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An Oral History of Watching (and Not Watching) the Last Three Innings of That Crazy Astros Game

It’s an experience Texas Monthly staffers will never forget, even the ones who didn’t actually experience it.

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Houston Astros' Carlos Correa, Cameron Maybin and Marwin Gonzalez celebrate after Game 2 of baseball's World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Astros won 7-6 to tie the series at 1-1.
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

The 15 million people who tuned in last night to watch the second game of the World Series no doubt were hoping for a good time. What they couldn’t have known was that they were about to witness one of the most thrilling battles in Major League post-season history. The visiting Houston Astros—a team that has made it to the Series only once, and had never won a Series game—were down one game to none, and badly needed a win before they headed back home. The Dodgers, likewise, wanted to have a commanding lead in the series before their three-game stand in enemy territory.

The game that resulted from those twin determinations was a doozy of a seesaw—the Astros led 1-0 in the third, the Dodgers tied it up in the fifth and then pulled ahead 3-1 in the next inning, and then the Astros narrowed the lead by one in the eight.

Our oral history of the next three innings, told by seven Texas Monthly staffers and hangers-on who watched the game with varying degrees of interest, picks up with the Astros at bat and down 3-2.

 

That Crazy Ninth Inning

Battling from behind, the Astros came to the plate with everything on the line. You won’t believe what happened next.

ABBY JOHNSTON, Web Editor: I have to admit something: I didn’t watch the game from first pitch to close. My dad, the man responsible for my Astros obsession and a lifelong fan himself, frequently drops in and out of games. That sort of behavior from a diehard has always perplexed me, but I now recognize it as a necessary form of self-preservation.

But when the Astros entered the ninth inning only one run behind, I coaxed myself to turn off Big Little Lies and tune back to the game. “Maybe we can pull this off at the last second,” I thought, with optimism so cautious it bordered on doubt. I’ve been an Astros fan for too long to hope for miracles, and if any divine intervention were to happen, it seemed that we had already received it in the form of an RBI single off of Dodger Chris Taylor’s hat in the third inning.

But the baseball gods hath sent Houston another miracle, and named it Marwin González. A leadoff homerun out to the center-field seats to tie the game! We were rich with blessings.

I held my breath through the entire bottom of the inning. I realized that I watched Justin Turner—whose two-run homer in game one put the Dodgers in the lead for good—take his at-bat with a blanket wrapped around my head and covering one eye. But somehow, [Astros pitcher] Ken Giles pulled it off. We were going into extra innings, and my nerves were already shot.

Marwin Gonzalez #9 celebrates with Carlos Correa #1 after hitting a solo home run during the ninth inning.

Harry How/Getty Images

JOHN NOVA LOMAX, Senior Editor: My wife is so sports-averse her brother once joked that she’d pay extra for a cable package not to carry ESPN. She’s an Aggie, but she never got into any of the lore there, not even a little bit. She’s a proud “two percenter,” as they call such people in College Station. “But that two percent of the time, I’m game,” she says. (I’d call it more like .002 percent, but she tells no lie — when she’s in, she’s in.) In eight years of marriage, last night was the first time she has watched so much as an inning of baseball with me. She was away for most of the game, but returned in time for Marwin’s homer. She could hear me yelling in the living room all the way in the shower.

DAVE MANN, Features Director: Marwin Gonzalez hit a home run!!! On an 0-2 pitch! I couldn’t believe it! Kenley Jansen made a huge mistake, and Marwin didn’t miss it. Jansen looked gassed. I thought, “They really might pull this out.”

Then George Springer doubled, and I thought about Cheryl Clark and her daughter Kayla—two die-hard Astros fans we profiled last year. Their favorite player is Springer. I wondered what Cheryl and Kayla were feeling at that moment. They must have been going crazy. Then Alex Bregman grounded out sharply to short to end the inning.

