GAME 158 - September 29: Astros 2, Reds 0
GAME 159 - September 30: Reds 9, Astros 1
GAME 160 - October 1: Cubs 2, Astros 0
GAME 161 - October 2: Cubs 8, Astros 3
I left the game on for a few minutes after the loss to the Reds on Tuesday night. That's uncharacteristic for me -- I usually kill the video within seconds of the last out of a loss. But I wanted to watch the jubilation of a team clinching a division title and ticket to the playoffs, the jumping and leaping, the division champs tee shirts, the drowning in champagne. Our guys stood around and watched as the Reds celebrated. Some of the sports writers, including Alyson Footer, commented on how it's hard to be the team that allows the other guys to clinch a playoff spot. They'd know -- they've seen the Astros do it before. But given how many young kids are on the Astros squad at this point, I'm glad that they had a chance to experience that firsthand. It's got to make them hungry for the experience. And as all losing teams (except possibly the Pirates) say: There's always next year.
Having secured a division title for the Reds, the Astros went on to lose the series. Their only bright spot was Wednesday night's win, when Figeroa and the bullpen shut out a Reds team that lacked any regular starters. They'd all earned a night off. The low spot was Thursday night's bashing, in which Brett Myers couldn't make it out of the sixth inning. Mills let him go down 8 runs and then pulled him, breaking his perfect streak of 6+ inning starts.
With the recent downturn in Astros performance, their hold on third place in the Central Division was lost, leaving them to duke it out with the Cubs for fourth place. Losing the first two games of the home series against the Cubbies didn't help -- they go into today's season finale tied.
Of course, I didn't actually see much of the action after Tuesday night's gift to the Reds. In a year when the Astros are contenders, the arrival of the fall flurry of Jewish holidays is always a mixed joy. The holidays are (mostly) a wonderful time to enjoy family and friends, with several weeks of special meals and events. On the other hand, since we don't use computers, televisions, phones, or other paraphernalia of modern communications on the Sabbath and holidays, I miss all the ball games. Ever since we canceled our subscription to the Washington Post, I don't even find out the outcomes of games unless I go visit a neighbor with a newspaper. This year's Jewish calendar put the bulk of the holidays falling on Wednesday nights through Friday nights, leading right into the Sabbath -- three-day baseball blackouts for me, occurring three times in September. If the Astros had been in contention, I probably would have gone nuts. But given the situation, I've just caught up on Saturday nights after the Sabbath -- read up and watched highlights from the missing games, perused a few box scores, checked the status of injured players. Next year the holidays again fall on this three-day blackout schedule, but since it's a leap year they'll all be a month later. That means that if the Astros do make the playoffs, I'll end up missing most of the action. But I'm getting ahead of things here: First we need a winning season.
We're going into today's season finale -- which I'll get to watch live -- with a 75-86 record. With the 2-8 results of our last 10 games, it was not the last-minute eking-out-a-winning-season result I'd giddily predicted a couple of weeks ago. Instead, it's probably a more realistic representation of where we are now. The great starting pitching has faltered, the kids (except for CJ) are playing like the minor leaguers that they recently were. Hard to say what will happen in the off season, or what the team will look like coming out of Spring Training. Well, there's always the year after next...