You recognize them by the sick feeling in your gut every time they step up to the plate or take the mound. They cause you more heartburn than a plateful of hot wings. Every time you hear their name your sweat glands start acting as if you’re attending a game at Minute Maid Park.
If any of those symptoms sound familiar then you know the guys I’m talking about. They are stone cold Astros-killers; guys whose sole reason for existence seems predicated upon torturing the hometown nine.
Considering all the heartache Astros fans have suffered over the years, a list that only goes five deep can’t even come close to naming every villain. But it’s a start, anyway, and by all means feel free to share your own personal horror stories in the allotted space below.
On with the list.
5. Lenny Dykstra
A first class jerk, Grade A pest and certified Astros-killer. I hated everything about the guy; from his cocky attitude to that disgusting, omnipresent giant wad of chewing tobacco forever embedded in his cheek. Plus, he played for the hated Mets, the Astros’ opponent in the 1986 NLCS. Much to my chagrin, Dykstra turned out to be New York’s best player that series, saving their bacon with a game-winning home run in Game 3, and it was his ninth inning triple which sparked the Mets’ rally from three runs down in Game 6—a game which still ranks as one of baseball’s best postseason contests of all time. New York went on to win it 7-6 in 16 agonizing innings, claiming the series 4-2. As if you didn’t know that already.
4. Kevin Brown
This guy absolutely owned Houston, but never was it more evident, or more painful, than the 1998 N.L. divisional series which pitted Brown’s Padres against one of the best Astros teams of all time. After making a midseason trade for Randy Johnson, the ‘Stros looked to be a legitimate World Series threat. Unfortunately, even the Big Unit was no match for a nearly unhittable Kevin Brown. The Padres’ ace pitched 14 2/3 innings over the course of two starts, giving up a measly 5 hits while striking out a whopping 21 Astros.
Forget the Fall Classic. Brown didn’t even allow the Astros to escape the first round.
3. Jim Edmonds
I’ll let Ballz’ Astros writer extraordinaire, John Royal, kick this one off:
“The guy killed the 'Stros in the playoffs with his defense -- Game 7 2004 -- and he plays Tal's Hill like it was designed for him -- and he kills Astros pitching, no matter what team he's on -- in MMP's first season, the Cards came in for a 4-game series and the pitching staff didn't get Edmonds out one single time.”
The last part is not exactly true (it was actually a three game series and Houston did retire Edmonds once…in 13 at-bats), but, hey, that’s what these killers do to you: They’re so good, and so deadly, that it actually seems as if they come through every single freaking time.
2. Will Clark
Some guys are just destined to torment your favorite team and you know it right from the start. The “Thrill” was one of them. The very first game of his major league career took place at the Astrodome and he found himself facing some washed-up old man by the name of Nolan Ryan. First inning, Clark unleashed that beautiful, sweeter-than-syrup left-handed swing of his, sending Ryan’s initial offering over the wall in straightaway center field. Not a bad way to start a big league career. It also announced the beginning of Clark’s reign of terror over the Astros; the likes of which I figured/hoped would never be seen again.
Then along came this guy:
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1. Albert Pujols
So deadly, so destructive, that words simply won’t suffice. The images say it all, anyway.
Honorable mentions: Fernando Valenzuela, Chipper Jones, Brett Butler, the entire Atlanta Braves pitching staff from 1997-2001, and special shout-outs to Adam Everett’s bat, Derek Bell’s brain and Drayton McLane’s wallet. - Jason Friedman