In the bottom of the inning, Ken Giles came in—he used to play for Philadelphia, where I’m originally from. He’s so unpredictable, and I didn’t have a good feeling about it. Sure enough, Cody Bellinger hit it a ton to right center. That ball was going out, I was sure of it, this game was over. And then Josh Reddick got there, and the shot, miraculously, stayed in. Yes! That was close.

SCOTT BROWN, President and Chief Creative Officer: My wife and I were committed to a work thing last night – so we weren’t watching the game. Our 13-year-old son was at home with his little sister and a sitter, and at 10:30 or so he texted to let us know that he wasn’t going to bed until the game was over. “This is a great game,” I read on my wife’s phone.

I have to admit, I’d forced my kids to watch Tuesday night’s game. I’m a fair-weather Houston sports fan, all of a sudden fascinated by the Astros. And when I say I forced them to watch, I mean it was painful. Everybody moaned and groaned though game one, which was a little boring. My wife kept changing the channel to watch This Is Us. So last night I was heartened that my son was watching.

 

That Even Crazier Tenth Inning

In which our heroes seem to wrap the game up—and then collapse once again.

DAVE MANN: Another Dodger pitcher. How many people do they have in their bullpen? It’s like they’ve got a Marine battalion worth of pitchers out there.

But it didn’t matter — José Altuve hit it out! Wow! I loved that celebration dance he did with Carlos Correa after touching home. That had to be one of the biggest hits in Astros’ history and of course it was Altuve who came through. And then Correa went yard, too! They did that dance again. “They’re definitely going to win this!” I thought. “What a game!”

Then Yuli Gurriel laced a double! And now a word from T-Mobile!? Screw you, Fox!

OK, they didn’t get the extra run in from second. But, still, they had a two-run lead, in the tenth. I figured they had it in the bag.

Jose Altuve #27 reacts after hitting a solo home run during the tenth inning.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

ABBY JOHNSTON: My husband rechristened Betty—our four-pound chiweenie who’s so small that she is occasionally mistaken for a rat—Betty Altuve for the duration of the playoffs. She, like Astros second baseman José Altuve, is pint-sized and fast.

Her .346 average, however, measures how often she successfully uses the restroom outside. So I used the commercial break between innings to take Betty Altuve for a bathroom break, hoping to be back inside to watch her namesake lead off the tenth inning. A wily squirrel intervened, distracting the smaller Altuve from doing her business, so I experienced the first home run of extra innings via the ESPN app. I picked her up as the score updated to 4-3 and digital confetti rained down on my phone screen. “Betty Altuveeeeeeeeeee” I squealed. She blinked at me.

Not knowing I had another inning and a half of emotional rollercoaster baseball still to go, I feared I’d missed watching the game-winning hit live. But just as I walked in the door, I saw an Astro rounding home on my TV. I thought it was a replay, until I noticed the other Altuve running out of the dugout to chest bump Correa. I’d pretty much missed the sixteenth-ever set of back-to-back home runs in World Series history.

We were up 5-3. Any other fans might relax at this point, but not Astros loyalists. We know just how capable they are of blowing everything to bits. I texted my dad to ask if he was watching. “Yeah, I’m scared,” he replied.

That fear was founded. Specifically, it was rooted in Ken Giles, a prime representative of what announcers continually reminded us was a shaky Astros bullpen. At one point, an announcer compared Giles’ slider to Brad Lidge’s, to which every Astros fan who hasn’t had a lobotomy since 2005 responded, “DON’T YOU BRING HIM UP RIGHT NOW.”

Instead, Astros manager A.J. Hinch brought in Chris Devenski, who proceeded to nail an unsuspecting ump with a ball ostensibly destined for second base. Aside from stopping the runner from advancing to third, that gaffe prompted one of my favorite text responses from my dad during the game: “HAHAHAHAHAHA. What a joke.”

