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Astros-Pirates: Better to Be Lucky and Good

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I really tried to care about the Houston Astros this weekend. Seriously, I did. But despite the Astros winning two of three games from the Pirates, I just can’t make myself give a damn. And I don’t care because despite the best efforts of the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers to blow the wild card, the Astros just aren’t gaining ground.

That’s right, despite the Mets and Brewers pulling off epic collapses for yet a second straight season, the Astros find themselves four games back of the Mets and 2.5 games back of the Brewers with seven games left in the season. And sure, the Mets and Brewers are playing like crap, but as anyone who has been watching the Astros this past week – which hopefully hasn’t been much of the city – the Astros have sucked just as much, having lost six of their last eight games.

It would be easy, and stupid, to blame Hurricane Ike and Bud Selig for this current Astros choke job. And this is the position being taken by several of the Astros and some of the Houston media. But if Lance Berkman doesn’t believe that crap, then you shouldn’t believe it either (and I’m not going to say anything further about this or Bud Selig’s apology in yesterday’s Chron because I’m sick of it. Suffice to say that Richard Justice further proved Drayton McLane a liar about this last week, and that it was reported in other outlets that Drayton refused an offer to play the games in St. Louis, which unlike Milwaukee, would not have been a Cub-friendly ballpark.)

The Astros are going through this collapse because they’re a bad team that played way above their heads for about six weeks, and now they’re coming back down to reality. A reality which just happened to coincide with a hurricane.

“I don't care if there's a hurricane or not, we've just stunk at a really bad time,” Lance Berkman told the Chron. “That's all you can say about it. When we're looking back at this season and what-if, you can think that we didn't play good when we had to.

“And you can think back to other stretches we had this year when we didn't play well. The reason you play 162 games is to sort out who has the best team in the long haul, not who has the best in a month and a half.”

And that’s the actual final conclusion. The Astros got on a lucky six-week streak, but they’re not the best team in baseball, and that streak doesn’t represent the real Astros. The real Astros are closer to that team that went 20-30 in June and July than they are to the team that went 30-10 from August 1 to September 11. And bitch all that you want about Bud Selig, but that truth isn’t going to change.

The Astros have today off before starting the season’s final six (or seven, depending on playoff considerations) games of the season. All of the remaining games will be here in Houston – but they better not play extra innings because the city of Houston, in its infinite and continuingly wrong wisdom, has decided against lifting the curfew that was supposed to be lifted today – and will feature three games with the Cincinnati Reds, three games with the Atlanta Braves, and if needed, a game with the Chicago Cubs. – John Royal

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