What a treat that was. By now you know Jose Altuve capped off an incredible, improbable six-run ninth inning rally Sunday with a three-run blast to give the Houston Astros an 8-7 win over the New York Yankees. The ball club avoid a sweep and head into the All-Star break on a positive note.
As baseball fans, we’ve heard it all: too many games, not enough action, no personalities, no drama, the game is boring and on and on. Yet, a series in the middle of July saw 120,004 fans show up to Minute Maid Park over 3 days in Houston for a matchup between the Astros and Yankees.
With Jose Altuve’s walk off home run, we truly saw what makes Minute Maid Park so special.
Friday saw a putrid Astros’ offense somehow held to three hits by a combination of Nestor Castro, Lucas Luetge, Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga in a 4-0 loss. I was there with my son on Saturday and the atmosphere was electric, fun, almost like a street festival. Even a bit magical, one could say.
Arriving at Minute Maid Park about a full 2 hours and 15 minutes before game time, we were stunned to see long lines at the gates. Maybe it was the 2019 AL Champion Replica Ring giveaway, maybe it was Greinke vs. Cole or maybe it was the team in the visiting dugout.
It was likely a combination of all those and a first place Astros team on a Saturday night at MMP. Things didn’t go the Astros way in the 1-0 loss, as an Aaron Judge blast was the only run of the game along with Gerrit Cole’s masterful 129-pitch, complete game outing.
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On the drive home Sunday, my son and I talked about the game we watched in person and the Sunday game ahead that we’d watch on TV. As we watched the series finale seemingly slowly slip away with the by now familiar struggles at the plate, a record number of walks by the pitching staff, defensive struggles and bullpen woes, we looked toward the post All-Star Game schedule and what the second half would look like.
“No worries” we told ourselves. What we saw was not how the Astros will be constructed when at full health. Correa will be back, Bregman’s taking swings, Diaz is starting a rehab assignment and hey, I heard Austin Pruitt is doing good things.
Comfort food for the fans of a struggling team. And then it all changed in the blink of an eye, or more accurately the blink of 7 batters. As electric as it was to be in the park Saturday, Sunday had to be more electric, at least at the end.
You’re shorthanded, it’s the middle of July against a 3rd place team in the last game before the All-Star break. There was every reason to just play the string out, go home and get some rest.
Play it out is not what the Astros had in mind. Something special was brewing in MMP. Something magical. Crawford Street Magic.