Playoff Time: Indomitable Astros Win Again
So little to talk about and so much time!
Stop. Reverse that.
Astros win again (because of course they do)
I had this feeling a couple of days ago when Aroldis Chapman had his ninth-inning meltdown, that it would end up costing the Texas Rangers the division title. I didn’t know HOW it would happen — I actually thought the most likely scenario was that the Mariners would sweep the Rangers — but something about that loss and, specifically, the role of Aroldis Chapman in it suggested some bad juju and a crushing finish to what has been a glorious season for the Rangers.
Well, the Mariners did not sweep — the Mariners have their own bad juju to deal with. But they did take three out of four, including Sunday’s gut-punch 1-0 victory, and the Astros woke up just in time to sweep the Diamondbacks (allowing just two runs in the three games) and now the Rangers are stuck trying to win a best-of-three series in Tampa Bay while the Astros get to sip martinis and wait for whoever wins that Twins-Blue Jays series.
Those two are NOT the same thing.
All season long, I’ve been thinking that the Astros were playing possum. They still seem to me the most talented team in the American League by a fair margin, and I kept expecting them to reel off 10 in a row or something, and put the division to rest. That never happened. But, here we are at the end, and they’re division champs again, and would it surprise ANYONE if they win the pennant? Quite the opposite. They’re the betting favorite to do so.
These Astros remind me so much of the 2000 Yankees, who were obviously the best team, but they plotzed around, lost 12 of their last 14, won only 87 games and entered the postseason looking haggard and shaky.
What happened then? They needed to win in Oakland in Game 5 of the Division Series, so they scored six runs in the first inning and held on from there. They lost the first game to the Mariners in the Championship Series and then cruised on, winning each of the next four games by four or more runs. They beat the Mets in extra innings of Game 1, beat the Mets by a run when Roger Clemens threw the bat at Mike Piazza, beat the Mets by a run again after Derek Jeter led off Game 4 with a homer, and won the Series by scoring two runs in the ninth of Game 5, the big hit a Luis Sojo ground ball single.
In the end, it seemed like they were just playing around to add some faux drama — not unlike the Europeans in the Ryder Cup’s final day.
There’s a line in “Avengers” where Thor talks about his brother Loki being a prisoner on this invisible-plane-helicopter-boat thing, and Nick Fury says, “Then why do I feel like he’s the only person on this boat that wants to be here?” That’s sort of how I feel about the Astros. They underachieved most of the season, squeaked in largely because the Rangers faltered, spent much of the later season losing to Oakland and Kansas City.
And yet: Why do I feel like they’re the only team in the league that wants to be here?
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