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Home » Around BaseballOctober 2005 » All the Hexes Live in Texas

All the Hexes Live in Texas

Does it feel as awful to be a Houston Astros fan today as it did to be a Red Sox fan back on October 16, 2004? It’s probably fairly comparable, although the details vary. Last night the Astros suffered what Bill Simmons has already classified as a stomach punch-level defeat.

For Red Sox fans last year, however, the league championship series was not a vacillation between highs and lows from game to game. It was pure agony followed by pristine ecstasy. Houston fans probably feel as if they were being strung along, and rightly so.

One out away from the 2005 World Series, Brad Lidge, he of the 42 regular season saves and 2.29 ERA, only had to strike out David Eckstein to advance his team. Lidge’s team was leading 4-2 and the league championship seemed to be in the bag. Eckstein, he’s small potatoes, right? Sure, he’s gutty, but he can’t win the game on his own. With the count 1-2, Eckstein eked out a single to give the Cardinals a baserunner and another chance. To faze the Astros’ closer further, the Cardinals shortstop took second with the infield standing by diffidently.

Lidge was both shaken and stirred. He walked Jim Edmonds on five pitches. Then Albert Pujols came to the plate. This is not a man to be trifled with, a fact he proved in two pitches, the second of which was neatly deposited onto the train tracks staked above the left field seats to grant his team a 5-4 lead. Predictably, Houston went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th.

The trajectory of that homer instantly effaced the memory of Lance Berkman’s 3-run round-tripper in the 7th that gave his team a 4-2 edge. What I thought would be the abiding memory of this game and the series was re-written into a footnote in Pujols’s hagiography.

I thought I’d prefer that the Astros make it since it would be their first trip to the Fall Classic. Such a novelty, combined with the White Sox’s historic appearance makes for a more compelling match-up. The Redbirds have been there, done that. Denying St. Louis one last series at their old stadium seems fitting to me: that would be payback for tearing down the stadium where the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. And yet, I just can’t get too emotional about the National League. I’d just as soon see the Cardinals have another go at it for their tenth title in 16 tries.

Despite, or more accurately, because the Red Sox are not embroiled in the race for the trophy, postseason baseball has been highly enjoyable rather than utterly nerve-racking. Go Astros, go Cardinals, but moreover, go baseball.

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