Houston Astros: Ten Long Years Drought from the Playoffs is Over
Sep 1, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros shortstopCarlos Correa
(1) hits a double during the third inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
As the All-Star game approached, Astros fans voted to support their team, especially keen on having two-time All-Star reserve and reigning MLB batting champion Altuve voted in as the starting second baseman. Altuve overcame early opposition to win the spot, and another step was taken in legitimizing the Houston Astros as a force.
In July, Craig Biggio became the first Astro to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a fitting event in this unlikely summer of Astros winning baseball. Biggio was arguably the greatest Astros player of all time, and during his Hall of Fame summer, his former team was shocking everyone by winning regularly.
Houston watched their Astros soar to first place and stay there for long periods. Their new shortstop was becoming a force at the bat and in the field. Altuve, the dynamic second baseman, all five foot five inches of towering presence and spectacular athletic ability, was in hot pursuit of another batting title and in pursuit of a playoff berth for his team. The phenomenon of Keuchel’s Korner took hold – the entirety of Minute Maid Park’s sections 107 through 109, awash in Astros orange t-shirts and fake beards. An incredible thing happened at MMP when Keuchel started – he won every time he pitched.
Fans watched their Astros through losing and winning streaks, and they marveled when their team regained first place in the AL West on July 28. In those first four months of the 2015 season, Houston fans began to enjoy their home team again, something that had not happened for many years. Still, although it was now the end of July, many waited for the collapse; the return to losing ways that most expected to happen.
But the Astros maintained their position, playing an exciting brand of baseball not seen in Minute Maid Park for ten long years. Fans began to buy tickets for Astros home games in numbers not seen in all those years. Excitement grew among the Astros hopeful, all the while still waiting for the bubble to burst, and for the Astros to play like the Astros of old.
The rest of the baseball world began slowly to notice what was happening, far away from the media spotlight cities of New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Way down there, deep in the heart of Texas, was a dynamic group of young men playing baseball with a purpose not seen in recent memory.
As the trade deadline approached, excitement grew as Astros fans began to realize that with a few changes, the Astros could become a contender. A few key acquisitions could make the difference between a good team and a playoff team. Playoffs? Are Astros fans actually speaking seriously of playoffs in July? Yes, they were, and it wasn’t simply idle talk. By late July, it was obvious that the Houston Astros were not a fluke. This team was making believers out of many.
GM Jeff Luhnow did make some trades, acquiring Houston native Scott Kazmir from Oakland, and then pitcher Mike Fiers and center fielder Carlos Gomez from Milwaukee. The in-game sound level coming from Minute Maid Park was steadily increasing, and it reached a new height when, on August 21, Fiers threw a no-hitter in front of 34,000 delirious home fans. It was the 11th no-hitter in Astros history, the first in twelve years, and the first ever from an Astros pitcher at Minute Maid Park (the previous home no-hitter happened in 1993 in the Astrodome).
Next: Then September Happened