Only the Astros stand between the Yankees and the 2017 World Series. If Houston wins the ALCS, they will be the first team to win a pennant in both leagues.
The 2017 Astros have former Yankee catcher Brian McCann. Former Met Juan Centeno is a backup catcher. Former Met Collin McHugh went 5-2 for the Astros. Former Met and Yankee Tyler Clippard saved games for the Yankees and Astros in 2017. And former Met and Yankee Carlos Beltran is a veteran presence in Houston. And you may have heard that former Met (and future manager ?) Alex Cora is the bench coach.
Throughout the years, Houston always seem to pop up in different parts of New York baseball history. Houston began playing in the National League in 1962, along with the Mets. On April 9, 1965, the Yankees played in the first game at the Astrodome. Mickey Mantle’s sixth inning home run off Turk Farrell was the first home run in stadium history, even if it was an exhibition game.
In 1968, the Astros beat the Mets in a 1-0 game that lasted 24 innings. Houston would pummel the Miracle Mets of 1969, beating New York in 10 of 12 meetings. And it was in a 1975 game against the Astros that Joe Torre grounded into four double plays.
One of the Astros stars of their early days was Jimmy Wynn, who would hit one home run in 30 games for the 1977 Yankees.
The Astros would make former Met Nolan Ryan baseball’s first million dollar man before the 1980 season, and Ryan responded by pitching the Astros to an NL West title. Another key pitcher was future Yankee Joe Niekro.
The Mets were on the rise in 1984, as Dwight Gooden made his major league debut at the Astrodome. It was at the Astrodome in 1985 when Ryan became the first pitcher to strikeout 4,000 batters. The victim was Met outfielder Danny Heep.
The 1986 All-Star Game was at the Astrodome and the pitching matchup was a World Series preview of Dwight Gooden against Roger Clemens.
Before the Mets got to the World Series, they had to go through Houston in the NLCS. The Astros were managed by Hal Lanier, who had the last hit at the original Yankee Stadium in 1973. Lanier would win NL Manager of the Year in 1986. His bench coach was Yogi Berra, who was wearing a major league uniform other than the Yankees or Mets for the first time. Home-field used to rotate between the East and West division winners and it was the East’s turn to host, but scheduling conflicts forced the series to start in Houston. And it was former Met Mike Scott who won Games 1 and 4, and was named NLCS MVP in a losing effort. As a Met, Scott had given up Mike Schmidt’s 300th career home run, which was the only memorable thing about his time in Queens. But he won a Cy Young in 1986 and had mastered a split-fingered fastball (possibly scuffed) taught to him by original Met Roger Craig.
The Mets beat Nolan Ryan in Game 2, won Game 3 on Lenny Dykstra’s home run, and won Game 5 on Gary Carter’s single. New York scored three runs in the ninth inning of Game 6 to send the game to extras, and the Mets took the lead in the 14th. Billy Hatcher tied the game at four with a homer off Jesse Orosco, but the Mets scored three times in the 16th and held on for a 7-6 win.
Kevin Bass struck out with the potential tying and winning runs on base to end the game. In 1988, the Yankees tried to send Dave Winfield to Houston for Bass, but the Yankees star vetoed the trade. Bass would play in the Big Apple, appearing in 46 games for the 1992 Mets.
Houston failed to make the playoffs under managers Art Howe and Terry Collins. In 1999, Houston won the NL Central with help from a pair of 20-game winners, Mike Hampton and Jose Lima. Hampton would go to the Mets and was named MVP of the 2000 NLCS. Lima would pitch in four games with the 2006 Mets team that won the NL East.
When Houston moved to Enron Field in 2000, they opened with an exhibition game against the Yankees, a tribute to the 1965 game. Roger Clemens started for the Yankees and Dwight Gooden started for the Astros. Ricky Ledee’s sixth inning homer was the first at Enron Field. Gooden would actually finish the season with the Yankees and another World Series ring to his collection.
In June 2003, the Astros visited Yankee Stadium for the regular season matchup between the two teams. On June 11, Roy Oswalt, Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner combined to no-hit the Yankees in an 8-0 thumping.
Andy Pettitte joined the Astros in free agency and Roger Clemens came out of retirement to join him. Houston also traded for Carlos Beltran before the trade deadline. The Mets were interested in trading for him but didn’t want to give up David Wright, and acquired Richard Hidalgo from the Astros instead. Of course, the Mets would sign Beltran after the season.
Clemens and Pettitte would help lead Houston to the 2005 World Series, the first appearance in the Fall Classic in franchise history.
Both pitchers would return to the Bronx in 2007, and Pettitte helped the Yankees win the World Series in 2009. Trying to repeat in 2010, the Yankees traded for Lance Berkman, a five-time All-Star with Houston. Berkman hit .255 in 37 games, and then played in the postseason although New York lost to the Rangers in the ALCS.
The Astros moved to the American League in 2013, and made the playoffs for the first time in 2015. They won the Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium, with Dallas Keuchel dealing in his Cy Young season. Carlos Gomez, who the Mets had failed to acquire at the deadline leading to the Yoenis Cespedes trade, homered in Houston’s 3-0 win.
Whatever happens in the ALCS, it will add to the odd connections of New York and Houston baseball.