Houston’s Historic ALCS Meltdown: An Astro-nomical Downfall


The 2023 ALCS’s intrastate duel added a spark even before Game 1’s inaugural pitch. As the days unfolded, the intensity reached its boiling point.

In the gripping 2023 ALCS, the Texas Rangers experienced a heart-wrenching defeat in Game 5 due to Jose Altuve’s game-changing homer. However, Bruce Bochy’s squad from Arlington quickly rebounded, besting the Houston Astros with a commanding 9-2 triumph in Sunday’s Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. They continued their momentum, seizing a swift 3-0 advantage in the inaugural inning of Game 7. Celebrations erupted in rival territory on Monday, marking the Rangers’ first ticket to the World Series since 2012. The Rangers’ achievement gives them undeniable dominance over their southern counterparts. Houston, meanwhile, faces a chilly off-season, their anticipated journey to the Fall Classic interrupted.

While it’s not in good taste to twist the knife in an already bruised city, post the Game 7 rout, it’s compelling to ponder where this ALCS stands in the chronicle of Houston’s sporting heartbreaks. Regrettably for Dusty Baker’s team, this exit occupies a prominent spot.

Near yet so far. Houston’s football history has rarely seen back-to-back heartbreaks as stinging as Sunday and Monday. The Houston Oilers were overshadowed by a formidable Pittsburgh Steelers side in the 1978 AFC championship. The Texans’ illusionary 24-0 advantage over the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2019 AFC divisional round still lingers, especially given Bill O’Brien’s unforgettable fake punt call. The sting of the Oilers’ 1992 debacle against the Buffalo Bills might overshadow this year’s loss to Texas, but let’s remember: a World Series slot was at stake now, whereas then, it was a Wild Card match. Here’s hoping C.J. Stroud ignites a brighter chapter in Houston’s football narrative.

We’ll delve deeper into some historic setbacks for the Rockets and Astros soon, but for now, let’s clear the table of some notable upsets. James Harden’s playoff vanishing act in Games 5 and 6 of the 2017 Western Conference semifinals doesn’t top the list, nor does the Rockets’ razor-thin defeat to the Seattle Sonics in the 1993 Western Conference semifinals. Regarding Astros moments, the impacts of Jorge Soler and the Braves thwarting Houston in 2021 or Albert Pujols’s iconic homer in the 2005 NLCS Game 5 are significant, but remember, Houston rebounded to the World Series just two days after Pujols’s hit.

Sift through the annals, and it becomes evident: this year’s ALCS departure ranks among Houston’s top five sports playoff heartbreaks. Let’s face the anguish and revisit the other four unforgettable episodes.

Bottom of the barrel moments. Collegiate basketball enthusiasts in Houston can’t shake the sting from the twin title game missteps of 1983 and 1984, with the ’83 loss to Jim Valvano’s N.C. State still puzzling after four decades. On the pro side, who could overlook John Stockton’s climactic shot in Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference finals? Perhaps the harshest blow came to the 2018 Rockets: holding a 3–2 lead in the Western Conference Finals, only to lose Chris Paul to an injury, falter in Game 6 in Golden State, and then endure a chillingly frigid streak in Game 7 at home. The diamond hasn’t been devoid of its heartbreaks either. Jim Edmonds’s Game 6 clincher in the 2004 NLCS might be overshadowed by a more recent painful conclusion. Drawing parallels to the 2023 ALCS, the 2019 World Series saw home teams with a startling 0–7 record, eventually clinched by the Washington Nationals in a thrilling seven-game run. The name Howie Kendrick might forever be etched in Astros’ fans memories, especially for his Game 7 home run. Even with a championship title to their name, that wound hasn’t fully healed. As the Rangers and Astros square off again in April 2024, it’s safe to predict old scars will be reopened for Houston supporters.

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