Two years ago, the Houston Astros sat at exactly 52-52 by the end of July, the very picture of mediocrity. They then proceeded to rattle off 40 wins in their remaining 58 games, including a 23-7 record in September and October, and won the NL Wild Card by one game over the San Francisco Giants. Though they eventually lost the NLCS to St. Louis, they took that series to seven games and might have won it with a bit more luck. More important, perhaps, they actually beat the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, three games to two, and finally shook off the stigma that this franchise could not win in the postseason.
One year ago, the Houston Astros were just 44-43 at the All-Star break, but got hot in July and again won the NL Wild Card by one game, this time over the *choke* Philadelphia Phillies. Again they beat the Braves in the Division Series, but this time they took care of the St. Louises in six games, advancing to the World Series for the first time since the founding of the franchise in 1962. Still a great year, by almost any measure.
And this year? Well, this year the good people of Houston will have to content themselves with being disappointed during the regular season, because there ain't no Miracle Comeback in this team's 2006 storybook. As things stand now, the NL Wild Card race looks like this:
TEAM W L Pct GB
Dodgers 80 73 0.523 -
Phillies 79 73 0.520 0.5
Florida 76 77 0.497 4.0
Giants 75 77 0.493 4.5
Atlanta 75 78 0.490 5.0
Reds 74 78 0.487 5.5
Houston 74 78 0.487 5.5
Arizona 72 80 0.473 7.5
Though they won last night, at the end of the day of September 20th, the Astros were 73-78, five games under .500. For comparison's sake, the Astros were five games under .500 last year as well. On July 1st, 36-41. They had over half their schedule remaining to make up those games, and they still only beat out the Phillies by one game. This year, with less than two weeks left to play, there will not be any such resurgence by this team. They will not find a way to climb over six other teams in two weeks and win a third straight playoff berth. They will not get a chance to defend their National League title.
And why? Well, the reasons, as you might expect, are manifold.
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