Astros out to avoid repeat of 2019 in Game 7

October 23rd, 2023

HOUSTON -- It was the final game of a best-of-seven postseason series, one in which the road team had bizarrely claimed each of the previous six contests, and the visitors at Minute Maid Park were placing their hopes into Max Scherzer’s capable right hand.

The date was Oct. 30, 2019, one that the Astros would prefer not to relive, considering Scherzer pitched his Nationals to a World Series title that evening. This year’s American League Championship Series has dropped Houston into a very similar situation, looking to avoid a repeat of its feat as the only team to lose all four home games in a postseason series.

“Different year, different team,” said outfielder Kyle Tucker, who remembers the disappointment of 2019 all too well. “We’ve just got to come back tomorrow and win a ballgame. We’ll come back prepared and get going out of the gate.”

For weeks, the Astros have been fatigued by questions regarding their struggles at home, though the results of this ALCS have done nothing to alter the narrative.

Houston fell in Games 1 and 2 at Minute Maid Park before sweeping the Rangers in three contests at Globe Life Field, raising their optimism that they’d built some momentum. Much to their chagrin, the same old demons were waiting on Crawford Street on Sunday.

“Sometimes you can’t explain it,” said utility man Mauricio Dubón. “We can come and win tomorrow, and everybody will forget about it. It’s just part of baseball. We win on the road; it doesn’t mean we [won’t] win at home. We’ve got one more game to prove it.”

Indeed, there were a few goggles hanging in players’ lockers on Sunday, wishful thinking in anticipation of a wet and wild celebration.

Instead, the air in a muted Astros clubhouse was filled only by the comments of players like Jon Singleton, who said, “It is what it is. We lost tonight. That was a tough game. We’re just going to go out and play good baseball tomorrow.”

Including the postseason, the Astros have dropped 21 of their last 28 home games, dating back to Aug. 18.

No team with a losing regular-season home record has ever reached the World Series; the Astros, who finished 39-42 at home while posting a 51-30 road mark, are attempting to be the first. By comparison, they went 55-26 at Minute Maid Park last season, sparking their march to a title.

“I don’t know the answer. If we had an answer, I think we would have fixed it a long time ago,” said outfielder Michael Brantley. “It’s just about one game at a time. That tally, it doesn’t matter. It’s in the past. We need to turn the page and be ready for tomorrow.”

If the Astros would like some inspiration, they can point to a handful of examples.

Since the current 2-3-2 best-of-seven series format was instituted, three teams have survived losing their first two games at home before winning the series: the 1985 Royals, the 1986 Mets and the 1996 Yankees, all of whom did it in the World Series.

The caveat is that, in all three of those cases, those clubs rallied to win Game 6 at home. The Astros could not, and so they’ll need to forge a new historical path on Monday. Dubón believes they will, and his reasoning was succinct when asked why.

“We’re Houston,” Dubón said.