Last night's game melted my cranium, no doubt. As I awoke this morning, I had vague memories of saying something like last night's game was one of the top twenty greatest in team history, and I wondered through foggy brain whether or not I might be able to post such a list.
And I could.
Yes, yes, I know it's incomplete, because I missed Game X or player Y, and of course Game Z is ranked too low.
But I invite your friendly gainsaying and spirited agreement nonetheless.
1) 2005 NLCS Game Six -- Don't think anyone could argue with the top spot. Roy Oswalt earns himself a bulldozer.
2) 2004 NLCS Game Five -- Brandon Backe and Woody Williams pitching their greatest games, on the same night. Add a walk off homer from Kent, and the Astros are a win away from the World Series for the first time in 24 years. Spine-tingling from start to finish.
3) 2005 NLDS Game Four -- The only playoff game to feature two grand slams is only 1/4 of the story. After a quizzical Brad Ausmus is waved home, Dan Wheeler and a certain 40+ year old pitcher born in Ohio each play hero for three innings while the Astros hack away trying to reach the Boxes. Finally, a Volunteer succeeds, and gets a game named after himself. Equal parts agony and ecstasy.
4) 1980 NLCS Game Three -- The Astros are a win away from the World Series for the first time as Joe Niekro pitches one of the gutsiest games in team history. He goes 10 scoreless, but doesn't even get the win when Denny Walling singles home Rafael Landestoy (inexplicably running for Morgan) to fuel the walkoff 11th-inning victory.
5) Mike Scott's no-hitter September 25, 1986 -- As with the top playoff game on this list, I don't think anyone can argue with this game's position on this list as greatest regular season game. It remains the only no hitter in major league history that clinched a regular season title.
6) 2004 NLDS Game Five -- The first one where you kind of need to be reminded of the circumstances, but the 12 - 3 victory over the Braves not only clinched our first playoff series victory, it also murdered the vultures that were circling in the wake of our devastating Game Four meltdown. Lifelong diehard Astro fans fully expected us to lose this game; instead, Turner Field was like a mausoleum by the seventh.
7) 1986 NLCS Game One -- Mike Scott's complete game five-hitter put the fear of God in the Mets. Or if it wasn't God they were fearing, it was Scotty's devastating split. Glenn Davis' 2nd inning solo homer off Dwight Gooden was all that Great Scott needed, or would get.
8) 1999 NLCS Game One -- Spent some time talking about this one the other day. Forget subsequent events if you can. Taken on its own, this was a HUGE game, and Kevin Millwood and Walt Weiss can only take so much away. Shaner never came up so big.
9) 1980 NLCS Game Two -- Dave Bergman's 10th inning triple gave the Astros their first playoff victory ever as the Astros weathered a Phillies rally in the bottom half.
10) Don Wilson's first no-hitter, June 18, 1967 -- The most dominant game ever pitched by an Astros hurler, 15 K's, no hits, are you kidding me? That Hank Aaron was the last out just adds to the legend.
11) Menke and Wynn et al destroy the Mets, July 30, 1969 -- An 11-run ninth inning is extraordinary enough, but when Jimmy Wynn and Denis Menke each hit grand slams in the inning, it pretty much clinches the title of greatest offensive inning in franchise history. Only five duos (and one player) in the history of the game before or since have ever pulled off such a one inning quiniella.
12) Nolan Ryan's fifth no-hitter, September 26, 1981 -- Again enhanced by the fact that it came against the hated Dodgers, but more importantly it is surpassed only by Scott's no-no in regular season clutch/crucial factor. The Astros entered the game 1-1/2 ahead of the Reds with eight to go in the race for the second half West division crown they would eventually win. Ryan struck out 11, but was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates more for the win than for the zeroes.
13) Astros Take the One-Game Playoff, October 6, 1980 -- Neither a pitching masterpiece, nor an offensive onslaught, nor a thriller, this one was more like 2004 NLDS Game Five: the Astros were down, way down, and showed the fortitude to come back strong. After losing three straight in LA to force the playoff at all, Art Howe's four RBI pace the 'Stros as Niekro wins his 20th for the second straight year.
14) Jim Wynn hits three home runs in the Astrodome vs. the Giants, June 15, 1967
15) Baggy hits two homers in an inning and 3 overall at the Dome, June 24, 1994 -- I don't think I'd be exaggerating if I said that Wynn's feat was one of the greatest displays of pure power in the history of the game. Bagwell's feat during his MVP season was impressive enough on its own and is enhanced by the fact that it came in a 16 - 4 shellacking of the Dodgers, but the ball simply carried better in the '90's.
In 1967, the Dome had exactly two two-homer games, and one of them was from Wynn himself. For comparison, Petco Park--the ballpark that made Woody Williams look good--had 12 two-homer games last year. The game that Wynn had was part of a four-game series against the Giants, and in it, he hit as many homers as all other players, from either the Giants or the Astros, would combine for during the entire series.
16) Craig Biggio reaches 3000 with 5 hits June 28, 2007 -- And Carlos Lee hits a walkoff grand slam.
17) Brandon and Brad clinch the Wild Card, October 3, 2004 -- In which Brandon Backe first acquires his reputation as a big game pitcher. The astoundingly hyperactive Backe may not have been dominant, but you had to love the backstory as the Galveston native makes the emergency do-or-die start after Roger Clemens wakes up with the flu. A perfect four out save from Lidge with all outs coming via the K sent the Astros to the playoffs, where Backe would have an even bigger moment.
18) Darryl Kile's no-hitter, September 8, 1993 -- Caminiti and Cedeño's fielding wizardry in the seventh preserved a gem constructed of Kile's newfound control and his typical knee-buckling yakker.
19) Six pitchers combine to no-hit the Yankees, June 11, 2003 -- Some might argue this should be higher on the list, but this was the only win on a six-game East coast road trip in the middle of disappointing year, and it only happened because our best pitcher got hurt. Besides, who are the Yankees to us? Still, the only Astro no-hitter I've watched as it happened, and certainly a unique storyline.
20) 1986 NLCS Game Six, October 15, 1986 -- Something of a downer, I know, but on the other hand, it WAS the greatest baseball game ever played from an unbiased standpoint, and the losing team DID comport itself pretty magnificently in defeat.