So often in the wake of American tragedy, baseball has helped to heal wounds, to stitch together communities, to allow people -- for three hours, at least -- to train their minds on something other than the hardship at hand.That is why the Astros felt it so important to return
So often in the wake of American tragedy, baseball has helped to heal wounds, to stitch together communities, to allow people -- for three hours, at least -- to train their minds on something other than the hardship at hand.
That is why the Astros felt it so important to return home for three games this weekend against the Mets, beginning with a split doubleheader Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
"We cannot wait," Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. "Everybody in here is so ready to get back, get home, see their families, see the people and see what we can do to help. Hopefully we'll bring some joy to people at the game. Hopefully, we'll pack the place and win a ballgame."
• Astros happy to go home, play, help Houston
Originally scheduled to play the Mets Friday through Sunday in Houston, the Astros -- in the wake of massive flooding downtown and devastation due to Hurricane Harvey -- considered contingencies ranging from another series in the Tampa Bay area to one in New York. But more than anything, they wanted to come home.
The Astros will do so this weekend, taking an off-day Friday before returning to Minute Maid Park for Saturday's day-night doubleheader, with games at 1:10 and 7:10 p.m. CT. New York's Matt Harvey will oppose Houston's Charlie Morton in the opener, followed by Seth Lugo against Brad Peacock in the nightcap. It will be the first doubleheader the Astros have played at the ballpark. Fans with tickets to Friday's game can use their tickets for Saturday's first game of the doubleheader. Fans who are unable to use their tickets for this weekend's games can call 1-800-ASTROS2 (1-800-278-7672).
"We want Saturday and Sunday to be something that can bring joy to people's hearts here in Houston," Astros president Reid Ryan said. "Our players want to contribute."
• Justice: Astros' return may lift spirits in wake of tragedy
The Astros returned to Houston Thursday night, heading home to the unknown after spending the past week in Anaheim, Dallas and ultimately, St. Petersburg. Once they assess their personal situations, many players and coaches are expected to venture out into the city to do their part in assisting those who need it most.
"In some areas of the city, it's just literally walking outside and taking care of your own neighborhood; it might be exactly what you want and what they need," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We don't really know what we're walking into other than we know there's a lot of people that need a lot of help, and we're going to do our part to participate.
"It's just about helping people. You don't have to know them, you don't have to live by them, you don't have to know anything about their situation. It's going to be very obvious to us and that city what's needed. The games will be secondary. Any spare time that we have between now and when we leave for Seattle on Sunday should and will be spent helping our community."
• Victims receiving donations from across MLB
While the games themselves will take a back seat to community healing, Saturday's doubleheader is not bereft of storylines. Harvey is coming off the disabled list to pitch for the first time since June, having missed more than two months because of a stress injury to his right shoulder. The Astros, meanwhile, are looking to rebound after a series loss to the Rangers in St. Petersburg, with designs on maintaining the American League's best record.
"We just want to be a piece of positivity coming in, any way we can," Mets reliever Jerry Blevins said. "We understand that there's a tough situation going on. And if us playing a silly game of baseball can help in any way, we're definitely willing to do that."
• Mets to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts
The teams will play in what is sure to be an emotionally charged atmosphere in Houston, where relief efforts continue to take place around the clock.
"Our return to Houston is minuscule compared to the work that's going to have to be done," Hinch said. "I think they're excited that we're coming back. I'm sure that getting back to normalcy, we're going to play a part in that. Part of a normal September weekend is us playing baseball and there being action at Minute Maid. We'll all keep it in perspective, nobody more so than the city of Houston."
Three things to know about this game
• The Astros are donating 5,000 tickets to each of this weekend's three games to first responders, volunteers and evacuees housed in shelters that the city established in the wake of the storm. The 10,000 promotional Carlos Correa jerseys the Astros originally scheduled to give to fans on Saturday will now go to families sheltering at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
• Although no Mets players hail from the immediate Houston area, infielder Gavin Cecchini lives in Lake Charles, La., which was also affected by Hurricane Harvey. Cecchini hopes that his parents, who have been keeping watch on his home, will be able to make the two-hour drive to Houston to watch him play.
• The Mets plan to limit Harvey to approximately 80 pitches as he looks to build back his arm strength. Prior to landing on the DL, Harvey's average fastball velocity this season (94.0 mph) was down more than 1 mph from 2016, while his swinging-strike rate dropped from 11.1 percent to 9.4 percent.
• Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 1. A special moment of silence will be held during the pregame ceremony for all three games.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com and covered the Astros on Thursday.