I returned to work today after about 10 days off. I caught a bit of the NLCS Game 5...but the TV in the breakroom was on the Colts-Rams game. As I got in my car to go home....the Astros were pitching in the top of the 8th inning with a 4-2 lead. My radio was on the game....so I listened to the play by play.
The announcer said something quite interesting. He said that the TV broadcast flashed a picture of Nolan Ryan watching from a skybox. The announcer went on to recount the 1980 NLCS, when the Astros [who had to beat the Dodgers in a one-game playoff for the NL West title] faced the Phillies in one of the greatest League Championship Series ever. Four of the five games went into extra innings. The Astros had a 2-1 series lead....with Games 4 and 5 at the Astrodome. In Game 4, Houston lost in extra innings after tying the game in the bottom of the 9th. But the killer was Game 5. The Astros had a 5-2 lead heading into the 8th inning....with Nolan Ryan pitching. Philly exploded for a 5-run inning....and taking a 7-5 lead. Houston scored twice in the bottom of the inning....but the Phillies scored in the 10th and ended up going to the World Series. Heartbreak.
The announcer then went on to mention the 1986 NLCS. The Astros trailed the Mets 3-games-to-2......but had a 3-0 lead heading into the 9th inning of Game 6. A win there, and the Astros force a Game 7 in New York. The Mets scored 3 times in the top of the 9th...and the game went into extra frames. Many extra frames. Both teams tallied a run in the 14th inning. In the top of the 16th, the Mets pounded out 3 runs....and had a nice 7-4 lead. The Astros mustered 2...but that was all. The Mets won the game, 7-6, and the series. That Game 6 was the longest playoff game in MLB history.....until the Astros beat the Braves in 18 innings last week. Heartbreak.
And, of course, he mentioned last season. Houston went to St. Louis with a 3-2 lead [sound familiar?]. The Cards won Games 6 and 7 to go to the World Series.
When I got home, I sat in front of the TV to see Brad Lidge ready to mow down the Cardinals and lift the Astros, who have never been to the World Series in their 45 year history, to unchartered territory. Lidge got 2 outs....and 2 strikes.
Then David Eckstein trickled a ball between short and third for a hit. Then Lidge got wild and walked Jim Edmonds. Then, as if we've seen it before, Lidge served up a fat pitch to Albert Pujols that was crushed like it was batting practice. St. Louis would go on to win, 5-4.
This teams and it's fans were ONE PITCH away from the World Series...and then had in dramatically ripped from them. How will they respond?? I mean, the Cards will be at home [where, oddly, the home team is only 4-6 in the LCSs] and have a bit of momentum on their side. The Astros will have a bit of down feeling....and the Cards know they can get to Lidge.