THE PALLILOG

The scene at Chavez Ravine is one that won't soon be forgotten

Jose Altuve came up huge. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If you could pick one sporting event in your lifetime that you could re-experience as if it was happening for the first time, what would you pick?

For Rockets’ fans, the game seven win over the Knicks for Clutch City title No. 1 would have to be No. 1. Among Texas Longhorn fans the vote winner would certainly be the BCS Championship win over USC. As a Syracuse alum, SU winning the NCAA basketball championship over Kansas in 2003 is tops for me.

Many. many Astros probably had their “oh to experience that again” game Wednesday night. The Astros don’t yet have a World Series Champion flag to fly, but their game two win over the Dodgers was the most dramatic and significant win in Astros’ history. Their first ever win of a World Series game came in an absolute epic. I am aware of the risk of recency bias. Nevertheless, Astros-Dodgers was the most amazing baseball game I have ever attended, perhaps the most amazing that I have ever watched.

Some might opt for the 18 inning Division Series winner over the Braves in 2005. That was amazing, too. The Astros trailed 6-1 in the 8th before a Lance Berkman grand slam gave them hope, then Brad Ausmus (of all people) tied it with a homer with two out in the bottom of the 9th. Both blasts as prelude to Chris Burke’s game winning homer in the bottom of the 18th.  It was glorious stuff, but it was the Division Series, not the World Series.

The number of Wow! moments that happened in L.A. in game 2 was flat out stunning. The Dodgers rendered Justin Verlander a pitching mortal. An awesome mortal, but mortal. When Corey Seager belted a 97 mile per hour Verlander fastball for a 2-run homer giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 6th, it felt for a moment like the season died. It stayed 3-1 into the 8th. The Astros halved their deficit in the 8th, but in the 9th they had to contend with Dodger closer Kenley Jansen—merely the best in the game, and darn near perfect this season: 46 save opportunities, 45 saves converted.

Having had the privilege of being in Chavez Ravine for the games, I can tell you that when Jansen comes out of the bullpen a brief de facto concert breaks out. Jansen’s entry music is the 90s hip-hop classic California Love. The roar that goes up could make one think that Tupac himself was coming out of the pen. Dr. Dre actually was in attendance.

When Jansen enters the fray, Dodger fans reasonably presume victory is assured. Oh well. Marwin Gonzalez had been near catatonic offensively this postseason, a paltry six hits in 42 at bats.  Gonzalez had already struck out twice in the game, and quickly fell behind 0-2 vs. Jansen. But instead of strike three, Gonzalez struck a blow for Astro annals, a blast not too far left of dead centerfield. Like that the game was tied. The stunning moment pace accelerated from there.

In the top of the 10th Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa showed the baseball world why that with longevity together they truly have a chance to wind up the greatest middle infield combo in history. Back-to-back Altuve and Correa blasts (off of former Astro Josh Fields) gave the Astros a two run lead. Euphoria reigned in the Astros dugout. But then Ken Giles happened. He simply blew it more then he choked, but Giles now has to deal with some of the demons that basically ruined Brad Lidge’s Astro career.  A homer, a walk, a wild pitch, and a base hit, and the lead was lost. The game however was not, so in the top of the 11th George Springer capped a fabulous night at the plate (bursting out of his own 3-30 offensive catatonia) with a 2-run homer to right-centerfield. Chris Devenski teetered bigtime in the bottom of the 11th, two line drives and a homer before finally ending it with a strikeout of Yasiel Puig. With a little imagination I could hear the deep exhaling all the way from Houston.

It was fours and 19 minutes of relentless intensity, pressure, ebb and flow, and in the end for the Astros an almost desperately needed victory. This is why we love sports. At their best very little else in life gets our juices flowing the same way. So now for three nights the last weekend of October 2017, Minute Maid Park in Houston Texas is the best place on earth to be.

Buzzer Beaters: 1. It is very lame how far Houston remains behind most U.S. major cities re: light rail   2. Best Halloween candy: Gold-Milky Way  Silver-Three Musketeers  Bronze-Smarties   3. Best sports movie line ever: Roy Hobbs in The Natural: “God, I love baseball.”

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome