Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How the Astros got screwed


Welcome to the life of a Houston Astro.

You win six straight games in September, are feeling good about yourself for the first time, really, all season. And then this happens:

Your family, your home, your neighborhood are attacked by Hurricane Ike, a storm that doesn't discriminate while causing mass chaos to everything in its way. All of a sudden, you're not just worried about catching the Brewers in the Wild Card race. You've got much more important issues to think about.

Of course, it's a bummer that the first two games of your crucial home series with the Cubs are Iked out — considering the momentum you're carrying on the field — but hey, that's life on the Gulf Coast. You figure you'll take the weekend to take care of non-baseball issues and then get back to the grind.

That's the case until Sunday, when suddenly you learn the news: You're making up two of the series' games the next two days. Great, you think. Back to baseball. Getting back on the field is always a nice distraction. But then you're told to prepare for a flight to Milwaukee.

"Milwaukee????" you think, "I thought this was a home series." You realize that you still can't play in Houston because of conditions, but why go all the way to Milwaukee when you could play two in Arlington (where the Rangers don't start a home series until Monday night); Atlanta; or, worst-case scenario, St. Louis? At least you wouldn't feel the Sears Tower looking down on you.

Instead, you're to hop on a plane for a city that lies less than an hour from Wrigley Field.

You're a professional, so you do what you're told. But your head's not into it. Your situation at home post-hurricane still isn't settled. And now you're embarking on a road trip that won't have you home for over a week. You arrive at Miller Park in time to get dressed and prepare for the game. Meanwhile, the Cubs could have carpooled up I-94 W. In no way are you ready for what's basically become a road game; that's not good, considering the importance of the contest.

Add to that the fact that you get to face Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano. Sure, he's coming off an injury, but on this night he has his best stuff. It's not fair. Zambrano no-hits you, sending the Miller Park crowd into a frenzy.

The only good news of a hectic day? The Phillies swept the Brewers, so you didn't lose any ground in the Wild Card race.

Instead of resting, however, you must wake up the next morning for a day game back at the Cubs' second home field. Again not in your best form, you manage just a single hit in a 6-1 loss. The two L's mark the first time in baseball's long history that a team has managed just a single hit in two games. You hate the statistic, but know there should be an asterisk next to it.

You lose a half game to the Phillies and Brewers, who got to rest for a day. But you don't get that opportunity. Instead, you hop a plane for the nice, short flight down to South Beach for a three-game set with the Marlins. It's always nice to zig-zag north and south when flying.

After another loss Tuesday night, you're back to three games out in the Wild Card. There remain just 12 games. Your six-game winning spree has dissolved into a dismal three-game losing slide. All the momentum and good feelings are gone.

Yes, you're a professional, so you move on, prepare for the next game. That's all you can do. But you wonder: Did Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner/Milwaukee Lover, do all he could to accommodate our best interests? Did he look into all the options?

Then you ask yourself the ultimate question: Did we get screwed?

Well, I've got the answer for your, dear Houston Astro.

Yes, you got screwed.

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