Nervous anticipation began to set in when the Diamondbacks took to the field and the batting order was announced. The final series was underway, on the road, against an inter-league team they’d only faced in 1 other series during the season. NL rules applied, so Evan Gattis, our designated hitter and fairly prolific producer of hits and runs in the September stretch, would be sitting out the final three. Carlos Gomez, still on the mend from his intercostal strain, would be sitting out the night, and possibly the series as well.
Gomez was limited in his play in the final series win over the Mariners, and the limitations affected his game that night. He had a few missed plays in the outfield, and was left to bunt in his last 2 plate appearances. However, he pushed himself to the limits, and possibly beyond, with a game-winning deep CF catch in the 9th and laser throw to get a double-play on 1st. Gomez had his hero comeback game, and, with any luck, will be returning to the lineup should the Astros clinch the final wildcard spot.
We’d see the return of the pitcher to the batting lineup. The Diamondbacks also announced the stadium roof would be open – a possible handicap of the Astros road-game weakness, as Minute Maid is rarely open, and the majority of ballparks are open air (superstition aside, though, there is no real formulaic evidence to support that). However, after a three-run first inning, bases loaded, and a full rotation of the lineup (ending with an awkward Keuchel at the plate), the ball club’s intentions became apparent: they were in it to win it.
And win it they did. After 4 hours and fortuitous innings that yielded 21 runs, 2 franchise records, and one addition to the franchise records, the Astros came away from the came making a huge statement in their final 21-5 route of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The season wasn’t over. They had not given up. In fact, they were loose, poised, and ready to play. The confidence in the whole team was something that hadn’t been seen since the early season hot streak. The players weren’t shaken up and making the simple rookie mistakes that had plagued September.
They were out playing ball. October ball.
Keuchel took the mound looking for a 20th career win. This would be the first pitcher for the Astros to get 20 wins in a season since the playoff years of 2004-2005. This would also likely cement his nomination for the AL Cy Young Award. That has yet to be seen, but with an opposing field fans’ chants of “MVP” in the stadium last night, it almost seems wrapped up. Correa set out to break an Astros franchise record of most homeruns for a starting rookie, which would bolster his own case for the AL Rookie of the Year award. Both succeeded.
Other records were broken in this surreal, exciting game. The Astros franchise record of most runs in a game was shattered with 21 runs. The Diamondbacks broke a franchise record of their own, albeit not quite as eloquent as the Astros record. This was the most runs allowed in the history of the Diamondbacks ball club. Credit must be given to Arizona, though. They continued on, their fans continued to cheer, and the team held out – even came back for a small rally – til the last out. Nothing, though, would be stopping the Astros that night.
With that miracle statement game, the Astros need to trudge on with the same attitude. The Astros need not get comfortable, and certainly shouldn’t let down their guard. The game was a fluke – not in the sense that the Astros shouldn’t have one, but in the greater sense that it should have been more competitive. The Diamondbacks are not going to just lay down and take it, especially not after a game like that. This game, a few short hours away, will be a different tale altogether, and the Astros need to keep that same poise, confidence, and attitude coming into it.
Because 2 simple games can decide their future today. A game going on in Arlington, and a game going on in in Phoenix. If the Rangers pull it off, and clinch the AL West title today, The Astros can clinch the wild card spot with a win. All the work and effort given by these players can pay off by the evening, with a Rangers and Astros win. More importantly, the Astros can finish on a high note if they win out this series. They can finish out with the highest season record since 2005. The last playoff years.
All it takes is a few more innings of solid baseball.