Astros' franchise reaches .500 for 1st time since 2006
HOUSTON -- The Colt .45’s -- Houston’s baseball identity for the first three years of the franchise’s existence -- won their first three games. Bobby Shantz threw a complete game against the Cubs in the expansion team’s debut on April 10, 1962. Major League Baseball was off and running in Houston.
The winning ways didn’t last very long, though. The Colt .45’s wound up losing 96 games in all three seasons of their existence before they were replaced in 1965 by the Astros, who took it a step further by losing 97 games that year. It wasn’t until 1972, when the Astros went 84-69, that there was winning baseball in Houston.
The franchise’s dark early years eventually gave way to playoff teams in the 1980s and 1990s and a National League pennant in 2005. But it wasn’t until 2006 that the Colt .45’s/Astros reached the breakeven point for their existence, posting an overall .500 record, and you might have missed it. The Astros spent a few days above .500 in May 2006 before plummeting again.
Three consecutive 100-loss seasons dropped the Houston franchise in baseball purgatory, but the rebuilding effort that took off in 2015 and culminated with a World Series championship in 2017 changed the arc of the franchise. As the Astros approach their fourth 100-win season in their past five full seasons, their 1-0 win over the Rangers on Monday was a benchmark.
The Houston franchise is back at .500: 4,812 wins, 4,812 losses.
The Colt .45’s/Astros are the only team born in the expansion era (since 1961) to currently be at .500 or better. The other 12 teams that have a winning record are the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Cubs, Guardians, Reds, Tigers, White Sox, Braves and Pirates.
How important of an achievement is that? Just ask the man who’s played more games in an Astros' uniform than anyone else -- Hall of Fame second baseman Craig Biggio. He played 2,850 regular-season games for the Astros from 1988-2007 and was a part of 1,478 of the 4,812 wins (31 percent).
“It’s something we should take a lot of pride in,” Biggio said. “You think of the success we had here. Before me, we had some really good teams, but once we started getting to ’97, ’98, ‘99 and until now, we’ve had some pretty historical, good teams and competitive teams and an opportunity to win. It’s a lot to be proud of, especially when you start bunching yourself in with the Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals.”
Prior to this year, the last time the Astros were at .500 was on May 14, 2006 (3,519-3,519). The last time they were above .500 was May 7, 2006 (3,516-3,515). The franchise has only been above .500 after only 25 games played in club history.
This year’s team has a chance to add to that and perhaps reach a highwater mark. The highest above .500 the franchise has been is four games. That was after a game on May 4, 2006, in which the Astros left the field at 3,516-3,512. Lance Berkman hit a homer against the Cardinals. Andy Pettitte pitched 6 2/3 innings for the win.
The last 16-plus years have seen the Astros lose 100 games in three consecutive seasons and win 100 games in three consecutive seasons. The up and downs, the good and bad, it’s all evened out now. Which way will the Astros go from here?