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The Greatest Playoff Performances In Astros History

Biggio tries to get some of Carlo$' mojo to rub off on him, as the 2004 NLDS draws to a happy close

If you hadn't seen it, ESPN is taking up the lull on their front page between last night's NLCS Game 7 and tomorrow's World Series opener with a piece authored by Rob Neyer on the 50 greatest performances in postseason history.

I always overrate Pete Alexander in the '26 series--I guess I've got a soft spot for epileptic drunks.  But I thought the list was pretty damned solid, and I learned a thing or two, as well.

Neyer also had three Astros on the list, ranking Mike Scott # 47 for his dominance in the 1986 NLCS, ranking Carlo$ Beltran # 40 for his amazing 2004 NLDS vs. Atlanta, and ranking Chris Burke # 30 for his shot to the boxes in the game that will forever bear his name.

Thing is, I've always been partial to Billy Hatcher's incredible 14th inning homer in The Greatest Game Ever Played, and man, where's Brandon Backe?

So with all due respect, let's do my Top Twelve Playoff Performances, presented in alphabetical order:

  • Brandon Backe, 8 IP, 1 H in 2004 NLDS Game Five - Never have I seen a pitcher leave as much emotion on the field while performing at such a high (and unexpected) level. And maybe I never will again.

Backe's line for the game: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, though he was denied the win he deserved.

  • Carlo$ Beltran's 1.591 OPS in the 2004 NLDS - .636 ISO, too. Neyer picked this one, though both he and I could just as well pick Beltran for his equally insane performance in the ensuing NLCS. You wonder if Carlo$ thinks back on these games with any satisfaction as a player, or if he views them as merely the springboard they were to the huge contract he was able to command after his surreal performance.

Beltran's final line in the 2004 NLDS: 10 for 22, 9 R, 9 RBI, 4 HR, 2 2B. Absolutely sick

  • The Bullpen gives up 1 run over 13-2/3 in game four of the 2005 NLDS - Neyer points at Chris Burke to represent this wholly amazing game, but what Gallo, Springer, Rodriguez, Qualls, Lidge, Wheeler, and Clemens is nearly unfathomable: what at first was simply a game effort to stop the bleeding became something epic: seven pitchers whose collective will just would not be breached. Wheeler and Clemens, especially, took on all the aspects of heroes, plugging the dike past the point of exhaustion, until the offense was able to muster the winning run.

The bullpen's final line in Game Four doesn't look impressive, except for the part about earned runs: 13-2/3 IP, 1 ER, 8 H, 8 BB

  • Ken Caminiti goes 8 for 17 with 8 RBI and 3 homers in the 1999 NLDS - By now, most people think that the Caminiti of this late period was broken down and ineffectual, but you gotta say: the Astros' loss in this series certainly wasn't Cammy's fault. He went 3 for 6 in the pivotal, excruciating, agonizing Game Three loss, leading Astros hitters as he did the entire series.

Most telling of the difference in production between Kenny C and the rest of the Astros is this: despite the 8 hits, he only scored three times, each time driving himself in with a homer. The Astros scored 15 runs in the series: more than half were driven in by Caminiti. Any and all accolades directed Caminit's way must of course be tempered with the undeniable shame of his steroid use at this point in his career.

Caminiti's final line vs. the Braves in the 99 playoffs: 8 for 17, 3 R, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 1.526 OPS.

  • Billy Hatcher ties Game Six of the 1986 NLCS with a fourteenth-inning homer - My issue with Neyer and his selection of Burke is that it was gonna be someone. Eventually someone on either side was gonna get ahold of one and the game would be over. It just so happened that it was Chris Burke in the 18th who connected. Could have been Eric Bruntlett in the 17th, or it could have been Lane in the 19th.

Not to demean what Burke did, but it is a whole separate level of clutch to come through when the alternative is a lost game, rather than a tied one. Hatcher's foul pole home run still gives me goosebumps when I think of it, and listen: Hatcher had nothing to do with Glenn Davis' popout to end the inning, or Kevin Bass' k to end the game. If the clutchest hit in team history came in a losing cause, so be it.

