Posts Tagged ‘Anniversary of the Pujols Bomb in 2005’

Anniversary of the Pujols Bomb in 2005

October 17, 2016
The NLCS Game 5 Bomb By Albert Pujols and Brad Lidge October 17, 2005 11 Years Ago Today

The NLCS Game 5 Bomb
By Albert Pujols and Brad Lidge
October 17, 2005
11 Years Ago Today

October 17, 2005: The Albert Pujols OMG Homer. Exactly 11 years prior to today’s column date, the Houston Astros had a 3-1 lead in games won against the St. Louis Cardinals, going into the top of the 9th in Game 5 of the NLCS with a 4-2 lead and closer Brad Lidge coming in to close the game and the series here in Houston at Minute Maid Park. Lidge responded immediately, striking out John Rodriquez and John Mabry, getting both befuddled Cardinal hitters on hapless swinging strikes. For the first time ever, the Astros were only one out away from reaching their first and only World Series. The Astros home crowd’s roaring buzz and murmuring Killer Bee buzz expressed the city’s hopes for our team’s entry into baseball’s equivalent of The Emerald City. Fans at the game were pumped and positively giddy over the almost certain prospect of this rarified deliverance of Houston’s desire to matter when it comes to the ascribed notion of cities of relevance in the largest scheme of all things of value that are the end product of certain roads to success in our American culture.

The hickey in that previous paragraph of expression is the phrase “almost certain”. In baseball, as in life, there is no “almost” gradient quality to winning. It either happens, or it doesn’t, and anything less than a happening amounts to nothing more than compensatory rationalization by losers that “we fought the good fight; we just didn’t win.” And, as for the word “certain”, it stands true in only two instances. The only two certainties in life really are – death and taxes – and we have no proof that either is valuable to us while we survive in a state of good health and any level of worldly prosperity. As a result, we have the right to place our faith in religion and politicians for assurance that death and taxes have value for us beyond the end of our lives and life savings.

Nevertheless, thinking that something that hasn’t quite yet happened is “almost certain” or “in the bag” runs rampantly through the human condition when we draw very near the attainment of some long-desired obsessive goal. And that state of mind ran rampantly through the Astros crowd by the time that Mr. Brad Lidge mowed down the first two of three final batters in NLCS Game #5 on Sunday Night, October 17, 2005.

Lidge would end the top of the 9th on a third strikeout, but it would not come against the next man and  third batter of the inning. The third Cardinals batter of the inning was David Eckstein – and he slashed a ground ball single to left field. – “Oh well, let’s get the next guy, Brad,” we quietly communed our adjusted hopes into the still positive atmosphere.

Jim Edmonds then came up as the fourth batter of the inning and he drew the instant attention of pitcher Lidge and pretty much everyone else. Edmonds avoided swinging at some Lidge sliders in the dirt and got into a ball and strike encounter with Lidge. Its intensity was good enough to allow base runner Eckstein to move up to second base on a fielder’s indifference call. Now the Cardinals had a runner in scoring position; and they already had the potential tying run at the plate from the moment that Edmonds stepped into hit. Maybe that was a fact that contributed to his ability to run a pitch count. Mr. Lidge may have realized it too.

Lidge walked Edmonds. The Cardinals now had runners at first and second. And killer power guy Albert Pujols was coming to bat.

In spite of the potentially disastrous situation, it still felt to many, if not most of us, that Lidge was going to close it out on strikeout, especially when Lidge started him out with a strike.

Then came Lidge’s second pitch to Pujols. If you weren’t watching the batter’s box closely, chances are you only heard this horrendously scary contact between bat and and ball. By the time you looked up to track and find the ball in the open sky of an open roof night , it may have already started its long perpendicular fall through the dimly lit far shadows onto Crawford Street beyond the left field wall – or, you simply may have missed seeing it altogether. Many of the incredibly quiet crowd did missed seeing the most infamous enemy blast in Houston baseball history. Fans were stunned into silence. Brad Lidge stood on the mound like a motionless statue. Two runners preceded Pujols on his deliberate non-showy trot around the bases.

Most of us later saw a tape of the televised closeup of Astros pitcher Andy Pettitte as watched the Pujols homer leave the park in the top of the ninth that Houston-fated night. One could easily read his lips and the slowly forming words “Oh My God” supplying the moment’s historical caption. The Cardinals were not defeated, after all. In fact, they now lead the game by the same tally that would stand as the final score of 5-4.

Everything remained quiet the rest of the way. Lidge finished the next batter, Reggie Sanders, on a called strike three, but three horses, including the big one, had escaped by the time Brad closed the barn door on both the game – and some say, his confidence as a closer. Who knows? Brad was a nice guy, a strong guy, and a gifted guy, as I came to know him as fan, and ever so briefly socially on one occasion, and he would have his day in 2008 as the Phillies closer who took them to a World Series title. All I deduce is that it’s almost impossible to conclude that any pitcher could go through what Brad Lidge went through that incredibly bad moment and not be effected by it forever in some way.

We’ll Never Know. How much did the infamous Pujols 2005 NLCS Game 5 homer help the Chicago Whites Sox sweep the Houston Astros in the World Series? We’ll never know, but it isn’t hard to see the most obvious effect – and how that one effect changed the whole pitching rotation for Astros Manager Phil Garner in the World Series. Had the Astros won Game Five, the Astros could have started a fresh. at-the-top-of-his-game Roy Oswald in the World Series. BUT – because of the Pujols HR and the resulting Astros loss, the two NLC teams had to fly back to St. Louis for A Game Six that would be won by Roy Oswald, at the price of him now not being available to start in the World Series against the White Sox. The Astros started a vulnerable Roy Clemens whose recent leg injury helped render him ineffective in the cold temperatures of Game One in Chicago. The Astros lost the World Series Opener and then went on to a four-game-sweep loss in their only World Series to date.


 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas