The fascinating thing about baseball is that yesterday's game is continually being given additional context by today's game, and that today's game will eventually receive additional definition from tomorrow's.
You continue in that fashion until you run out of games, at which point it becomes the seasons that grow or shrink in comparison with those before and after.
While the eventual verdict on this season is still fluid, it continues to resonate sympathetically with the 2004 season. The June and July run made by this year's team is just too similar to the August and September streak laid down by last year's club; you can't view this club without getting the establishing shot from last year's squad.
Now that could change over the next few weeks, depending, and if it does, it could be because of the context that last night's 12 - 4 whitewash of the Cubs takes from this evening's anemic 4 - 1 loss. As I write now, without the additional context that tomorrow's game will bring, it appears that yesterday's game is in retrospect a simple anomaly, several lucky rallies sewn together with the common thread of a crappy opposing starter, rather than what we Astros fans had hoped it would be: the beginning of a full-fledged turnaround from the 18-inning scoring drought against the worst team in the division.
But you can never tell, not even when you think you can tell. Because maybe (and here lies the wondrous nature of shifting context) Oswalt wins tomorrow, and tonight is simply reframed as Maddux' last hurrah against the 'Stros. Maybe we win the Cubs series, and this set of three takes it context from July and August, becoming simply another series victory.
Maybe, but right now it seems like the whole playoff run has been some kind of a mirage. Yeah, that's it: The Astros are like Abbottt and Costello in the Foreign Legion. They thought they'd reached the oasis of playoff contention, but with the Pirates series (and the Cubs series so far) the images of cool springs and luxuriant greenery have dissolved away, and the 'Stros are finding that they've been doing the backstroke in a freaking sanddune for the last six weeks.