  • Jeff Kent, homer in 2004 NLDS Game Five - It's significance was muted a little by the Astros' inability to win a game in St. Louis, but Kent's homer to end the game that Backe started not only catapulted the Houston franchise closer to a World Series appearance than they had been in a quarter-century, but it also may have been the single most joyous moment in the career of a player who is notorious for the trouble he has enjoying the game he plays for a living.
  • Joe Niekro 10 scoreless innings pitched in Game 3 of the '80 NLDS - If Jack Morris is gonna get credit for going into extra innings while still twirling zeroes in the postseason, let's give Joe Niekro his due, as well. While not quite as emotional as Brandon Backe, there seems to be little doubt that this is the greatest single game postseason pitching performance in team history. And as with Backe, the Astros' hitters could not get the guy the win he deserved.

The all-time franchise leader in wins is also the all-time leader in playoff ERA at 0.00.

And I hope I don't sound too Starkian when I say you don't get much better than that.

Niekro's final line vs. the Phillies during the 1980 NLCS: 10 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, only 2 K.

  • Roy Oswalt gives up 1 over 7 in game six of the 2005 NLCS - Not only did Roy Oswalt win Game Six of the 2005 while toiling in the long and dolorous shadow of Lidge's failure against Pujols in Game Five, he won it while dominating. If anybody asks you what it is like when a pitcher takes over a game, what is's like when a hurler shoulders everything, and simply asks his team to follow, point them in the direction of video from this game. Other pitchers have pitched longer, had better numbers: I've never seen a pitcher with a greater determination to win than what Roy showed in this game.

The Roy Oz final line from 2005 NLCS Game Six: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 series MVP trophy.

  • Terry Puhl puts up a 1.223 OPS in the 1980 NLDS - 10 for 19 with a pair of doubles. 4 runs and a .526 BA including 4 for 6 with 3 runs in the deciding game five. I've never seen any video from this series, but as with Caminiti in 1999, it's clear you can't blame the Astros' loss in the '80 NLCS on Terry Puhl.
  • Nolan Ryan gives up two hits over 9 in Game Five of the 1986 NLCS - Ryan had a couple disappointing performances in the playoffs, but this was not one of them. As far as low-hit games taken deep in the playoffs, only Brandon Backe's magical tilt with Woody Williams compares to what Ryan did in this game, and you may recall that were it not for Fred Brocklander's errant call, the Astros would indeed have made Ryan a winner in regulation.

Ryan's final line in Game Five, his last playoff game ever: 9 IP, 2 H, 12 K, 1 BB, 1 ER

  • Mike Scott 2 - 0 with a 0.50 ERA in 1986 NLCS - The reason why nobody remembers Ryan's Game Five is because of Mike Scott's Games One and Four. Neyer had this one pegged, although I might have placed it higher. The fact that Scott became the first NLCS MVP chosen from the losing team only enhances the case you might make. I am one of those who will go to their graves believing that Scott in Game Seven takes the Astros to the Series.

What kind of world would that have been, I wonder?

Scott's line in the 1986 NLCS: 18 IP, 1 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 19 K

  • Jose Vizcaino singles with two outs in the ninth inning, scoring Bagwell and Burke to tie Game Two of the 2005 World Series - It was the biggest hit in Astros history, for about fifteen minutes. The shot that Podsednik hit off Lidge in the bottom of the frame kind of made it all irrelevant, but Vizcaino's hit was like Hatcher's there, for a while. You shake your head with the clutchness of it all.
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So there you are: The Twleve Greatest Postseason Performances in Astros Postseason History. As selected by me, of course, and I didn't even have the cojones to rank them. But I was hoping maybe you would, by selecting number one from the pollbox at left.

It was getting time to replace that dated Clemens/Pettitte thing anyway. Looks like our boys were victims of some proppy-gander, and maybe I jumped to some conclusions.

Hope they'll forgive me.