisa Baldwin downtown, even as the crowds dwindled near midnight. The few revelers who remained seemed to huddle around the TV reporters as if for warmth, staying relatively quiet until the cameras turned on, when they could begin shouting again.
The Baldwin highlight came when they threw to her one time sooner than she expected. Not only was the crowd utterly still, but you could actually hear one guy behind her say to another guy: “Come on, man, you’re gonna get her fired.” Then everyone realized they were on the air, and the party resumed, minus any noticeable fireable offenses.
Most surprising stat of the night: We were flipping through channels, so obviously we might have missed something, but by our count it took at least an hour and ten minutes before an Astro made even a slight mention of the key role Jesus and His heavenly minions played in their victory. (We definitely had the under on that bet.) We did, however, correctly predict Morgan “I’m Not Jewish!” Ensberg as the Uncertain Trumpet through which the Lord would deliver his message to baseball fans.
As the champagne dried, the ´Stros could say, as Bobby Kennedy said after the California primary in 1968, “Now it’s on to Chicago and let’s win there.”
We can only hope things work out better for them than they did for Bobby.
Publication date: October 17
Game Five: So That’s How It Feels
A little Red Sox pain for the Astros
Houston, you’ve had your Billy Buckner moment. Defeat has been snatched from the jaws of victory in the cruelest way.
It hurts, but the best thing to do now is to go on and win the next game, as opposed to taking the Boston option of producing a cottage industry of whiney pseudo-literary books and documentaries. Just adopting the proper accent would be too hard: “Dat Lidge, I’m tellin’ ya, he broke my hat” somehow doesn’t sound right, especially from someone dressed up in a bee suit.
The Astros had spent most of the evening flailing away comically in their attempts to get a hit off Card pitcher Chris Carpenter. Carpenter’s going to win the NL Cy Young Award, so technically there’s no shame in looking utterly hapless before him, but it does tend to take the crowd out of the game. All Fox could do to maintain interest was to keep going to the Crotch-Cam whenever Andy Pettitte was on the mound; Pettitte obviously follows the Spinal Tap code of “walking around with armadillos in our trousers.”
Until the end, the Astros’ offense couldn’t get any more small-ballish if it was playing T-ball. What thrills! A run scores on a broken-bat single. The crowd jumps to its feet for a possible extra-base hit…that would’ve been the result of the Cards’ catcher misplaying a dribbler up the line. The dribbler was deemed foul, but for a brief few moments it looked like an Astros offensive explosion.
Then, finally, Lance Berkman came up in the eighth. And once again Astros fans everywhere uttered their traditional baseball mantra: “Thank Christ for those Crawford boxes.” The ´Stros have been banging balls into those Crawford boxes like they were Pabst cans into the recyclable containers at a frat party. (An ecologically conscious frat party, of course.)