This Day In Astros History: June 24, 1977

After a sorta depressing recap Wednesday morning, here's a good one. On this day 34 years ago, Bob Watson became the second player in franchise history to hit for the cycle as the Astros beat the San Francisco Giants 6-5 at the Astrodome.

Watson was 4 for 4 with five RBIs. He hit a three-run triple in the bottom of the first off Bob Knepper, scoring Wilbur Howard, Enos Cabell and Joe Ferguson. In his next at-bat in the third, he doubled off Knepper but was stranded at third. With two outs in the fifth, Watson hit a solo home run and needed just a single for the cycle. It also tied the game at 4-4 after Darrell Evans and Bill Madlock hit home runs for the Giants to take the lead.

A sac fly in the bottom of the sixth by Gary Thomasson put the Giants up 5-4, but Watson still had one last chance. He came up in the bottom of the eighth with a chance to tie the game. After Ferguson had reached on an error to lead off the inning, Cesar Cedeno pinch-ran for the catcher and stole second. That set up Watson with a chance to tie the game again. His single off Randy Moffitt did just that, scoring Cedeno and tying the score. 

It was also his last at-bat of the day, as Art Gardner was sent in to pinch-run for Watson as the Astros tried to win the game then and there. Gardner got all the way over to third when the bases were loaded with one out. Unfortunately, Craig Cacek grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.

The Astros wouldn't win this game until the bottom of the 11th, when Jose Cruz hit a double off Tommy Toms with men on first and second, scoring Howard. That gave the victory to Joe Sambito, who pitched the final three innings while allowing just one baserunner and striking out three.

1977 was arguably Watson's finest season. He set career highs in home runs (22), triples (6), doubles (38) and RBIs (110), steals (a perfect 5-for-5) and slugging percentage (.498). His batting average and on-base percentage dipped a bit, but he still had close to his highest WAR both by FanGraphs and Baseball Reference standards. By fWAR, the only season that beats Watson's 5.2 WAR in '77 is his 5.3 mark in '73. The difference was more pronounced on bbWAR, as Watson had a 4.6 in '77 and a 5.1 in '73.

Watson wasn't a typical slugging first baseman, but he was a very, very good player for a lot of years. The only other player to hit for the cycle before Watson was Cesar Cedeno, who did it twice by this time. Fitting, then, that Watson should drive him in to get the cycle for himself. It was also not the last time Watson would hit for the cycle, as he did it again in 1979 when he was playing for the Boston Red Sox.

Here's the graphic replay of the game, thanks to Back to Baseball. 

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