Why Saints fans should appreciate the Astros
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 30, 2017
In this season of Halloween, the parallels are, well, eerie.
When you return home from trick or treating Tuesday evening, you can sit down with your candy and settle in to watch Game 6 of what has turned into an epic World Series, where suddenly, the Houston Astros find themselves one win away from the first world championship in the 56-year history of the franchise.
It comes on the heels of Sunday night/Monday morning’s dramatic 13-12, 10-inning Astros win over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Minute Maid Park in Game 5, giving Houston a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
If you’re a Saints fan, you can appreciate what the Astros fan has been through following the major league team located closest to our area.
It doesn’t have anything to do with the two former LSU standouts who have played a big part in Houston’s success this week, Alex Bregman and Will Harris. It has everything to do with the long waits and punches to the gut that the fan base has taken over a half-century.
Let us count the ways.
Two decades of losing before finally breaking through and making the playoffs? Check.
The Saints didn’t finally reach the playoffs until their 21st season of existence in 1987. The Astros needed 19 seasons before they finally made the postseason, in 1980. That only happened after blowing a three-game lead against their former National League West rivals – yes, the Dodgers – on the last weekend of the regular season, then needing to win a one-game playoff the next afternoon.
Waiting until the turn of the century to finally win in the playoffs? Double check.
After four swings and misses in the playoffs, it took the Saints until the franchise’s 34th season in 2000 to finally win a playoff game and until 2006 to reach the NFC Championship Game. The Astros’ postseason failure streak was even longer – six tries and 42 years – before finally winning the 2004 NLDS over the Atlanta Braves.
Gut-wrenching losses and turnarounds that went against your team? Got those.
Start with 1979, when Houston first seemed poised to win a division title. It had a 10 1/2 game lead in the NL West on July 4, but went 37-42 the rest of the way and finished 1 1/2 games behind the Cincinnati Reds.
When Houston finally reached the playoffs the next year, it had a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, but proceeded to blow a pair of eighth-inning leads to lose Games 4 and 5 to the Phillies, both in extra innings.
Six years later, in what may have been baseball’s zaniest postseason ever, late-inning rallies and extra innings again doomed the Astros against the New York Mets in the NLCS. After the Mets won Game 5 in 12 innings, the Astros were three outs from forcing a winner-take-all game (with eventual Cy Young Award winner Mike Scott waiting in the wings) before blowing a 3-0 ninth-inning lead and losing a 16-inning epic, 7-6.
(By the way, that 1986 NLCS Game 6 – despite being a full six innings longer than Sunday night’s Game 5 – was played 37 minutes faster.)
Even when things have eventually gone well, it has been painful to get there.
In 2005, when the Astros finally reached the World Series, they needed 18 innings in the clincher of the National League Division Series against the Braves to win. Two nights before it finally won the National League pennant over the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston was poised to clinch in front of the home crowd … but Albert Pujols put a halt to those plans with a monstrous three-run homer off Brad Lidge in the top of the ninth.
Bouncing back after a natural disaster? That too.
New Orleans had Katrina. Houston had Harvey. Just as the Saints became a rallying point for our area, beginning in 2006, the Astros have served that role in the weeks following the flooding that Harvey’s days of heavy rain and winds left behind.
Houston has had a couple of championships – the Oilers won an AFL title and the Rockets claimed back-to-back NBA championships in the mid-1990s – but a World Series title for Houston would certainly be akin to what New Orleans witnessed on Feb. 7, 2010.
And if the Astros can’t wrap it up with Justin Verlander on the hill Tuesday night, we will have a Game 7 Wednesday night – which just so happens to be Nov. 1, the anniversary of the birth of the Saints.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…