Minute Maid Park has a retractable roof. It has a train. It has the Crawford Boxes. It has Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan often sitting behind home plate and a waffle cone stuffed with fried chicken and mashed potatoes and drizzled with honey mustard.The Houston Astros are hoping that their
Minute Maid Park has a retractable roof. It has a train. It has the Crawford Boxes. It has Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan often sitting behind home plate and a waffle cone stuffed with fried chicken and mashed potatoes and drizzled with honey mustard.
The Houston Astros are hoping that their ballpark has a little extra mojo for Game 7.
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The Astros won the first two games of this American League Championship Series presented by Camping World at Minute Maid before losing the next three at Yankee Stadium and winning Game 6 back at home Friday by a 7-1 score. So far, this home-and-home series has been all about that comfy familiar advantage -- a road team has not won.
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"It's going to be a crazy night [Saturday night]," said Astros second baseman Jose Altuve after Game 6. "I know both teams are going to go out there and leave everything they have, because this is the last game for the losing team. It's going to be beautiful. I hope we have a good game, and I hope we win it."
The 2017 ALCS will be the 54th decisive seven-game series in Major League history, and only four of the previous 53 have had the home team win every game. Coincidentally, one of them involved the Astros and another the Yankees. With a win today, Houston will become the fifth team to win four home games en route to a seven-game series victory.
The other four examples of this particular scenario played out in myriad ways, including some of the most dramatic finishes in Postseason history. Here they are in chronological order, with the most recent up first:
2004 NLCS: Cardinals beat Astros
The Cardinals came home from Houston worn out, not just by the Astros winning Games 3, 4 and 5, but by Houston slugger Carlos Beltran, who continued his historic October performance by going 8-for-17 in the first five games, including homers in each of the first four.
In Game 5, Jeff Kent broke a scoreless tie with a three-run walk-off homer in the ninth, which became one of the most electric moments in Houston sports history.
But the Cards still had hopes of taking care of business at Busch Stadium just like they did in Games 1 and 2, and Game 6 was key. A back-and-forth battle -- the series had plenty of these -- ended with bedlam at Busch Stadium when St. Louis won on a walk-off homer by Jim Edmonds in the 12th inning.
That momentum carried over to Game 7, when the Cardinals got an amazing diving catch from Edmonds in the second inning that saved two runs, allowing them to battle back from an early one-run deficit against Astros starter Roger Clemens. Scott Rolen's two-run homer punctuated a three-run sixth inning that gave the Cards a lead they would not relinquish.
"There's no doubt that the enthusiasm of the crowds in both places were a factor in the games," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after the win. "You had to appreciate how much passion there was."
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2001 World Series: Diamondbacks beat Yankees
The country was still reeling from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the atmosphere at Yankee Stadium, mere miles from Ground Zero, made the emotion of New York fans even more charged in the 2001 Fall Classic. After the D-backs' potent pitching and opportunistic lineup led to a 2-0 Series lead for Arizona, the Yankees fed off their fans' energy in Games 3, 4 and 5, winning all three games.
New York won, 2-1, in Game 3 behind the stellar pitching of Clemens, but the next two games were ones for the history books. It looked like Arizona would win Game 4 on Halloween night until Tino Martinez tied it against D-backs closer Byung-Hyun Kim with a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. Then, after the clock had struck midnight, Derek Jeter became "Mr. November" with a line-drive walk-off shot into the right-field seats.
The next night, more absurdity unfolded, this time in the form of a quick right-handed swing by Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius, who tied the game with a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, again off Kim. The Yanks would go on to win Game 5 on an Alfonso Soriano single in the 12th.
Prior to the series, when asked about the "mystique and aura" at Yankee Stadium, Arizona pitcher Curt Schilling had said: "When you use the words mystique and aura, those are dancers in a nightclub. Those are not things we concern ourselves with on the ballfield."
Appropriately, after Game 5, the New York Post ran a headline that said: "MYSTIQUE, AURA WEAR PINSTRIPES: ANOTHER YANKEE VICTORY DANCE."
D-backs manager Bob Brenly was stunned but stoic in the aftermath.
"We've been involved with some of the most exciting baseball I've ever been around," Brenly said. "It doesn't always work out the way you hope it will."
But Brenly knew that with aces Randy Johnson and Schilling lined up for Game 6 and a possible Game 7 back in the desert, things weren't looking all that bleak. And he was proven correct after the D-backs pounded Andy Pettitte and the Yankees in Game 6, winning 15-2, then won in walk-off fashion against star closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 on Luis Gonzalez's bloop single.
1991 World Series: Twins beat Braves
The first five games between two clubs that rebounded from last-place finishes the previous season to Fall Classic ascendance were mostly taut affairs won by the home team, except for a 14-5 Braves rout in Game 5 that left Atlanta with a 3-2 series lead heading back to the Metrodome.
"This is ours for the taking," Braves reliever Mike Stanton said after that blowout. "We came home, down two games. We swept them. We did what we had to do. Now they have to sweep us. And I really don't think they can do it."
Kirby Puckett disagreed.
The perennial All-Star gathered his teammates prior to Game 6 and told them to climb on his back, because he would carry them. Puckett did exactly that, robbing Ron Gant of a home run with a leaping catch at the left-center-field wall in the third inning.
Puckett then capped a four-hit, three-RBI day by blasting the now-famous walk-off home run off Charlie Leibrandt in the bottom of the 11th. Final score: Twins 4, Braves 3.
The next night, in another one of the greatest World Series games ever played, Twins starter and World Series MVP Jack Morris outdueled young John Smoltz, pitching 10 shutout innings, and Gene Larkin's RBI single in the 10th inning gave Minnesota the walk-off win and its second title in five seasons.
1987 World Series: Twins beat Cardinals
The 1987 Fall Classic seemed to be destined for home domination from the get-go. After all, the Twins, who had home-field advantage because it was the American League's turn in the old alternating rules, were fantastic in the quirky "Homer Dome" (56-25) and, well, not good at all (29-52) away from it during the regular season.
And so it went, with the Twins winning the first two in Minneapolis then losing the next three to a banged-up Cardinals team in St. Louis. And even though the Cards won Game 5 by a score of 4-2 and took a 3-2 lead in the Series when Danny Cox outpitched future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, the club sounded a bit cautious about the impending road trip.
"I feel better now than if we were down 3-2," St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog said, "but it's a tough place to play up there."
Herzog proved somewhat prophetic, and Minnesota and World Series MVP Frank Viola proved too good in the dome. The Twins pummeled Cardinals starter John Tudor to the tune of six runs on 11 hits in four innings, and by the time lefty starter Viola took the hill for Game 7, skipper Tom Kelly's team was rolling.
Viola pitched eight innings of two-run ball in the finale, Jeff Reardon closed out the 4-2 win, and the Twins had won the first World Series championship in franchise history.
So the blueprint is all right there for the Astros, and all they need is one more win at Minute Maid Park.
"We earned that home field," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "We had 101 wins for a reason. We don't automatically flush those down the toilet because we lost a couple of games in New York.
"We want our crowd to be loud. We want to take the lead that makes the crowd louder. There will be a big moment, whether it's [Jose] Altuve or [Carlos] Correa or [George] Springer comes up with a big hit and this place will explode.
"And that's why we're going to play at home. Because we earned it."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.