JOHN NOVA LOMAX: There’s a semi-tame raccoon, Fat Face, who was born and raised in our backyard and acts like he owns the place. He’d been in and out of our dining room all night, trying to steal some of our cat’s food, and doing a good job of distracting me from the game. Around the top of the tenth, I went over to the dining room to shoot some video of him, and that’s when Altuve and Correa went deep back to back. I started calling him Fat Face the Rally Raccoon — it was his presence that rejuvenated the offense.

 

DANIEL VAUGHN, Barbecue Editor: I couldn’t pay full attention to the game last night. I was preparing for a long road trip—I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to drive to Beaumont to report some barbecue stories. I was also trying to finish up my barbecue news segment that I do every couple of weeks. I was trying to get all of that done and watch the game at the same time, so I actually had to rewind the Altuve home run. Then, with the second home run, I thought, “Finally, this game is over. I can go to sleep now.”

One of the last things I wrote in the barbecue news segment was this line about the World Series bet between Greg Abbott and Jerry Brown. I wrote, “And the World Series is now tied one and one.” And I scheduled the post to be published the next morning. Classic baseball jinx.

SCOTT BROWN: A few minutes before 11 the work obligation was over and my wife and I were walking to our car. I glanced into the windows of a bar we were passing. There were at least 75 people standing in front of a television. I said to my wife, “This must be a really great game.”  But we kept walking – our the sitter was waiting for us to get home. In my mind, missing a really great game was suddenly a really big personal failure. But this was ridiculous, I knew. I hadn’t committed to the Astros until two weeks ago.

DAVE MANN: Giles was back out on the mound, and he looked more nervous than I did. And then Puig just killed that ball. OK, not to worry. The Astros were still up by one run.

There’s one out!

There’s two outs!

Logan Forsythe was up next for an easy third out, and the Astros will win it. He sucks. He’s sucked all year for the Dodgers. No way he’s coming through here. He’s got two strikes. One strike away! And then Giles walked him. And then there was a wild pitch. Giles was choking. If they blow this, I thought, I don’t think Astros fans will ever recover. There was a great slow-motion replay of Giles screaming after the wild pitch. I think that’s the same face every Astros fan was making at that moment.

Kiké Hernandez was up. He can’t hit right-handed pitching. But Giles couldn’t throw a strike. He’d completely lost his stuff.

Single to right. Crap! Come on, Reddick, throw the ball. Throw looks good. It’s there. McCann catches it. I jumped off the couch. Tag! Tag! That’s the last out!???? No, Forsythe is safe. I’m crestfallen. Let’s look at the replay. Maybe they can challenge this. Did he really touch home plate? Yes, he’s definitely safe. What a great slide. Dammit.

DANIEL VAUGHN: Then here we come in the bottom of the tenth inning and BOOM they tie it right back up. I said to my wife, who was watching with me, “Jan, I just jinxed it! I screwed this whole thing up, and now I have to sit here and watch it for even longer.”

JOHN NOVA LOMAX: I decided I would only let Fat Face back into the dining room when the Astros were at bat. And I wish I had heeded my own declaration. I allowed him to return for the bottom of the tenth, and as soon as Puig’s shot landed in the seats I shooed him out into the yard. But the damage was done. Hernandez’s hit tied the score.

My wife, who had missed the back-to-back homers, joined me in time to see the Dodgers rally. “I think I am a jinx,” she said. I told her it was the raccoon’s fault, not hers.

JEFF SALAMON, Deputy Editor: I’m not a sports guy — I don’t watch anything — so I didn’t watch this game. But as I was drifting off to sleep last night, I thought to myself, “Oh, there was an Astros game tonight. I wonder what happened.” So I grabbed my iPhone from the side of the bed, Googled “Astros” and came up with that little graphic that shows the score, and I was like, “Yikes, it’s 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th!” But I was too lazy to get out of bed to go downstairs and turn on the TV—to be honest, I don’t even know if our cable subscription includes whatever channel was showing the game. So I just sat there in bed in the dark, swiping my thumb down on the iPhone screen every minute or so to update the score.

