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Astros Fans Enjoying A Season That No One Expected

It’s been a surprising summer for Astros fans. What was supposed to be another rebuilding season has turned into a chase for the division title.

Large photo of Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel outside Minute Maid Park.
The Astros highlight pitcher Dallas Keuchel outside Minute Maid Park.
There were a couple of dismal seasons where TV cameras panned through a near-empty Minute Maid Park. But this year, Astros fans don’t want to miss anything.

Photo of Astros slugger George Springer on light pole outside Houston's Minute Maid Park
Outfielder George Springer has just returned to the field after being out two months with a wrist injury.
The park erupted with cheers on August 21st as Mike Fiers thrilled the crowd with a no-hitter against the L.A. Dodgers. And its these kinds of games that have fans and sportwriters alike talking about the postseason.

One of the faithful is Bruce Merchant. We met him before a recent home game, after he’d just driven two-and-a-half hours from Lake Charles. Merchant owns a southwest Louisiana radio station that carries the Astros, and he says it’s nice to have that winning feeling back.

“I was in the Astrodome and here, back in the days when they were winning 90, 95 games, and it was always a lot of fun,” says Merchant. “And you’re seeing that come back. It’s a slow thing since it’s been a long time, but it’s slowly coming back.”

When this TV spot ran in 1985 the Astros were a year away from their first appearance in the National League championship series. But things really started heating up in 1997. Over the next nine seasons, the Astros made six postseason appearances.

Their last appearance was in 2005 when they were swept in the World Series by the Chicago White Sox.

They haven’t played in October since. But this season things may be about to change.

“It’s as good as it was here during the six playoff appearances in nine years with Bagwell and Biggio and Lance Berkman and all those guys,” says sportwriter Richard Justice with mlb.com. “This is a group that’s easy to root for.”

Justice credits much of the Astros’ comeback to owner Jim Crane, who acquired the team in 2011. He says Crane basically remade an aging team from scratch, something he thinks was pretty brave.

“Because what happens, your TV ratings go to zero,” Justice explains. “Your attendance goes from three million to a million. You fall off the map in terms of relevance.”

Crane also hired General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who brought a strong record in scouting and development. Justice says when it comes to veteran players, Luhnow has a knack for finding talent in surprising places. And he’s also done a lot to beef up the farm system.

“The energy, the entertainment value of seeing Carlos Correa for the first time in the big leagues, seeing George Springer contribute. Seeing these guys rally, Dallas Keuchel morphs into a star,” says Justice. “It is as good as it gets in professional sports to see a team come from nowhere to be relevant and the way they’ve done it.”

Outside Minute Maid Park we meet another longtime fan. Lawrence Moody’s support goes way back, all the way to the early 1960’s when the Astros were known as the Colt 45’s. Moody says what he sees this year is a team that’s young and hungry, and they’re playing without fear.

“I think that makes a lot of difference. I think last year they played real timid,” says Moody. “This year they’re playing real strong, like they really want it. They know they belong here.”

And how far will that take them in the postseason? Moody says he’s getting ready for a big celebration come November.

“They’re going to win it. What else can you say about it?” says Moody. “I’m looking forward to it.”

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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