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Yankees need more than history to get by Astros

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The Houston Astros came into existence in 1962 as the Colt 45s. Houston finished with a 64-96 record, but their fellow expansion team that year did much worse. The New York Mets were 40-120.

While finishing 24 games better than the Mets that year, Houston’s “superiority” did not last. By the end of the decade, New York was celebrating a World Series victory by a team other than the Yankees.

By 1965, the team became the Astros as they moved into the Astrodome. Now, 50 years later, the Astros are still trying to win their first World Series title.

They will have to go through New York to get there. To win their first title, the Astros must defeat the team that seeks its 28th, the New York Yankees.

The Yankees have played in 40 World Series, while the Astros participated in just one, in 2005. It was that year they helped the Chicago White Sox make history. Chicago’s 4-0 sweep gave them their first title since 1917.

Two other times, Houston came close to advancing to the Fall Classic. In 1980, they put up a terrific, but losing, fight against the eventual Series champion Philadelphia Phillies during the National League Championship Series (NLCS). Six years later they lost another hard-fought NLCS against their former expansion mates, the Mets.

To balance the American and National League, the Astros switched to the American League beginning with the 2013 season. They had a ’62 Mets-like year winning 51 while losing 111.

Last year saw a 19-game improvement and a 70-92 record. No one predicted a playoff berth, but their 86-76 record was good enough to get them into the post season. In the span of just two years, this team improved by 35 games in the standings.

Houston has been a formidable team at their home stadium, Minute Maid Park, with a 53-28 record. Unfortunately for them, Tuesday’s American League Wild Card Game is being played in Yankee Stadium and the Astros were 33-48 away from home.

The bright side is Cy Young Award candidate Dallas Keuchel, who went 20-8 this season, is on the mound. Keuchel’s last appearance at Yankee Stadium was August 25 and the Astros routed New York, 15-1.

The Yankees counter with Masahiro Tanaka, who recently returned from a hamstring injury. His start last Wednesday against Boston was not a good one, surrendering four runs in 5 innings as New York dropped a 9-5 decision.

Houston enters the game playing well, while the Yankees dropped their last three games to Baltimore. Yankee Manager Joe Girardi is not worried.

“Regular season doesn’t matter now,” said Girardi. “It comes down to (tonight).”

He’s right. All of that history, good and bad, recent and distant, means absolutely nothing. While there is that thing called Yankee mystique, that mystique doesn’t bat against Keuchel.

If the venue was Minute Maid, Houston would be a clear favorite with Keuchel on the mound. In New York, it’s a toss-up and something worth watching or at least flipping for status checks.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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