The Philadelphia Phillies arrived at Minute Maid Park last Thursday with their heads held high and their chests puffed out like a rooster in a hen-house. Riding a seven game winning streak the Phillies were back in the playoff picture and licking their chops at the prospect of a four-game series against the worst team in the league. But four days later the Phils left town licking their wounds and with their tail between their legs. That’s because the Astros own the Phillies.
Since 2004, no team has had more success against the Phils than our Astros- and this series was no exception. The team Phillies fans were making fun of on MLB message boards and various other websites won three of four over the weekend, seriously damaging the Phillies playoff hopes. It’s been said many times- “you can throw their records out the window when these two teams meet.” That statement never rang truer. Regardless of the Astros place in the standings they have, in recent years, had their way with the Phils.
The Astros are now 35-23 (.603 winning percentage) against the Phillies since 2004. No N.L. team has a better record against Philadelphia over that time frame. In ’04 and ’05 the Astros not only put together epic second have runs to qualify for the playoffs, they were also a huge factor in knocking Philadelphia out of contention. The Astros were 12-0 against the Phils during that two-year period and a few of those wins were memorable ones.
The one that stands out the most for me happened back on August 23, 2004. It was only the second time I had attended a game at Minute Maid Park. I had attended the previous night’s loss to the Cubs after spending several years on the West Coast. The Astros entered the game with a 61-62 record and the Phillies were 62-62. Neither team appeared to be a factor in the wildcard race, but that would soon change.
Roger Clemens was on the mound for the Astros and the ballpark was alive with a vibe I had never felt back in the old Astrodome days. It was an air of confidence. Astros fans were no longer sitting around waiting for the Astros to find a way to lose, they were actively participating in what they were confident was going to be a victory.
The Phillies scored two runs in the first inning but that didn’t dampen the mood of the crowd. When Houston came back with a four-spot in the bottom of the inning the party was on. Clemens, en route to his seventh career Cy Young Award, strung together six scoreless innings before giving way to the bullpen and the Astros coasted to an 8-4 win. Little did I know that it would be the game that kick-started a 31-8 run to end the season and finish one game ahead of the Giants for the wildcard berth.
In 2005 the Astros would need another strong finish to qualify for the post-season. On September 5 they arrived in Philadelphia with a 72-64 record, one-half game behind the Phillies for the wildcard spot. Andy Pettitte secured a 4-3 win in the first game and Roy Oswalt came out on top when the Astros scored a run in the ninth inning to beat former teammate Billy Wagner 2-1 in the second game.
This time it was the final game of the series that stood out. Wagner was brought in to protect a two-run lead in the ninth and quickly retired the first two batters he faced. That’s when the fun started. Remember, the Phillies had lost eleven straight to Houston at this point and the Astros were inside their heads. Jose Vizcaino reached on David Bell‘s error and Willy Taveras legged out an infield hit. Craig Biggio followed with a three-run homer off his long-time teammate and the Astros were suddenly on top. Brad Lidge took care of the rest with a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a couple of strikeouts. The Astros left town with a one game lead in the wildcard race. The Phillies dropped to 2 & 1/2 behind.
Most fans will likely remember the Astros four-game sweep in Philadelphia in August of 2010. That series included a sixteen inning game that saw Roy Oswalt make an appearance in the Phillies outfield after Ryan Howard was ejected from the contest. Oswalt made the last out of the game after Brad Mills intentionally walked Chase Utley to get to him. Owned ‘em!
The Astros lost the next five games they played at Citizens Bank Park but still have an N.L. best 16-12 record at the Phillies current home. Winning three of four over the weekend helped Astros fans forget about the recent failures and relish the satisfaction of silencing the league’s most obnoxious fans. Philadelphia is not on the Astros schedule in 2013 so we don’t know when we’ll get to
see own the Phillies again. So, enjoy your vacation from the owning, Phillies fan, until we meet again.