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Oct. 3, 1999: The last Astrodome game
The NL Central race came down to the final day of the season, and behind a strong outing by starting pitcher Mike Hampton, the Astros rolled to a 9-4 win over the Dodgers, clinching the division title for a third straight year. This wasn’t just any gameday; this was the last regular-season game ever to be played in the Astrodome, as the Astros were on schedule to move into their new downtown home in 2000. And what a party it was. Nearly every player who wore a Colt .45s or Astros uniform was invited back to participate in the postgame party to say farewell to the Dome, and a group of the most famous of the bunch were honored on the field as the “All Astrodome team.” The celebration had some impromptu moments, like Craig Biggio and Mike Hampton riding a motorcycle on to the field as confetti fell from the ceiling. And country music legend Willie Nelson had the final word, serenading the crowd with his hit song, “Turn out the Lights (The Party’s Over)” as the final “act” at the Dome.
Sept. 23, 1986: Deshaies opens with 8 straight K’s
Jim Deshaies may have been the least-celebrated of the three pitchers who accomplished something Herculean in that final weeks of the regular season in 1986, but his feat -- setting a modern-day record by striking out the first eight batters he faced -- has a special place in Astros history. Deshaies mowed down eight Dodgers in an eventual 4-0 win, a streak that was stopped short partly because Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who had seen enough, pinch-hit for his pitcher, sending Larry See to hit in place of Dennis Powell. (Though good-natured about everything now, Deshaies has admitted to friends over the years that he’s still just slightly annoyed by that part.)
There is a fun footnote to this story. The next night, Nolan Ryan struck out 12 batters in eight scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. After the game, Deshaies and catcher Alan Ashby were in the clubhouse bathroom, shaving, and Ashby said, “I think Scotty’s going to outdo both of you tomorrow.” The next night, Mike Scott no-hit the Giants, clinching the National League West title for the Astros.
July 3, 1994: Caminiti legs out inside-the-parker
Ken Caminiti hit 103 homers in 10 seasons with the Astros, which spanned two stints, but one of his most memorable was an inside-the-park homer in the Astrodome on July 3, 1994. The homer came on the same day Caminiti was named to the first of his three All-Star teams and the only one while he was with the Astros, who traded him to the Padres at the end of the season.
April 6, 1978: Astros turn a triple play on Opening Day
Reliever Joe Sambito entered a dire situation with runners on the corners and no outs, trying to keep the Astros within striking distance of the Reds on Opening Day. Sambito zipped a fastball past the batter, Dan Driessen, while the runner at first, George Foster, broke for second. As Astros catcher Joe Ferguson threw down to second, the other runner, Joe Morgan, leaned off third base with an eye for home.
Houston solved the double-pickle by nabbing Morgan back at third base, then firing to second to cut down Foster. Thanks to a strikeout, followed by a 2-6-5-6 maneuver, the Astros retired three for the price of one without a ball in play.
May 18, 2002: Berkman makes incredible catch on Tal's Hill
Lance Berkman, a first baseman by trade, was forced to begin his Astros career in the outfield with Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell entrenched at first base. That didn't stop him from making one of the most incredible catches in the history of Tal's Hill -- when he made an over-the-shoulder grab while running up the incline to rob Rob Mackowiak of the Pirates of extra bases. The catch was made in the days before Statcast, which deprived us of some great analytics for Berkman's meandering grab. But the man they called "Big Puma" couldn't help but smile after that play was over.
April 7, 2018: Astros win on a popup walk-off single by Bregman
The Astros came away with a bizarre 1-0 walk-off win in the 10th inning, when the Padres couldn't catch a popup by Alex Bregman with two outs that allowed Derek Fisher to score from second base. Padres reliever Phil Maton coaxed Bregman into swinging at a 3-2 cutter high in the strike zone and got him to pop it up in the infield. Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer charged in and overran the ball, allowing it to drop behind him as Fisher crossed home with the winning run.
"I thought that I just missed it and that I should have crushed it," Bregman said.
The ball was hit at only 83 mph and at a 78-degree launch angle, which meant it had a 0 percent hit probability.
"That's my ball all the way," Hosmer said. "I just overran it, put my head down, tried to run in and make up some ground. By the time I looked up, it was past me. It's on me. It's my ball."
Oct. 6, 1981: Ashby's walk-off HR gives the Astros Game 1 of NL West Division Series
The Astros-Dodgers rivalry was raging in the NL West in the early 1980s, with the Astros getting swept in three games at Dodger Stadium to end the 1980 regular season to force a one-game playoff. The Astros won that matchup to win their first division title. A year later, in the strike-shortened '81 season, the Dodgers won the first half and the Astros won the second half. They met in the 1981 NLWDS, with catcher Alan Ashby's walk-off homer off Dave Stewart giving the Astros a 3-1 win in Game 1. The Astros won Game 2 at the Astrodome, before losing all three at Dodger Stadium to drop the series. The Dodgers went on to win the Fall Classic.