Can Astros capture hearts of beleaguered Houston fans?

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 02: George Springer
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 02: George Springer /

It’s just a game but means a lot to Astros fans with their lives torn apart.

When thousands are forced from their flooded homes, baseball just seems unimportant. Also, when citizens and first responders lose their lives to a record-breaking storm, it’s hard to care too much about sports. When the nation’s fourth-largest city is brought to its knees, a baseball game pales in comparison. We are Houston Strong. We are Astros fans!

With so much rebuilding ahead, does baseball even matter in Houston right now? Even the players themselves seem to have had trouble focusing on the game, and no one could blame them. There are much more important things to worry about.

But sports have a unique way of helping people heal from tragedies. They provide a sense of normalcy when normal goes flying out the window. They prove that even in the direst of circumstances, the show goes on.

Sports can also give a city something to rally around, something to cheer for, and something to hope for. We’ve seen it time and time again. Whether it’s the Saints returning to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina or the Red Sox winning the World Series after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, one sports team can lift an entire city.

And in the case of President George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium following 9/11, one moment can mean more than words can describe.

The Time is Now

The Astros have the opportunity to do something similar. With a postseason berth all but secured, the team is in prime position to put Houston on its shoulders for the next two months. It can make baseball matter in a battered and beaten city.

Of course, to do that, the team must win. If the Astros get swept in the Division Series, they won’t be giving Houston much to cheer for at all. For now, they are out in the community helping Houston become strong.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to win the World Series, but they do have to make a playoff run of some significance. And they have to rediscover the magic and excitement they exhibited in the first half of the season.

The return of Carlos Correa will help, as will the big-time acquisition of Justin Verlander. A late-season resurgence from Lance McCullers would be a huge boost. The bullpen coming together and the offense looking like its old self could mean a fun October for the Astros and their fans. They came back to Houston to sweep the Mets in front of those lucky enough to attend.

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But more than that, it could give Houstonians a team to rally around as they work to put the pieces back together. It could give hope and healing to countless affected families. And maybe – just maybe – it could give a long-suffering city the championship it so richly deserves.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference***