Hurricane Ike

I think we all remember September 2008 well enough, and certainly not just for baseball. Chances are you either live in the Houston area, or you have family that does. For myself, The Wife and I were living in upstate New York, but our parents live in Baytown and Missouri City. As Hurricane Ike made landfall, DirecTV dedicated a channel to KHOU's (at least, I remember it being KHOU) Hurricane coverage. It was bizarre, because our parents were texting us, 1700 miles away, for information about the hurricane that was knocking on their door. Hurricane Ike also marked the last time the Astros were competitive as a franchise. So, as if we're not upset enough with Bud Selig, we have decided to take a day-by-day look back at August/September 2008, culminating with the fateful Chicago home series in Milwaukee, and Ike's aftermath.

August 19, 2008
Origins of Hurricane Ike form off western Sudan.

At the All-Star Break, the Astros had lost eight of twelve and were 44-51. Ten days earlier, on August 9, a Bronson Arroyo pitch breaks Carlos Lee's pinky finger, and he's out for the season, just as he's hitting .314/.368/.569. However, on August 19, the Astros beat Ben Sheets and the Brewers, 5-2, to move their record to 64-62 - a 20-11 2nd-half record.

Monday, September 1
A tropical wave becomes Tropical Depression #9.

The Astros win at Wrigley, defeating the Cubs 3-0 for their sixth straight win. Roy Oswalt throws 8.1IP, 4H/0ER, 3K:0BB for his 7th win in in his last eight starts.
Oswalt: "I didn't do anything different from the beginning of the year. I'm just having better results."

The Astros are 72-66, 13 games behind the Cubs and 8.5 games back of the Brewers. They're 8-2 in their last ten games.

Tuesday, September 2
SciGuy: I’m going to focus on Tropical Storm Ike, which I believe does potentially threaten the Gulf of Mexico and may well grow into a major hurricane.

The Astros win the second game, 9-7, in 11 innings at Wrigley on Geoff Blum's two-run homer, for their 7th straight win.

Cecil Cooper: "That's what we've been doing lately, getting it from everywhere and everybody. Just contributions up and down the lineup."

Wednesday, September 3
Ike becomes a major hurricane. Early on the morning of September 4, winds will reach 145mph.

Randy Wolf throws his first shutout in over four years as the Astros finish the sweep of Chicago with a 4-0 win. The Astros are 74-66, 11 back of Chicago, and 6.5 back of Milwaukee.

Wolf: "It gives us something to play for in September. I know that we still have a ton of ground and some miracles for this to happen, but it's one of the reasons you don't give up."

Thursday, September 4

Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center, on whether or not Texas should be worried: “Too early to compare Ike with anything else. Many hurricanes have been born in early September in the eastern Atlantic, and all parts of the basin have been in their domain down track. Let’s wait a few more days!”

The Astros are off, starting a three-game series at Coors Field against the Rockies on the 6th.

Saturday, September 6
Late AM, Ike weakens to a Category Two, but strengthens back to Category Four six hours later.

SciGuy: It’s way too early to say where the hurricane might go once back in the Gulf, but tonight the odds of a Texas landfall are considerably higher than they were just a day ago.

Roy Oswalt throws a complete game, one-hit shutout as the Astros beat the Rockies 2-0. The Brewers beat the Padres to maintain a 2.5-game Wild Card lead, and a seven-game lead over the Astros.

Sunday, September 7
Ike makes landfall near Cabo Lucrecia, on the northern coast of Cuba. The Texas Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network activates system to begin preparations for Ike.

SciGuy, 1pm: This afternoon’s model runs have started to come out and the most favored solution is a strike on the upper Texas coast. Be advised that computer models have five-day errors that regularly exceed 400 miles, so it’s not time to panic. But within the next five to six days Texas could be facing a serious hurricane.

The Astros score the last three runs of the game for a 7-5 win over Colorado. Wandy leaves the game in the first inning with an oblique strain and Jack Cassel threw 4IP, 4H/2ER in emergency relief.

Cecil Cooper: "I went down the stinkin' lineup, and I think everybody contributed something. Everybody did."

The Cubs and Brewers both lose, giving Milwaukee a six-game lead on Houston. There are three teams (Mets, Phillies, and Cardinals) between Houston and Milwaukee.

Monday, September 8

Computer models show Ike's landfall further south the coast from Houston. SciGuy: The chance of Ike strengthening back into a Category 3 hurricane is now probably less than 50-50, and that might be generous.

Mark Saccomanno, called up to fill in for the injured Ty Wigginton, homers on the first Major League pitch he sees, and the Astros beat the Pirates, 3-2. Saccomanno: "I went up there very nervous. I don't even remember it, my legs were so weak. It was a great feeling to hit it out. It was like a dream."

Steve Campbell, after a series-opening win over the Pirates: Five games to make up on the Brewers. Eighteen games to play. Two teams between the Astros and Brewers. While you’re doing the math, Cooper is hatching the next series of plot twists. What next? Wile E Coyote in center field? The Roadrunner as a pinch runner? Left for dead at the All-Star break, the Astros are playing meaningful games in September. No sense makes sense.

Tuesday, September 9
Ike re-enters the Gulf of Mexico in the afternoon.

SciGuy: the computer models that have thus far done the best job with Ike are now within about 50 miles, or less, of Freeport for a final landfall. But the official forecast is still brings Ike in more than 100 miles away. Like I said initially, it’s not time to worry. But I do think there’s a greater threat to Houston than many people might be thinking right now.

Lance Berkman hits a 3-run homer, and Randy Wolf improves to 4-1 with the Astros as they beat the Pirates, 9-3. The All-Star Break was 50 games ago, and the Astros are an MLB-best 34-16. Berkman: "We're going to try to win as many games as we can, and we're certainly going to pay attention to what the teams in front of us are doing."

Between the Astros and the Wild Card are the Cardinals (.5 games behind), Phillies (1GB), Mets (3.5GB), and Brewers (4GB).

Wednesday, September 10
Ike is projected to make landfall 100 miles south of Galveston. There is a 20% chance of hurricane-force winds coming to Houston.

"Hundreds of thousands" of Houston-area residents begin to evacuate.

Miguel Tejada hit a grand-slam in the 6th inning as the Astros beat the Pirates, 7-4, for the 5th straight win.

Their record is 79-67, jumping the losing Cardinals and bringing them into a tie with the Phillies. The Astros/Phillies are 3.5 back of the Mets, and just four games back of the Brewers.

ESPN reports that the Astros are considering whether to change the time of the Friday game (September 12) with the Cubs from 7:05pm to 1:05pm because of the possibility of Ike's landfall. A final decision will reportedly be announced on Thursday (September 11). Lou Piniella questions the situation: I don't think we can get out [of Houston] if we get in. We stay through the storm if we get in."

10:35pm: Track forecast edges Ike closer to Houston, coming ashore near Freeport. "This is just about the worst possible place a storm could make landfall."

Thursday, September 11
AM: Forecasting models begin to show Ike making landfall just south of Galveston. City Manager Steve LeBlanc issues a mandatory evacuation order for the west end of Galveston Island.

The Cubs wonder if they're supposed to fly in to play a weekend series in a city that will potentially be devastated by Hurricane Ike. The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers: "The sense of urgency manager Lou Piniella has been trying to instill in his players also was needed by Major League Baseball, but there were no indications the series was about to be moved elsewhere, in large part because Astros owner Drayton McLane was insisting he could get in three games at Minute Maid Park."

Rogers: "The series should be moved to a neutral site -- say, Busch Stadium in St. Louis or Turner Field in Atlanta -- if McLane and Selig aren't agreeable to the Cubs getting three extra home games in the middle of the playoff race."

PM: The National Weather Service issues a bulletin advising that residents living in coastal Texas faced "certain death" if they did not heed evacuation orders.

