What an incredible home stand we all witnessed this weekend. A record of 7-3, four wins in our last at-bat, and a no-hitter for good measure. Me and mine were glued to every game, even the 1-0 loss against Archer, because you never knew when one pitch would change a game. All those great games made me wonder if I could find another home stand with that kind of excitement in Astros history.
Since I have the power of Google in my back pocket, it didn't take long to find a good comparison that was lost somewhere in the back of my brain. The year was 1986. The NES was the king of the video game market. On TV, Thomas Magnum was cruising around Hawaii with T.C. and Rick in an ugly helicopter. On our radios Dionne Warwick and friends were letting us know what friends were for (the answer was "that"). And the Houston Astros were on their way to winning the National League West and heading to the NLCS.
In July of that season the team was starting an eleven game home stand against the Phillies, Mets and Expos. They had just headed home tied for the division lead, and were trying to put some distance between themselves and the Reds. They split the four game series with Philadelphia, and then split the first two of a four game set with the Mets. The final five games of that home stand are where the excitement started as the team recorded five straight wins in their last at-bat (three in extra innings).
July 19 vs. Mets (LINK)
In a preview of Game One of the NLCS, Mike Scott took the mound against Dwight Gooden. The Astros took an early lead with an Alan Ashby RBI single in the fourth and a Denny Walling 2-run homer in the fifth. They chased Gooden out of the game when he gave up his fourth run in the sixth inning.
Scott was cruising. He entered the ninth inning having only allowed two hits. Lenny Dykstra started the inning off with a solo homer. After recording an out, he gave up a single to Keith Hernandez and an RBI double to Gary Carter to cut the lead in half. Closer Dave Smith was brought in and immediately gave up a game tying homer to Darryl Strawberry.
Mets co-closer Roger McDowell came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth and retired Phil Garner and Billy Doran easily. Then with two outs Craig Reynolds belted a game winning home run to win their second straight game.
July 20 vs. Mets (LINK)
Once again the Astros took the lead. This time it was on a Glenn Davis RBI double plating Garner in the second inning. The Mets came back with two of their own off of Jim Deshaies in the third. Houston tied it up in the fourth, and took the lead in the sixth with the help of a Kevin Bass homer.
The eighth inning is where it got crazy. Aurelio Lopez was on the mound. Having pitched two perfect innings, his third was his undoing. He gave up back-to-back home runs to Kevin Mitchell and Hernandez to tie the game. Charlie Kerfeld came in and gave up another run to put the Astros down 5-4. In the bottom of the inning Houston stormed back and scored four more runs to take an 8-5 lead into what was assumed to be the final inning.
New York had other plans as they scored three runs that inning off of Smith and Frank DiPino to once again tie the game. No one would score again until the bottom of the fifteenth inning, when Bass drove in the winning run with the bases loaded, giving Bob Knepper the win in relief.
July 21 vs. Expos (LINK)
In another back-and-forth contest the Astros took a 5-3 lead into the seventh inning. Larry Anderson gave up three that inning to fall behind. Going into the bottom of the ninth Houston was behind 7-6 and facing Expos closer Jeff Reardon. Davis hit an RBI single before Jose Cruz gave them their third walk off win in a row with a single of his own.
July 22 vs. Expos (LINK)
I was actually at this game. Every year as a kid my folks would take me and some friends to see the Astros on my birthday if they were in town. When I look back at this game now...WOW. Nolan Ryan was on the mound for Houston and did he ever pitch a gem. Nolan went 9.1 innings and gave up one hit. He came out of the game with one out in the tenth inning after giving up two walks and zero runs. Dave Smith retired the final two batters of the inning. Glenn Davis came up first in the bottom of the tenth and knocked a game winning home run to walk it off once again.
(Lost in all this is the fact that Expos starter Flowd Youmans was still pitching in the tenth, and that game winning homer was only the third hit he gave up all night.)
July 23 vs. Expos (LINK)
In the final game of the home stand the Astros took a 3-0 lead into the eighth inning behind Knepper. Knepper gave up three runs in that inning to tie the game. Once again it was time for bonus baseball at the Dome. In the bottom of the eleventh inning Dickie Thon walked to start them off, and came around to score on a Davey Lopes single to end the fifth walk off win in a row.
The team had been in a dogfight at the top of the standings with the Reds. This home stand ended up being a big turning point in the season. At the end of this streak they had put three games between them. They never relinquished the division lead on their way to winning the west by ten games.