[SeMissourian.com] Fair ~ 88°F  
Heat Advisory
Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

Astros claim wild card on final day of season

Monday, October 4, 2004

Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Carlos Beltran met in the middle of the field for hugs, manager Phil Garner tipped his hat to the crowd and confetti showered fans at Minute Maid Park.

Amazingly, the Houston Astros were in the playoffs. And when they won Sunday to take the NL wild card, all of the postseason pairings were set -- no need for any tiebreakers this year.

The fun begins Tuesday afternoon at Busch Stadium when Woody Williams starts for the St. Louis Cardinals against Los Angeles. Later, Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox visit Anaheim.

That night, the Minnesota Twins will be at Yankee Stadium.

"We'll be ready to play," New York manager Joe Torre said after wrapping up a weekend at Toronto. "These three days off did us some good after playing such an intense month. We're ready to get back to competition."

On Wednesday, the other series starts with Roger Clemens and the Astros playing at Atlanta.

The final day of the regular season began with one playoff spot open and all four matchups still to be decided. But everything got firmed up in the AL once the Twins lost to Cleveland -- there had been a chance Minnesota would host Boston.

The Astros eliminated any need for a one-game playoff with San Francisco for the wild card by beating Colorado 5-3. Houston completed a startling turnaround by winning its 18th straight home game.

"People thought we were dead in the water and we worked all the way back and changed that," Garner said. "This is just a great ending to what became an improbable year for us."

Houston was 56-60 on Aug. 14, about a month after Garner replaced the fired Jimy Williams, and trailed Chicago by seven games in the wild-card race. The next day, the Astros rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to beat Montreal 5-4.

"Hopefully, we'll use that as a springboard for some more kind of wins like that," Garner said after that victory.

That's exactly what happened. Now, the Astros face a familiar October opponent -- the Braves beat Houston in the first round in 1997, 1999 and 2001.

Clemens (18-4) faces Jaret Wright (15-8) in the opener. Roy Oswalt, the NL's only 20-game winner, pitches Game 2 for Houston.

"I think we've got them right where we want them," Astros owner Drayton McLane. "I really want those guys. We've done everything unconventional this year. So maybe we'll do it again in the playoffs."

Wild-card teams have won the last two World Series titles, with Anaheim followed by Florida. Like the Astros, the Red Sox hope to make a push from the fourth playoff spot.

Schilling (21-6) starts against the Angels' Jarrod Washburn in the opener, then Pedro Martinez pitches Game 2 for the Red Sox.

"I don't think anybody wants to play us," Boston first baseman Kevin Millar said.

The Cardinals posted the best record in the majors at 105-57. They went 4-2 against the Dodgers, sweeping them in a three-game series Sept. 3-5 at St. Louis.

"This is going to be a tough series, a fun series," said Williams, who faces Odalis Perez in the opener. "I look at their team and see a lot of us in them, and them in us."

In a rematch from the first round last year, the Twins take on the Yankees. Minnesota ace Johan Santana (20-6) opposes Mike Mussina.

"It's going to be a lot of pressure," Santana said. "That's the way this game is. That's what we want. That's what we're ready for."

Fact Check
See inaccurate information in this story?

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration. If you already have an account on seMissourian.com or semoball.com, enter your username and password below. Otherwise, click here to register.


Password:  (Forgot your password?)

Your comments:
Please be respectful of others and try to stay on topic.