Gov. Rick Perry: "It's a big storm. I cannot overemphasize the danger that is facing us. It's going to do some substantial damage. It's going to knock out power. It's going to cause massive flooding."

8:00pm: Landfall is projected near Galveston.

9:14pm: Roy Oswalt throws his 2nd straight complete-game shutout, and the Astros finish off a four-game sweep of the Pirates with a 6-0 win. Chicago wins, but Milwaukee loses the first of a four-game series at Philadelphia. The Brewers' Wild Card lead shrinks to three games.

Oswalt: "Somebody said there was a hurricane on the way, so I was trying to be as quick as possible."

Cecil Cooper: "Tonight I even kind of forgot about all the things that are surrounding us and just watched Roy work."

Season-Ticket holder Bobby Leflar: "This is awesome. This is a nice break. I've been up since 5 o'clock getting my house ready for the hurricane. Obviously I'm worried about my family and my house. It's a stressful time as you worry about your family, so it's good to be here watching Roy."

Thursday night: The Friday/Saturday games against the Cubs are postponed. USA Today: One of the scenarios under consideration was to play a doubleheader Monday, and make up the third game on September 29 if it's needed to decide a playoff berth."

Mark Loretta hears the Cubs want the Astros to meet them in Milwaukee: We didn't think that was a very good idea to try to evacuate our families and take off and leave them behind and all that stuff. I think that was quickly nixed."

St. Louis is considered as an alternative neutral site, but "an assistant to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said the Astros didn't like that option, either." The Colts were playing the Vikings at the Metrodome on Sunday, meaning the Cubs/Astros would have played a double-header on Monday. Possible rainouts at other sites "made them less attractive."

Cecil Cooper: "Minute Maid is where we should play them."

Oswalt doesn't seem concerned: "It might be good for the guys. We've been sort of playing all the way out every game."

Reggie Abercrombie: "You can't control the weather. You take these days off, let our bodies rest and come back strong."

Friday, September 12

1:00pm: Ike projects as a Category Two storm in terms of wind, but a Category Four in terms of storm surge.

5:00pm: Is it going to be bad? Yes, it's going to be really, really bad for the coast."

Evening: Intercontinental & Hobby Airports close. Power starts to go out in coastal Texas.

Milwaukee's game at Philadelphia was rained out, as was Atlanta's game at New York.

Saturday, September 13

2:10am: Ike makes landfall over the east end of Galveston Island, traveling north up Galveston Bay. Two million CenterPoint Energy customers lose power.

5:30am: Jose de Jesus Ortiz's article is published, announcing that the series will be moved to Miller Park in Milwaukee. Drayton McLane gives credit to Selig:
"We just felt with all the devastation of the hurricane and that because most people have been without power, we just felt that it was improper to be playing baseball tomorrow or Monday with all the hardship everybody is dealing with in Houston...Give credit to the commissioner. He hammered it out. This is costly for us. This is painful for us, but we felt for our fans and our city we needed to move these games. This is the right thing to do for our fans. We have a great chance to win the wild card and we think this will give them something to cheer them up.”

Philadelphia beats Milwaukee, 7-3; Atlanta and New York split a double-header. The Mets overtake the Brewers, but are leading the NL East, so the Brewers still hold the Wild Card by two games over Philly, and have a 2.5 game lead over the Astros.

Sunday, September 14

The feeder road at I-45 South and W. Mount Houston Road is underwater. The South Freeway is submerged between Main and Quitman and the feeders "look like rivers." I-10 East is impassable at Washington Street. Officials in Texas City are telling people not to return until Tuesday. Galveston residents who stayed through Ike are just now leaving the island.

9:24pm: Carlos Zambrano gets Darin Erstad swinging to complete the first no-hitter thrown in a neutral site. Michael Bourn is walked in the 4th inning, and Zambrano hits Hunter Pence in the 5th to represent the only Astros baserunners. He needs just 110 pitches to get ten strikeouts and the no-hitter.

Cecil Cooper: "It was a long travel day and Hurricane Ike. That's what I put it on. That and having two days off. I'm not saying he wasn't good...This is not a home game. This is definitely an advantage for the Cubs and that's saying it as mildly as possible. It's hard to put into words. You think first about your safety and your family's and the people's safety. Now you have to worry about where and when do you play and all that. It's just been a long four days."

The crowd of 23,441 erupted in a wild ovation after chanting "Let's go Z!" throughout the final inning.

11:14pm: Richard Justice publishes a post blaming Selig and McLane: I don’t want to hear how it was the only available venue. Bull. If this is the best MLB could do, they should have called the whole thing off. Bud Selig and Drayton McLane ought to be embarrassed to have asked a team in a pennant race, a team that has done amazing things, to fly all this way and play in front of 23,441 fans, virtually all of them cheering for the other team. Some of you will blame Bud Selig. I’m OK with that. He never, ever should have approved Miller Park...If I’m blaming one person, I’m starting with Drayton McLane. He was desperate to get those three home games against the Cubs and refused to believe the weather reports. He could have postponed the series Wednesday and still had time to move it to a real neutral site

Atlanta beats New York, 7-4; Philadelphia takes both games of a double-header. The Phillies are tied with the Brewers, who are both one game back of the Mets. Houston sits two games behind the Phillies and Brewers.

Monday, September 15

Intercontinental and Hobby Airports resume limited service. HISD announces schools will be closed for another 7-10 days. Damage to the Gulf Coast is estimated to be over $10 billion. 1.6 million CenterPoint Energy customers are still without power. 99% of Entergy customers are without power.

Before Monday afternoon's game against the Cubs, Jose Valverde falls asleep on a couch in the clubhouse.

3:58pm: Bob Howry gets the last three Astros to end a 6-1 win for the Cubs. Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the 7th when Mark Loretta singled with nobody out. Roy Oswalt tells the Chronicle that the Astros had been forced to play 83 road games. Cecil Cooper calls Selig to complain. An MLB official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says that Minnesota, St. Louis, Florida, and Atlanta offered their stadiums for the series.

Ausmus: "I don't know if we would have won either game, had we played it at home against those same two pitchers. But I think it would have been different. It would have been a different feel, it would have been a different energy. Certainly, we wouldn't have been getting booed. And the Cubs wouldn't have been getting cheered like that Houston."

Cecil Cooper thinks Ike is still weighing on the Astros: "It might have had an effect -- I still don't have power at my house -- but we're paid very well to play baseball so we have it a lot easier than most people back in Houston."

Mark Loretta: "It feels like the regular season will resume tomorrow for us."

The Milwaukee Business Journal says the Astros "insisted that they receive all ticket revenue from the two games as the series was originally planned to be played in Houston."

The Mets lose at Washington, but the Brewers and Phillies have the day off, so their lead over Houston nudges up to 2.5 games with 12 (or 13, if necessary, to play).

Tuesday, September 16

Astros lose 5-1 at Florida. Oswalt's scoreless streak ends abruptly in his first start since Ike, when he gives up four runs in the 4th inning. He ends up with 5ER in 6IP, whereas he gave up five earned runs total from August 12-September 11 (51.1IP).

In ten September games from the 1st-11th, the Astros collectively hit .278/.346/.414, with 80K:36BB. In the three games after Hurricane Ike, the Astros have six hits, two runs, 26K:4BB, and a .070/.120/.081 line.

Cecil Cooper, on Ike's impact: "I think it affected us a lot. I don't want to go into it any more. I'm really past that. So if we could go to something else that would be great."

Berkman: "We haven't hit well the last several games and a lot of that is who we've been facing. [Volstad] has a deceptive fastball, a lot of late movement on it. This is a good team. They were in contention until just a little bit ago."

Drayton offers up his side of playing a home series in Milwaukee: "I violently protested from the time it was mentioned on Thursday, but as we went through the exercise and there was no other domed stadium with availability, and with rain predicted in Atlanta and Arlington, there was no other place it could have been played."

