Astros face unprecedented task

Astros face unprecedented task

HOUSTON -- Never before.

It's a phrase that fit in a good way prior to Tuesday's Game 3 of the World Series, because never before had the Astros hosted a game of this magnitude, nor had they set their city buzzing at such an intense volume by doing so.

Never before.

It's a phrase that fits now in a bad way, for this team has never before had its back against the wall like this -- and we're talking about a team that seems to have lived its life up against it every single day of these last two magical seasons.

Coming back from the depths in the regular season to make the playoffs is one thing. Coming back from a five-run deficit in a National League Division Series game is another thing.

Coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the World Series is a completely different animal, because you can guess how many times it has been done.

Yep. Never before.

The first 21 teams to take a 3-0 advantage in the World Series have gone on to win it all. In fact, 18 of those teams went on to win the very next game for a sweep, including last year when the Red Sox put 86 years of futility behind them.

Sure, the Astros know all about life up against the wall. But this is ridiculous.

This is about being up against history. This is about being up against reality.

Most of all, this is about being up against one of the hottest teams ever to roll through October -- and not playing well enough themselves to win, to boot.

With Tuesday night's Game 3 victory over the Astros, the White Sox are now 10-1 in the postseason, having won seven consecutive games now, including five straight on the road.

The Astros have only been the victim in the last three of those White Sox victories, but there aren't any bigger ones than these three.

This one stings the most, no question about that.

The reason is the same as the first two, and frankly for every loss they've had this October: They had their chances and they didn't follow through.

"We had a chance to win the ballgame, and we couldn't push it across," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "We had some momentum going our way. We had every chance in the world to win the ballgame and failed to put the ball in play. We didn't hit the ball hard. Jason Lane is the only one that hit the ball hard.

"We had a hard time. And I don't know how it happens that way. We had our chance and couldn't do it."

Oh, the chances. The Astros have been squandering them all October long and, before this series at least, getting away with it. But that only lasts so long, and their manager knows it.

"We managed to stay in the ballgame, but we might have played 40 innings and it didn't look like we were going to get a runner across the [plate] -- very frustrating," Garner said.

The subject of blown chances was enough to make Garner whack his cap on the dais in frustration -- mostly for dramatic effect, but you could tell there was something behind it, and why not? -- during his press conference the other day.

"It just frustrates me to no end, you'll see me throw my hat," Garner said.

That poor hat. He must need another by now.

And there's probably a lot of that type of hat-whacking going on around Houston about now.

Not that Astros fans have stopped "Bee-lieving," as they say, in their team. Maybe it was a good thing they didn't have the roof to Minute Maid Park closed for the start of Tuesday's game -- the noise with which they might have blown the thing clean off. The fans stayed until the wee hours and the long innings, and they kept on believing right to the literally bitter end.

"I'd like to put on a better show," Garner said after the Game 3 loss. "It's embarrassing to play like this in front of our hometown. It was just not a good game for us tonight."

The Astros have rewarded their fans' faith so many times before, and in so many ways. The 2004 comeback. The 2005 comeback. The amazing comeback in Game 4 of the Division Series. Overcoming the dreaded Cardinals in the NLCS.

But they're up against a lot bigger wall. They're up against a wall built up by 100 years of World Series history.

Hey, you can never say never, especially with this club.

But never before definitely fits.

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.