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