Through their first 61 seasons of existence to this point, the Houston Astros have played in a total of 9,658 regular seasons and postseason contests.
This is the second in a possibly endless series of articles based on random Houston Astros plate appearances. I say endless because there are somewhere around 3⁄4 million of these, and another 70 or so every day. If the Astros stopped playing baseball today, I’d still have enough to draw on every day for 2,000 years....but I’m not exactly sure if I’ll live that long. I guess I can hope.
I use random.org to generate a random year, game, and plate appearance. I landed on 1989, game 104, and plate appearance 33 (of 70). This combination dropped me into a baseball-reference.com page on the Astros contest against the San Francisco Giants on July 29, 1989, and an inning called “the bottom of the fourth.”
The Houston Astros came into this game with a record of 58-45, three games behind the NL West Division leading Giants. Houston had lost game one of the three game series, 3-2 on Friday. This article is for the second game of the set.
The Astros had Mark Portugal (1-1, 4.26) set to go. Portugal was in his fifth major league season, and the first with Houston. He would end up pitching a total of 15 season in the majors, finishing sixth in the NL Cy Young Award voting for the Astros in 1993, and winning an NL Silver Slugger Award at the pitching position for the Giants in 1994. San Francisco was relying on Rick Reuschel (13-4, 2.28). Reuschel had just turned 40-years-old, and had just appeared in his fourth All-Star game in the 17th season of a 19-season MLB career.
Setting the Scene
Bill Doran had set the Astros up with an early 1-0 lead by knocking in Craig Biggio with a sacrifice fly. In the second inning, the club touched up Reuschel for three more runs on two homers, courtesy of Eric Anthony (1) and Biggio (7). Will Clark (16) got one back for the Giants in the third on a solo shot off Portugal. After the Giants went down 1-2-3 in their half of the fourth, we get to our plate appearance.
The “Random” Plate Appearance
As far back as 1989, there wasn’t a whole lot of individual pitch tracking. That is, the only thing I can see for sure is that the plate appearance lasted four pitches, and our hero, Gerald Young, had dropped down to a 1-2 count. On the final pitch of the at bat, he grounded out to Giants second baseman Robby Thompson, who threw it to Clark without incident. Houston’s odds of victory began the plate appearance at 88 percent, and dropped to 87 percent with it’s conclusion. With a 4-1 lead, even that early in the game, the incident had a leverage index of just 0.35, indicating that it wasn’t of very much importance. Any little thing can swing a game, but in hindsight we can see that this wasn’t of much import.
The Rest of the Game
The Astros continued to pour it on, touching up Giants reliever Trevor Wilson for another three runs on another pair of homers in the bottom of the fifth. Glenn Davis (22) and Ken Caminiti (6) were the guilty parties. Biggio added a sixth-inning RBI-single for an 8-1 lead and the eventual final score. Portugal went all nine frames, striking out eight and surrendering just the one run on three hits and three walks. He put 69-of-112 pitches in the strike zone, and finished with a GameScore of 82. In a sign of the times, the game only lasted 2:13, and there were a total of 39,608 butts filling seats in the Astrodome.
Would you like to see it? Well you can’t! The closest I could find was from a week later, also against the Giants. Got two and a half hours?
The Astros won the following day as well, by a 6-2 final score to pull within one game of the Division lead. Biggio won his first NL Silver Slugger Award (of five) on his way to an eventual Hall of Fame career. Davis appeared in his second all-star game, and finished seventh in the NL MVP Award vote, hitting .269 with 34 homers and 89 RBI. The Astros went 26-31 after their series win against San Francisco to finish at 86-76, six games behind the NL West Division champion Giants (and three games behind the San Diego Padres). Houston wouldn’t get back to the postseason until 1997.