Selig: "We spent 24 hours examining every alternative. We had three national weather services. We were very thoughtful in calling other franchises in seeing where we could go. We finally determined -- everybody was in on this -- the only, safe practical option was Milwaukee. People can say we could have done this or that; it turns out this was the only practical option."

Philadelphia beats Atlanta, 8-7; the Cubs beat Milwaukee, 5-4; and Washington beats New York, 1-0. The Phillies overtake the Mets for the NL East lead, giving the Mets the Wild Card by a half-game over the Brewers, and hold a three-game lead over Houston.

Wednesday, September 17

10:21pm: Astros lose at Florida, 14-2. Brandon Backe, who considered not making the road trip, has yet to hear from his family and friends in Galveston, allows 6H/5ER, 2K:2BB, 2HR in 1.2IP - his shortest outing of the season until his next start, when he gives up 8H/8ER in 1.1IP.

ESPN: The strain showed in Houston's clubhouse. Cooper's postgame interview with reporters ended abruptly when the manager banged his hand down on a desk and told the media to get out of his office. He later apologized.

Backe: "The start of this whole trip has weighed on all of us. Just the way it’s been handled. It’s over with. This is where we’re supposed to be now, and it’s no excuse. But when you’re not playing baseball for two days and you don’t have electricity, there’s nothing you can do to prepare yourself for a major league baseball game...It's not an excuse it's just reality. We're not leaning on this while we're losing games and while we're playing bad -- none of us in here are doing that. That said, you have to understand where we're coming from. We've had a lot of things thrown at us in a very short period of time."

He tells the New York Times: "I've heard from some of my friends, but others, I don't know if they're O.K. or if they've been washed away."

Richard Justice writes: Now when I hear Drayton McLane say he protested violently, my question would be: ”Where were you last week when Selig was quizzing you over and over about what should be done about the weekend series? Why did you keep telling the commissioner that you believed the games could be played when MLB had three National Weather Service guys saying otherwise?...Drayton was slow to react because he didn’t want to believe Ike was as bad as it turned out to be. He wanted those three sellouts. Selig trusted McLane to make the right call, and McLane didn’t. ”

The Phillies beat Atlanta, 6-1; Milwaukee beats Chicago, 6-2; New York beats Washington, 9-7. The Marlins win puts them a game behind Houston, who are 3.5 behind Milwaukee, and four games behind the Mets.

While the death toll in Southeast Texas is over 30, the Astros donate $1 million to relief efforts.

Thursday, September 18

It is determined that Hurricane Ike was the worst electricity disruption in Texas history.

The Astros take a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the Marlins score the next eight runs to complete the three-game sweep of the Astros with an 8-1 win. It's the Astros' first five-game losing streak since June, and they've scored five runs in the five losses, allowing 38 runs.

Lance Berkman: "It's just been a team-wide collapse, basically. There's no way to sugarcoat it. You can make all the excuses you want. We just haven't played well."

Chicago beats Milwaukee, who falls 1.5 games back of the Mets, but the sweep brings the Marlins to five back of the Wild Card, tied with Houston, with ten games to play.

Friday, September 19

The Astros either realized that their odds of making the playoffs are slim, or they've just given up, as players wear shirts before the weekend series with the Pirates that read: "Bud killed us" over a red drawing of Selig's face.

Richard Justice rips the Astros: "The Astros slept in a nice hotel Sunday night and played in front of a small crowd Monday afternoon. The Astros should have had time to clear their minds. Even if you're willing to cut them two transition games, there's no excuse for the embarrassment in South Florida. Choked. Collapsed. Folded. Pick your favorite term because it applies. Yet the T-shirts reflected something else. The Astros were looking for an excuse, and Bud Selig was a familiar one.

Later that night, Randy Wolf gets the win as the Astros break their losing streak with a 5-1 win over Ian Snell and the Pirates.

Cooper: "It's been a long week. It's been a long time since we've had a win."

