How glorious to have an off day, up 2-0 in the ALDS for the 2nd time in two years. For the newcomer fans, you have no idea how enormous this is or feels. For old timers, you might have forgotten. Here goes, from my perspective.
I came on board in the 1980 NLCS against the Phillies. What a gut punch. Then in 1981, the Astros had a mini-series against the Dodgers. Jerry Reuss took our souls. 1986 I was a bit more of age, and it felt like the Astros had magic in a bottle. 1986 G-6 was probably the most crushing loss one could imagine. I ran home from school, turned on the TV and when the screen became visible (after 20 seconds of audio), I was looking at a replay of the Billy Hatcher home run, only to realize that it merely tied the game in extras. It took awhile to get back, so much so that in 1997 it felt good just to get to the playoffs, and I half-expected to get stomped by the Braves. 1998 was another ultra-gut punch, and by 2001 the team had been in the playoffs four of seven years, and seven times total, and had never won a single series. I think they lost seven straight elimination games.
To break through in 2004 was awesome. Our media-ignored stars finally came through. And even though Clemens couldn’t hold a lead against the Cards, the team still won six playoff games that year. That was the same number that the team won in six previous playoff trips.
2005 was in many ways an inferior team that rode big pitching to the WS. Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg were middle of the lineup hitters. Bagwell was hanging by a thread, and Biggio was barely above league average. It was nice to make it to the big stage. Losing to the White Sox sucked, but not nearly as much as how they lost: swept via blown leads, bullpen collapses, and the inconceivability of Roy Oswalt blowing a lead. But that was not a great team. They didn’t even win 90 games in the regular season.
When the team reemerged to make the playoffs, it was glorious. For the fans that followed the team through those years, it was a desert. We deserved to have the Astros make us happy again. Losing to the Royals sucked, but not nearly as much as the way we lost.
Through 35 years of playoff losing, being an Astro fan made me feel cursed. Cursed like my team could never win it all. They never got a lucky break when they needed it, and when they didn’t need it, they somehow managed to lose anyway, like in 1998. “Tortured fanbase” seemed like a tattoo we could collectively share.
All of that went away last year. It was stressful, but it was magical. It really happened. When the Astros lost the game in Cleveland in May, blowing an 8-3 lead, I didn’t care. I was annoyed, but not angry. Because it didn’t mean anything more than that the team blew a lead. We were still the World Series champs, and there was no curse. We had the best players, the best manager, and the best GM.
So here it is in 2018, and the Astros are facing a mighty rotation. Nobody would have been shocked had Kluber shut us down in Game 1. Nor if Carrasco had evened things in Game 2. Those type of dominant starters are the kinds of guys that have been ruining our postseason since people thought Fernando Valenzuela was under 30 years old. But the Astros went up 2-0 and nobody is surprised.
Fans, live it up! This team won six total postseason games (seven if you count the win in the 1981 mini-series) from its inception in 1962 to 2003. There are fans on this board who will be livid if we don’t win the WS. Don’t get me wrong, I want to repeat and to crush multiple fanbases, but let each victory be a source of sweet rejoicing. We deserve it.