DAVE MANN: Hernandez had gone to second on the throw home. One more hit and the Dodgers were going to win. I sat down. The Astros are going to lose this, I thought. It’s over. They’re going to lose this game and lose the series, probably get swept. There’ll be no coming back from it. This will be unbelievable heartbreak for Astros fans. It’ll be talked about like Bill Buckner and the Red Sox blowing the two-run lead in the 10th inning back in the 1986 World Series. This is the Astros’ version of the Bill Buckner moment. I couldn’t watch. I picked up my phone. I kept one eye on my phone and one eye on the screen.

Then Taylor flew out to end the inning, but that seemed like it was only going to delay the inevitable. The Dodgers had the momentum.

JEFF SALAMON: I swiped down and breathed a sigh of relief when they got out of the inning with no further damage.

JOHN NOVA LOMAX: My wife went from zero interest in baseball to ardent partisan in minutes. She shared her thoughts on Facebook: “I rarely ever watch sports but here I am clenching my teeth and watching through my fingers.”

 

That Only Slightly Less-Crazy (And Still Pretty Hair-Raising) Eleventh Inning

In which our heroes take the advantage, threaten to lose it once again, and then emerge triumphant.

ABBY JOHNSTON: This is the most Astros thing that has ever happened. My friend, a Yankees fan and a troll, texted me: “Kind of excited to see how the Astros will blow this lead.” I wish I’d had some witty retort, but secretly I was bracing for the same outcome. I just wasn’t excited about it.

KATHY BLACKWELL, Executive Editor: I was committed to going to ACL Live for the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame last night. I find it blasphemous to even think about looking at a cell phone during a taping of Austin City Limits, mostly out of respect for the institution but also because no one wants to be That Person. So I quickly come to peace with accepting that I wouldn’t know anything about the game until the show was over.

At 11:07, as we walked out of the theater—still high from singing “Down by the Riverside” with Elvis Costello, Dr. John, The Neville Brothers, and Trombone Shorty— my husband pulled out his phone: “Oh my god, the game is tied at 5-5 in the top of the 11th inning!” We stood on the sidewalk trying to figure out where to go. Surely, there’s a place close by with the game on (and food, because after five hours, we were starving). Frozen by indecision, knowing that we were missing everything, we stood there like idiots for two solid minutes before we finally snapped out of it and fast-walked toward Second Bar + Kitchen. We were behind a big group of people also heading there, so they were the first to realize that it was closed. While they stopped to huddle over Plan B, we just kept going past them and headed straight to the Patio Bar at Corner on the ground floor of the JW Marriott.

DAVE MANN: Brandon McCarthy was in, the 47th Dodger pitcher tonight, and good lord, he’s got an awkward-looking delivery. Then Cameron Maybin singled! He’s so fast. He needs to steal second, I thought. There he goes. The throw was good. It looked like he was out….but no, he was safe! Wow, he just barely made it.

George Springer!!! Wow, he just crushed that ball out of the park! Cheryl and Kayla must have been going crazy! Dodger Stadium was so silent, we could hear Springer screaming in the dugout.

George Springer #4 of the Houston Astros celebrates after hitting a two-run home run during the eleventh inning.

Harry How/Getty Images

JOHN NOVA LOMAX: I’d like to say Fat Face was in the house for Springer’s game-winner, but he was not. The back door, however, was open, and Fat Face the Rally Raccoon is welcome to return any time the Astros are at bat.

JEFF SALAMON: I swiped down and cheered quietly, so as not to wake the kids.

SCOTT BROWN: At 11:20, during the drive home, my wife’s phone received the following text from our son: “The top of the 11th. 7-5 Astros are winning.” She read it out loud to me, and now that I’m a huge and loyal fan I felt a sense of deep relief and happiness.

KATHY BLACKWELL: The bar was relatively crowded and boisterous, with the game showing on all the overhead bar TV screens, but by some kind of sports miracle there was a romantic little table open right in front of the bar and the TV. We grabbed it, had a quick discussion with the waitress about the spiciness of the habanero margarita and ordered short-rib nachos, and by then the Astros were up 7-5 and it was the bottom of the 11th.

DAVE MANN: This wasn’t over, though. The Dodgers still had a chance. Wow, Seager lined that ball right to Bregman at third. That was lucky. Then Turner got out! One more to go!

Who the hell is Charlie Culberson? I wondered. How was it possible he just hit a home run? Why was he celebrating that much? Did he forget the score? I really think he forgot the score. Look at the scoreboard, buddy.

KATHY BLACKWELL: We watched the next two outs and then I, like a fool, decided that I needed to Tweet about the ACL Hall of Fame and how amazing it was. While I agonized over my 140 (Am I bragging? Is it an enjoyable tweet?) and then hit send, Charlie Culberson homered and acted like he just won the game, which confused me. I blamed myself for letting this happen. I put the phone away.

DAVE MANN: Puig was up. He kept refusing to strike out. Strike out already! Strike OUT!

Thank you.

KATHY BLACKWELL: Just as Puig came up, a very tall, broad-shouldered man stood right in front of the TV, totally blocking my view, so I did the exaggerated craning-my-neck thing hoping that he’d get the hint. It didn’t work, so I decided he must be a Dodgers fan. Then suddenly it was over, and our nachos arrived just in time for us to watch another L.A. game go into overtime: The Lakers vs. the Wizards. This time, L.A. was able to pull it off.

JEFF SALAMON: I swiped down and felt my heart sink when the Dodgers scored another run, and then swiped down and cheered (again, quietly) when the game was over. It wasn’t as thrilling as watching the greatest game of my life (’75 World Series, Game Six; I was a fan once upon a time), but the payoff-to-investment ratio was pretty darn good.

DANIEL VAUGHN: Knowing that I had to get up at 5:30 a.m., I was just hoping for this thing to end as quickly as possible. The fact that it kept dragging on certainly made the baseball fan in me feel happy. But as a guy who had to get up in the morning, I was ready for it to be over. When it finally was, I was just happy that my jinx had only been temporary.

SCOTT BROWN: As we got within a few blocks of the house we received this text from our son: “ASTROS WON THE GAME!!!!” I have clearly raised another fair-weather fan. This is the same boy who insisted on Tuesday night that baseball is boring.

JOHN NOVA LOMAX: “I might start watching baseball more, again…sometimes,” my wife told me this morning.

DAVE MANN: How can I get to sleep after this?

ABBY JOHNSTON: My eleventh inning was spent wavering between two extremes: periods of silence and screaming expletives at the TV. Some of those outbursts were congratulatory (%@$& YEAH, SPRINGER!), others were spurred by fervent disappointment (DON’T BLOW THIS FOR ME!).

The duration of those six outs—plus the active doubt but constant hope—were demonstrative of the psyche of an Astros fan. Pure elation, followed by crippling anxiety and disappointment. It’s the thing I’ve watched my dad go through for years. And that’s what made it so sweet to call him after the last strike out—the moment when the Astros won a World Series game for the first time in franchise history.

“BAY-BEE,” my dad almost yelled in his East Texas drawl. “WE DID IT.”

ERIC BENSON, Writer-At-Large: I got home from dinner, checked ESPN.com, and saw that the Dodgers had a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 7th. I knew that the Dodgers bullpen was second-to-none (they threw 17 scoreless innings in the NLCS—that’s insane!), so I knew that they’d take care of the Astros lineup over the next two innings and finish out a Game 2 win. I didn’t even turn on the game. We all live with regrets.

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  • AstroDrone

    Abby Johnston just retold the story of my night including the calls to my dad. Too funny, and too true!! Go Astros!!

  • St. Anger

    “Hit it a ton,” huh?

    ESPN radio call?