Astros 3, Cubs 0
W: Norris (7-13)
L: Volstad (3-12)
Contributed by Reuben
It turns out I was completely mistaken in my recap for last Tuesday’s game. At the time I saw a weary, overmatched team that looked like it had run out of gas and was just hoping the damned season would end soon. Since then, they have won 5 out of 6 games, including 4 shutouts. The bullpen that for most of July and August seemed to be staffed entirely of pitchers destined to give up 1 or more runs every time they appeared in a game has quietly made the final innings of 2- or 3-run victories seem undramatic. Starters that looked exhausted a week ago – Norris, Harrell, Lyles – finished out their seasons in fine fashion, without allowing a single run.
And the offense did just enough (granted, they popped homers all over the place in the bandbox known as Miller Park, but that’s nothing extraordinary). Tonight they scraped together 3 runs again. Brian McTaggart actually put it very nicely:
Perhaps it’s only fitting the Astros are winding down their time in the National League with an impressive display of pitching and solid defense — trademarks the club was known for in its heyday.
I have ranted often, in the past year, to anyone who will listen, about not just the travesty of the Astros being forced to move to the DH league, but the bitter irony of it – the Astros, who for most of their history have been perhaps the quintessential National League team – known for speedy, line-drive hitters, small-ball tactics, and especially, as McTaggart notes, for pitching and defense.
So, for me, this past week has stoked a lot of Astros pride. That this patchwork collection of players, nearly all with highly questionable Major League futures, could manage to close out the season in this manner, that pays just a tiny bit of homage to the Astros of yesteryear, is more than I or any reasonably cynical person could’ve hoped for. Hell, I think every single one of us would’ve been perfectly happy with Jordan Lyles’ Fuck You Bud game, even if they lost every game after. At least one last Astro pitcher got to hit a home run.
Anyway, with the shutout tonight, the Astros have thrown 3 in a row, the first time the team has done so since the famous lead-up to clinching the division in 1986 – Deshaies’ 2-hitter, Ryan’s 1-hitter, and Scottie’s no-no. Speaking of, fuck Nolan Ryan. As I type, the A’s just finished beating the Rangers, 3-1. If they can win again tomorrow, Lynn Nolan’s team would be relegated to the 2nd Wild Card spot. Either way, I hope they experience a swift and humiliating exit from postseason play.
That, of course, is about the only pleasure we Astros fans will be able to take once the playoffs begin- I mean, I’ll be rooting for the Orioles, but in general the teams I root for are always the first ones eliminated, so very quickly I’m left with merely rooting against the teams that I hate the most.
For one more day, though, we’ll be able to root for the 2012 Astros. It’s been a rough, brutal, often embarrassing season, but I’m thankful for the respectable showing they’ve managed over the past month, and in particular this last week. They have earned a small measure of respect, in my mind, for the way they’ve veered the ship off its collision course with an historically awful season to a merely terrible one. It doesn’t even matter whether or not they win tomorrow and avoid setting a new franchise record for losses, although as my dad put it in a text tonight, it “would be a fitting bouquet to a season fraught with weeds”.*
*I think that must be something they used to say back in the North Carolina tobacco country, where my dad grew up. I’ve never heard it before, but I can’t think of a better way to end my last recap of the year than with some Astros-related musings from my dad, who got me into this fuckin’ mess in the first place, almost 30 years ago.