On this day, 36 years ago, Houston was in the midst of a 97-loss season, but managed to beat the Padres 5-3 at San Diego Stadium (it hadn't been named for sports writer Jack Murphy quite yet).
The Astros moved to 40-73 with this one, which means they went 25-24 after this point. That's somewhat comforting for this current incarnation of the Astros, who currently sit at 37-74. What I'm saying is there's a chance that this Astros team doesn't lose 100 games. It's a very, very small chance, but this team certainly points to hope.
San Diego also had two future Hall of Famers in the middle of their lineup with Willie McCovey batting fourth and Dave Winfield batting fifth. McCovey had been traded to the Padres two winters earlier and would be playing in his final full season in San Diego. He split time the next year between the Padres and Oakland before signing as a free agent back with San Francisco to finish his 22-year career.
Winfield was just two years removed from being drafted in the first round and was playing in his second full season with the Padres. He lasted five more years with the Padres before going on an odyssey of teams, including the Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Twins and Indians.
Oh, right, back to the Astros...Joe Niekro picked up the victory, pitching six innings with six hits, three runs, three walks and striking out four. It was Niekro's third victory of the season for Houston and, actually, it was his third victory period with the Astros. This was Niekro's first season with Houston. He would, of course, go on to win 141 more games with the team to set the franchise record for pitching wins.
Houston took the lead in this one in the top of the seventh. Pinch hitter Tommy Helms replaced Niekro and singled to left, scoring Milt May from third. Shortstop Jerry DaVanon also moved up to third on the hit and scored two batters later when Greg Gross singled to right. Tommy Helms also scored after he had moved to second on an errant throw on his single.
Here's the graphic replay of the game, thanks to Back to Baseball.