Astros Looking Ahead to Biggest Game in 10 Years Today

Joe Kazmar – For The Record

While the sellout crowd was trying to decide whether to dance in the aisles of Minute Maid Park Monday afternoon or to just do the celebrating in front of their seats, they were unaware of the reception the Kansas City Royals’ hitters were planning for the Houston Astros’ bullpen the final two innings of the game and perhaps the season for Kansas City.

After being limited to just two runs (which came on an early two-run homer) and a couple of hits through seven innings, the Royals’ bats went wild in the top of the eighth frame after trailing Houston 6-2.

Before the Astros were able to record a single out, their four-run lead had completed evaporated, thanks to six straight Royals reaching base, five on base hits and the other on a double-play ball that took a bad-hop.

By the time the eighth inning ended, the Astros were on the short end of a 7-6 score. First baseman Eric Hosmer pounded a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to give the Royals all the insurance they needed to send the best-of-five series into the rubber fifth game today (Wed.) at Kansas City.

Fans at Minute Maid Park had just witnessed their heroes blowing the biggest lead of the entire 2015 major league baseball season. Prior to Monday’s fiasco, the largest lead the Astros had ever lost this year was three runs.

But history revealed that prior to Monday’s 9-6 loss to Kansas City, the Houston Astros’ franchise was 3-10 in playoff clinch games. By comparison, the Royals had a spiffy 9-of-10 record in playoff clinch games.

However, the Astros were just happy to be in these playoffs and had already won an elimination game against the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium just to qualify for the American League divisional playoffs.

After all, the Astros just completed four seasons of having the worst aggregate record over that time frame of any major league team since divisional play began in 1969.  So they have made gigantic strides of rapid improvement.

Monday’s batting star for Houston had to be rookie shortstop Carlos Correa, who belted two home runs and became the youngest (21 years, 20 days) rookie to hit two homers in a playoff game.

Correa also was only the third rookie in major league history to bat third in the playoff lineup. He is in pretty good company with the other two—Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

When Correa and Colby Rasmus belted homers in the sixth inning Monday, it marked the first time in franchise history that back-to-back home runs were hit in a playoff game. Actually Rasmus has hit a home run in each of the four playoff games against the Kansas City Royals.

All the chips will be on the table when the Houston Astros play the Kansas City Royals in the fifth and deciding game of the AL Divisional Series today at 7:07 p.m. at Ewing Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City to see who plays the winner between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays.

KWICKIES…Sunset Grove Country Club golfer Bob Hoepner recorded he second hold-in-one of his life Friday when he aced the Par 3, 133-yard No. 12 hole using his trusty five-iron. Witnessing the event were Bill Ellison and Joe Seibert.

The Baylor Bears moved up one place in this week’s Associated Press College Football’s Top 25 Poll to second place for the first time in the school’s history after their dominating 66-7 victory over Kansas Saturday. The Bears reached No. 3 in 1953 and 2013, but were never higher until Sunday when this week’s poll came out. Ohio State, which must have a boat-load of alumni voting in this poll, retained its No. 1 position followed by Baylor, TCU at No. 3.  No. 4 Utah, No. 5 Clemson and No. 6 LSU each moved up one notch, Michigan State dropped from fourth to No. 7, Florida jumped three places to No. 8, Texas A&M remained at No. 9 and Alabama dropped two spots to No. 10. The undefeated Houston Cougars joined the Top 25 poll this week at No. 24 with 5-1 Duke getting the 25th spot.

University of Texas Exes will have to wait a while to resume its “Fire Charlie Strong” vendetta after the Longhorns bucked the 16-point underdog odds and upset the Oklahoma Sooners 24-17 in the annual Red River Shootout in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas Saturday afternoon. The ‘Horns are sitting at a not-so-impressive 2-4 and will savor the victory with their open date this week.

My alma mater, McNeese State, appears to have a much better football team than the preseason prognosticators figured, representing the Southland Conference as the ONLY undefeated team. But before we count our chickens before they hatch, my Cowboys still have games against Central Arkansas (Saturday at Conway, Ark.), Sam Houston State and the also-surprising Lamar Cardinals.

The Cincinnati Bengals remained undefeated at 5-0 after scoring 17 unanswered points Sunday to nip the Seattle Seahawks 27-24 in overtime. The score would have been worst except Orange native Earl Thomas intercepted an Andy Dalton pass at the goal line and returned it 68 yards to set up Seattle field goal as time expired in the first half.

JUST BETWEEN US…It appears to me that the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys are suffering from similar maladies—the don’t have a bona fide NFL quarterback and their pass catchers are having a difficult time getting open. The Cowboys have a semi-legitimate excuse with their All-Pro wide receiver and quarterback sidelined with broken bones. But the Texans are the victim of a hard-headed coach who thinks he can win in the NFL with unqualified quarterbacks and is being proven wrong, big-time!!