Then September Happened
May 4, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros second basemanJose Altuve
(27) fields a ground ball during the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Cracks in the armor began to show, though, and on September 15, the Astros slipped out of first place for the first time since July 26. They were unable to regain the top spot, falling on September 25 to 4.5 games out of first place. But they battled back and won six of their final eight games to clinch the second AL Wild Card slot – their first playoff berth in ten years.
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When Marwin Gonzalez hit his 10th home run on September 9, the Astros tied a Major League record. Eleven Astros hit 10 or more home runs in 2015, equaling the record for most players with double-digit home runs. Gattis was quietly racking up triples, and by year’s end, he was tied for third in all of MLB with 11, all things considered, an incredible accomplishment.
Correa broke the Astros rookie record for home runs (22), set in 2000 by Lance Berkman, who played in 114 games that year. Correa broke the record playing in only 98 games in 2015. On October 4, Altuve became the first Astros player to have 200 or more hits in two seasons. He needed three hits in the last game to reach the goal, and he did it in pain, because that’s what such men do (he had fouled a pitch off his foot and been hit on the hand by a pitch in the previous game).
Keuchel, who was a high school student in Tulsa the last time an Astros pitcher was even close to being considered for the Cy Young Award, became the leading contender for the 2015 award. He is the lone AL 20 game winner this season, and the first Astro to do so in 10 years (Collin McHugh was right behind him, winning 19). The man who inspired the t-shirt logo, ‘Go beard or go home’, finished second in MLB with 232 innings pitched, only 2/3 of an inning behind first place Clayton Kershaw. Keuchel started 18 games at Minute Maid Park, went 15-0, and became the first player in MLB history to win as many as 14 games at home. He won pitcher of the month three times in 2015.
For the first time in ten long years, there were lines outside of Minute Maid Park prior to games. To turn the corner at Austin Street onto Texas Avenue more than an hour before game time, and see lines from every entrance nearly around the block, was a sight none of us had seen since the World Series year of 2005. To sit in that beautiful ballpark among 40,000 rabid fans, where for years there had been vast expanses of empty seats is something to remember for a lifetime. When a sellout crowd of believing Astros fans sang with deafening gusto during the seventh inning stretch: ‘THE STARS AT NIGHT, ARE BIG AND BRIGHT, ‘CLAP! CLAP! CLAP! CLAP! DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS!’, it made for Texas-sized goose bumps on even the most hardened fan.
No matter what happens in the postseason, the 2015 Houston Astros have given to the city of Houston, the state of Texas, and Astros fans, something none will ever forget. What the Astros did was to ignite once again the passion for baseball among Astros fans everywhere. The Astros gave fans real reasons to show up and cheer. They gave us winning baseball for the first time in a decade.