Wolf, comparing his pre-game routine against the Pirates to the pre-game routine before Zambrano's no-hitter the previous Sunday, where he took the loss:
“Usually the night before I pitch I get a little more than two hours (of sleep) and usually I don’t have to haul my suitcase down 14 flights of stairs. There was a better routine. The team flew me up early because we were getting in (early Friday morning), and I was able to get a good night’s sleep. You get those things on your side (and) it makes things a little bit easier.”

The Mets win, and the Brewers and Phillies lose (to the Marlins). The Astros are 4.5 back of the Phillies for the Wild Card with seven to play.

Saturday, September 20

Bud Selig takes out an ad in the Houston Chronicle apologizing to Houston, and to Astros fans. It read (in full):
Dear Fans,

On behalf of Major League Baseball, I want to express my profound sorrow to those of you who suffered through the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike. It was a horrific storm and all of us at Major League Baseball are aware of the enormity of it and the destruction and displacement that it caused. While it is insignificant in comparison to the havoc that was taking place in Southeast Texas, the storm also created a scheduling dilemma for Major League Baseball.

I am well aware that many fans of the Houston Astros thought it unfair that we moved two of the three games of the Houston – Chicago series to Milwaukee. I understand your unhappiness and frustration and I regret that such a decision had to be made. Our first obligation is to the health and welfare of our fans and players, and our second is to complete the Major League schedule, which is no easy task when you consider Houston had to play the remaining 15 games in the final16 days of the season. Also, we were faced with a complex set of scheduling rules as well as the involvement of several different constituencies.

We carefully analyzed all of our options. For three days, we were in constant contact with three different weather services and ultimately came to the conclusion that the only viable option was to move two games to a stadium with a dome where the games were guranteed to be played. That decision led us to Milwaukee. While we had an obligation to play all three games, we held the last one back to be played in Houston after the end of the regular season, on Monday, September 29th, should it be necessary to determine Postseason play.

Throughout our discussions with the weather experts over the three-day period, we learned there were serious weather concerns in other cities with available outdoor ball parks and were advised by the experts not to reschedule the games at those sites. Complicating the matter was the fact that the domed stadiums in Minnesota, Phoenix and the Tampa Bay area were unavailable due to previous scheduling conflicts. Also, we did not think it was fair to play games on the West Coast, given the fact Houston would have had to travel across country to Miami to begin a series there the following Tuesday. The only option that remained was Milwaukee.

In making the decision to play there, I recognized the advantage the Cubs would have in playing in such close proximity to Chicago and had there been a better option, I would have taken it. All of us involved in the decision regret the frustration the Astros and their fans felt about playing two games in Milwaukee.

As Commissioner, my job is to balance many competing needs, while also finishing the season on time so the Postseason can begin as scheduled. Hurricane Ike disrupted many things, including the baseball schedule and I regret its impact on Astros fans. I have heard your complaints and I understand the impact this storm has had on the lives of Texans and Houston-area residents in particular.

MLB also donates $500,000 to relief efforts.

On the field, Brian Moehler gives up five 1st-inning runs, and the Astros lose at Pittsburgh, 6-4. Lance Berkman gets his first hit since September 10, seeing his OPS go from 1.034 to .998 in eight games.

Moehler: "I didn't have it. I didn't locate well. I left pitches over the middle of the plate and they made me pay for it. I don't know what it is. I can't finish pitches right now."

Philadelphia beats Florida, and Milwaukee and the Mets both lose. The Mets now are a half-game back of Philadelphia, 2.5 ahead of Milwaukee, and five games ahead of Florida and Houston with eight to play.

Jose de Jesus Ortiz intimates that Selig threatened the Astros with forfeits if they didn't play the Cubs at Miller Park.

Berkman: "The most important thing (for MLB) is getting the game in so you don't lose the gate and you don't lose the revenue. That's A-No. 1. And then if in the course of the that you work it around where the players aren't affected, that's a distant second. That's one reason why players try to exploit the system to the max because they know they're being treated the same way. That's a sad part of the game."

