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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Astros: The Aftermath 

Five hours later and I'm still almost giddy. In fact the full weight of Houston's accomplishment has yet to sink in.

They did it.

As happy as I am for myself as a long-time Astros fan, I'm even happier for the two grestest Astros ever: Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. The Killer B's finally get a chance at October redemption. Much has been said, and written, about their past failures. Now they have the opportunity to change all of that.

Bagwell, contrary to popular belief, hasn't always been a postseason flop. His .429 average in 2001 shows that. He also drove in four runs in 1998, despite hitting a paltry .143. His overall .174 average looks bad, but he does have a .367 OBP, which is at least semi-respectable. Biggio's numbers are even worse, and not worth even trying to defend.

So what? The past doesn't matter starting Wednesday. Barry Bonds, the most feared hitter on my lifetime, stunk it up in five postseasons before snapping the funk en route to the 2002 World Series, where he hit .471 with four bombs. I don't expect Baggy's arthritic shoulder to blast four homers, but I don't see any way that the Braves staff keeps him under the Mendoza line.

Ah yes, the Braves staff. I've always wondered why those who denigrate the Astros' offensive ineptitde never do so in conjunction with propping up Atlanta's vaunted rotation. The Braves trotted out Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz in 1997, Maddux-Glavine-Millwood-Smoltz in 1999, and Maddux-Glavine-Burkett in 2001. Burkett's 12-12 record in 2001 was the worst for a Braves starter involved in those three series, and Glavine's 4.12 ERA in 1999 the highest. Maddux was in his prime then, averaging eighteen wins and a sub-3.00 ERA in those seasons, and the others weren't far behind.

Who will Atlanta send to the mound this time around? Jaret Wright? Russ Ortiz? Mike Hampton? These are good pitchers, but they are by no means the equivalent of the Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine, who broke our hearts in triplicate.

Bags, Bidge and the rest of the lineup should hit the ball this time around. That includes Jeff Kent, whose postseason resume sports a .277 average in 101 postseason at-bats, and three World Series home runs in 1992.

Something tells me that the Killer B's are going to finally exorcise those demons. In what could be the dynamic duo's last hurrah together, there exists a sense of urgency that Astros fans have never before seen. They know that, and that's why I expect the two Houston legends to lead the charge toward the NLCS.


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