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Astros Wild Card Victory Over Yankees A Ratings Boon

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The Houston Astros and New York Yankees one game Wild Card winner-take-all match up scored ESPN its highest ratings for a baseball game in twelve years.

Colby Rasmus had his beer goggles on for the wild celebration in the Bronx after the Astros beat the Yankees 3-0 in the highest rated baseball game on ESPN in twelve years
Colby Rasmus had his beer goggles on for the wild celebration in the Bronx after the Astros beat the Yankees 3-0 in the highest rated baseball game on ESPN in twelve years
Elsa/Getty Images

The Houston Astros and the New York Yankees don't have a storied rivalry, like the Yankees and Red Sox, or the Dodgers and Giants.  Despite the presence of the first woman broadcaster in the booth for a playoff contest for the first time in major sports history, the star of the commentary for the game was undoubtedly Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer - who was only a guest for a couple half innings to provide analysis of Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka.

So, while one might expect such a tense, one-and-done game to have a solid rating with Nielsen, it came as quite a shock to the sports journalism world that last night's Astros-Yankees game drew the highest ratings for any single baseball game on ESPN in the last twelve years.

That's right, no baseball game on ESPN was viewed more since Aaron Boone was a walk-off home run hitting member of the Yankees.  The game received a 5.7 overnight rating to achieve this distinction, while the "WatchESPN" app garnered 445,000 unique users streaming the game, with and average of 127,000 users at any given minute, per this article from The Hollywood Reporter.

How did this happen?  After all, ESPN traditionally somewhat eschews sports coverage in the central region of the United States.  Certainly the coasts get the most coverage, because there is only so much air time available and the largest number of sports "infotainment" consumers live on either coast.  It's a business model which has seen ESPN grow to be the national sports powerhouse that it is - despite its irksome status for fans of teams like the Astros, who were the fourth winningest franchise in baseball from 1994-2004 in a city like Houston, the fourth largest city in America and the tenth largest media market.

As one twitter user colorfully put it, "This ain't Salt Lake City."

Is it the popularity of the one game Wild Card format?  The Cinderella story Houston Astros?  The return to the postseason for the Evil Empire in the Bronx?  The first female broadcaster in the booth for a major sport's playoffs?  Or is it just a fact that nearly every non-Yankee fan in Baseballdom wants to watch the Yankees lose in the playoffs - especially to a team that started the season with a $70 million payroll?

Perhaps it's all of the above.

Whatever the motivations, Houston also outpaced New York off the field, as the ratings in Houston scored a 14.8 to New York's 12.0 rating.

Well done, Houston fans.  Your support has been seen, and felt, and heard.  Now, onward to Kansas City!