Thursday, October 20, 2005

No-choke zone

Roy Oswalt didn't get the memo about how this was supposed to work.
The Astros suffer a catastrophic ninth-inning loss to the Cardinals Monday night, ruining their chances of clinching their first-ever NL pennant at home. This means that the Astros and their fans are supposed to become overwhelmed with anxiety, head into Busch Stadium tense and terrified of another collapse like last season, and lose the final two games.
Didn't Oswalt take notes on the 2003 Cubs? Or the 1985 Cardinals? Or the 1986 Angels?
Appparently not. Because Oswalt took the mound as cool as Maverick in the cockpit Wednesday night and proceeded to shut down St. Louis' powerful offense, propelling the Astros to a 5-1 win and the first pennant in the 44-year history of the franchise.
Game 3 of the World Series on Tuesday will be the first ever played in the state of Texas.
It was a massive pressure release for a franchise that was quickly becoming viewed as hexed in October. The Astros made the playoffs in 1980, 1981, 1986, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, last year and this year. They lost Game 7 of the NLCS twice -- 1986 and 2004.
All the years of great pitchers, from J.R. Richard to Nolan Ryan to Darrryl Kile to Shane Reynolds and Scott Elarton and Mike Hampton, the failed Randy Johnson experiment in '98, onto Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, and no World Series. Until now.
This World Series matches the Astros and White Sox, two teams that are far from small-market, but have underdog status nonetheless. It's Red Sox-Cubs without the hype and blubbering about curses.
And no matter who wins, chances are their egos are going to stay in check far better than this year's strutting Bostonians.

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