HOUSTON – The Astros are back in the Fall Classic that opens Tuesday against the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros' journey here to this year’s World Series has brought back memories of their last trip back in 2005.
Great season, historic run but one that ended abruptly for the wild card hopefuls. They got to the big stage but were swept by the Chicago White Sox.
Chicago’s South side fans had waited 88 years for that magical night and the title was claimed after winning four straight against the Astros. This wasn’t a blowout series, though, as all of the games were nailbiters and decided by two runs or less.
The two managers in 2005 were Houston’s own Phil “Scrap Iron” Garner facing off against Chicago’s hot head Ozzie Guillen. The Astros roster was full of stars like Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte along with future Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.
The series opened in Chicago because of the All-Star game outcome that summer and the pitching matchup featured Clemens against White Sox right hander Jose Contreras. Clemens gave up a home run in the bottom of the first inning to Jermaine Dye that got the White Sox on the board.
The Astros tied it in the de but Chicago scored two more in the bottom of the 2nd against Clemens who would then leave the game with a sore hamstring.
The Astros plated two in the 3rd thanks to clutch double from Lance Berkman, and later Mike Lamb homered for the Astros but they fell 5-3 in Game 1 as they could never get anything going against Contreras.
So it was on to game two and a chance for the Astros to even the series and take it back to Houston tied 1-1, but that wouldn’t happen after a thrilling walk-off win by the White Sox in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Astros struck first in the game when Morgan Ensberg ripped a solo home run to put Houston on top 1-0. Lance Berkman had a big night with the bat, but Chicago got to Andy Pettitte, and the Astros bullpen.
The Astros had a 4-2 lead but when Paul Konerko smashed a grand slam off Chad Qualls the lead was gone. The Astros fought back thanks to a 9th inning pinch single from Jose Vizcaino but the game ended in the bottom of the frame with a walk-off dinger from Scott Podsednik off closer Brad Lidge.
The shot at a split was over after a 7-6 loss and this series was headed to Houston and Minute Maid Park.
After a day off and some rest, the Astros were confident they would get back into the series in front of their home fans. What they didn’t know was they’d play for over 5 hours and need extra innings only to be disappointed again. The Astros jumped out quickly to a 4-0 lead thanks to RBI hits from Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg to support Game 3 starter Roy Oswalt, but Chicago’s offense woke up in the 5th inning with 5 runs in the frame including a home run from Joe Crede. Just like that, the Astros commanding lead was gone and Minute Maid Park was left silent.
The Astros tied it in the 8th and the game wouldn’t end for a while. Top of the 14th the White Sox closed it out, breaking a 5-5 tie when former Astro Geoff Blum belted a home run. The White Sox would beat the Astros 7-5 to go up 3-0 in the series, with Game 4 the next night at Minute Maid Park. Together, both teams combined to use 17 pitchers in Game 3.
Their legitimate title hopes had been dashed, but it wasn’t over yet in the eyes of the Astros.
Game 4, in front of a series-high crowd of 42.986 fans, saw Brandon Backe face off against Freddie Garcia of the White Sox. The least hyped battle of the World Series really turned out to be the best, as each hurler tossed 7 shutout innings. Then the Astros bullpen couldn’t finish as closer Brad Lidge gave up a go-ahead single from Jermaine Dye that made it 1-0. That lead would hold up and the White Sox title drought was officially over.
The Astros journey was deep but they left with an empty feeling of reaching the World Series yet not producing a win to show for it. Up and down seasons would follow, and by 2013 the complete makeover was underway as the Astros suffered through a franchise high 111 losses.
Twelve years have passed since that World Series run of 2005 and now it’s time to do it all again. This year the Astros team is built to win the title with an offense and pitching staff among the best in the Major Leagues. Keuchel in Game 1, Verlander in Game 2 will get this 2017 version off and running at Dodger Stadium.
Hopefully this time the result will end with a parade in downtown Houston.