The Payoff

Following a baseball team over the course of a season has a lot in common with a good friendship. You follow them day by day, reading box scores, listening to their games on the radio, and get to know their strengths, weaknesses, personality, and character. Last year, I followed the Red Sox and the Astros, and as each team went on a run into the playoffs, it felt rewarding to see them come together in the playoffs. The Astros went on quite a ride this year, winning an 18-inning game to beat the Braves in their first playoff series, then shrugging off a towering (and potentially devastating) home run by Albert Pujols in the NLCS to go to their first World Series behind the pitching of Roy Oswalt. It has been a lot of fun...

...and it may be over soon. The Chicago White Sox currently have a 1-run lead in the 8th inning of Game 3 of the World Series, and the Astros are showing little life at this point. They lost Games 1 and 2 in Chicago, but looked to bounce back with Roy Oswalt (their money pitcher) going in Game 3 at home. Taking a 4-run lead into the 5th inning, RoyO gave up 6 hits and 5 runs, the equivalent of a mid-game stomach punch that the 'Stros have yet to recover from. I'm still watching, and I haven't lost hope yet, but things aren't looking good.

So unless the 'Stros are able to mount a comeback (like they have all season), I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed this team tremendously this year. Craig Biggio, a superstar in the 1990's (Bill James ranks him as the 2nd best player of the decade), has had a solid season at the age of 39. Jason Lane, Chris Burke, Willy Taveras, and Wandy Rodriguez were playing for the Round Rock Express last year, and have all had nice rookie seasons in the Show. Roger Clemens pitched out of his mind this year at the age of 43, finishing the year with an ERA under 2.00, and with Andy Pettite and Roy Oswalt also on the team, he may not have been the best pitcher on the team. All in all, a likeable blend of young guys and veterans that never give up.

The 'Stros started the year 15-30. They went on a run to take the Wild Card lead by the end of July, and fought through the next two months to take it by a game over Philly. They beat the Braves in 4 games, and then beat the Cardinals in 6 games. They have played hard in every game this World Series, but fell short each game to a Chicago White Sox team that hits well, fields well, and pitches well, and as a result seems to win most games they play. No shame losing to a team like that.

So the 'Stros made their first World Series this year with a young team that has a long future ahead of it. Well done guys...

(And with that said, Ensberg is up to bat with a full count and 2 outs. He hasn't hit it too well in the playoffs, but I think he's due. Gotta watch...)

(He drew a walk. The go-ahead run is at the plate...)

(Lamb draws a walk. Jason "Solo-Homer King" Lane is up. A base hit ties it...)

(Lane hits a double! Tie Game! Guys on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs and Ausmus coming up. I guess I'll mention that I went to the rally cap two pitches before the double...)

(Ausmus caught looking on a dubious strike three. Tied going into the 9th, and the big hitters coming up for Chicago. Hope is alive...)


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