Doug Brocail takes it personally: “The thing is we had days at the end of the season that we could have played a single game plus a doubleheader if need be. And to make us go up and play at North Wrigley like we had to on no sleep, it was absolutely ridiculous. If it was New York or Boston, it would have been played at the end of the season. I truly believe that, and I think 99.9 percent of our teammates believe that. But no, we’re the Houston Astros.”

Sunday, September 21

The Astros take the rubber match behind yet another dominant Oswalt start, in which he allows 7H/1ER, 4K:0BB in 6IP in a 6-2 win over the Pirates. The Mets and Marlins both lose, while the Phillies and Brewers win. The Astros are four back of the Mets, 2.5 back of the Brewers, with seven to play.

Monday, September 22

The Astros have the day off, but Philadelphia and New York both lose. The Astros go 2-6 in their eight-day road trip, hitting .181/.255/.232 as a team, and a 5.82 team ERA/1.44 WHIP.

Tuesday, September 23

Wandy Rodriguez gets out-dueled by Edinson Volquez, and the Astros lose a 2-1 game at home against the Reds, the first game played at Minute Maid after Ike, in front of 27,561 fans. The Mets beat the Cubs, increasing their lead to 4.5 games with five to play. The next Astros loss or Mets win eliminates them from the playoffs.

Cecil Cooper:
"We are disappointed that we let a golden opportunity slide tonight."

Meanwhile, Drayton tells ESPN:
"The real distraction was not going to Milwaukee, the real distraction was the hurricane that hit town. For every player whether they lived here full time or ... they had apartments or condominiums here, the impact was dramatic to everyone. I think that the real impact was none of them having experience in that and none of us knew what the total outcome would be."

Wednesday, September 24

Randy Wolf allows eight hits and no runs in 6.2IP as the Astros live for another day with a 5-0 win over Cincinnati.

Cooper: "We live to dance a few more days. We just have to keep winning and hope for divine intervention."

The Cubs beat the Mets, while Milwaukee beats Pittsburgh, and Atlanta beats Philadelphia. Houston is 3.5 behind both the Mets and the Phillies, who are tied for the Wild Card with four to play.

Thursday, September 25

Oswalt gets another dominant outing, with a 6IP, 2H/1ER performance as the Astros beat the Reds 8-6.

Oswalt: "We're just playing. We've got three more games. We'll see if we can win those games and see what happens."

Michael Bourn, on the dugout routine: "Look at the scoreboard, try to win the game, look at the scoreboard, try to win the game, look at the scoreboard again. It's back and forth. We're just trying to hope they lose and try to take care of our business."

The Mets and Brewers don't lose, beating the Cubs and Pirates, respectively. So with three to play (four, if necessary), the Astros are 3.5 back of the Mets and Brewers.

Friday, September 26

Darin Erstad gets his first walk-off homer in eight years in a 5-4 win over Atlanta.

Minutes after the celebration at home plate, the Brewers beat the Cubs, 5-1, eliminating the Astros from the playoffs.

Berkman: “We knew it was long odds. Certainly, when you put yourself in this kind of position, it was unrealistic to expect both Milwaukee and New York to get swept, although stranger things have happened.”

Cooper: “It was a gallant effort from my troops, and that’s what I’m most proud of, that they continue to play and play hard right to the end. It’s over for post-season, but we still have something to play for – a chance to finish in third place, and that in itself is an accomplishment...I think it’s been a successful year. What we wanted? No. I think any time you fall short of the post-season, you’re disappointed. But all in all, I think a pretty successful year for us.”

The Before Ike & After Ike stats are incredible. In the 14 games before Ike, the Astros were 13-1. In the 14 games after Ike (to end the season), they were 6-8. From September 12 to the end of the season, the Brewers were 7-8 while the Mets were 7-10 - meaning that, had the Astros gone 9-5 from when Ike hit to the end of the season, they would have tied the Brewers for the Wild Card. Considering that the Astros went 14-1 from August 27-September 11, it just may have happened.

Did the Astros affect you in the aftermath of the Hurricane? Who, if anybody, is at fault for the collapse? What was your experience in September 2008?