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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Astros: Getting Grayer With Each At-Bat 

In my eyes, nothing in sports rivals the intensity of a one-run baseball game during a playoff situation. With one pitch fortunes can change so drastically that they often more resemble the river card of a high-stakes no-limit hold'em game than any other traditional sports situation.

Football and basketball have their intense moments, I admit. But theirs aren't decided by the one-on-one duels that mark so many great baseball face-offs. With no time limit or game clock to affect the outcome, baseball so often comes down to that singular moment -- pitcher versus hitter -- in a battle of determination and wits, which plays out on its own timeline. Each pitch leaves you breathless. Each swing could be "the one." And when your season is on the line, it's as nerve-wracking an ordeal as you'll find in sports.

The Astros face that ordeal tonight. Clinging to a one-run lead in the late innings, every pitch has me on the edge of my seat. Literally. I feel the gray hairs multiplying.

Burn and turn

Top eight. Two on, two out. One ball, two strikes. Astros leading 2-1.

Brad Lidge gets Albert Pujols to ground into a fielder's choice. You know what that is? That's Johnny Chan seeing his aces hold up against Phil Hellmuth's kings.

Think so?

"The crowd is really into it. This is playoff stuff."
-Astros color man Bill Worrell, commenting on the crowd noise right before Jeff Kent walked to load the bases in the eighth.

Unfortunately the Astros get no insurance. Edmonds, Walker, Renteria in the ninth. That's an ace going up against a possible full house.

Still alive!!!

A line drive and two strikeouts clinch a 2-1 win. Brad Lidge has proven himself as clutch as anyone in the league right now. With a Cubs loss tonight, Houston has pulled to within a half-game of Chicago.

We're not there yet, Astros fans. But the Good Guys are better off now than they were yesterday, and that's all we could have asked for. To keep the poker theme going, we're all in with a flush draw, going up against Chicago's pair of cowboys, and we just got number three on the flop. Another win tomorrow means we get to see the river this weekend.


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