HOUSTON, Texas - Redemption seems to be the keyword that the Houston Astros have been operating on in their history.
Game 4 of the ALDS against Boston was a redemption story that lasted from the 5th to the 8th inning. Where pitching ace Justin Verlander gave up a two-run home run and the lead, in his first stint in relief no less, his Astros answered, attacking Boston's own ace Chris Sale and its elite closer Craig Kimbrel.
In a slightly larger way, the Game 4 clincher made up for an embarrassing Game 3 in which 10 unanswered runs were scored by the Red Sox in a contest that could have meant a sweep into the League Championship round.
This 101-win Astros club is indeed on a redemption tour to exercise the demons of a blown 2015 ALDS and a 2005 season that ended in embarrassment on the big stage.
Twelve years ago, the Astros began their maiden voyage for the green pastures of the World Series with a .333 winning percentage in the team's first 45 games of their 2005 campaign.
It wasn't good and definitely not indicative of what they would accomplish later that year.
In addition, the team's first 45 games were not the best way to prove redemption was on their side after Houston failed to overcome their National League nemesis, St. Louis Cardinals, for a berth to the historic 2004 World Series.
The 2005 season was also one that would be dedicated to the team's long-time leader and face, Jeff Bagwell. One of the "Killer B's" was heading for retirement after a career that boasted an MVP award, a Rookie of the Year honor and four All-Star games. The one thing missing was a World Series.
The Astros did enough to seal their second straight playoff berth as a wild-card team, going 74-43 after the sub-par start.
Take a look at where some of the 2005 Astros are now
Going into the postseason, Houston didn't have much success during the regular season with its other National League playoff rivals. Against the Atlanta Braves, a team the Astros vanquished in the previous season's National League Division Series, Houston went just 1-5. Against St. Louis, the Astros dropped 11 of 16 games against the Cards. Against the Padres, who were the other team that qualified for the postseason and a potential matchup in the LCS round, the Astros fared a bit better, winning four of seven contests.
Still, the Astros, without home field advantage at any point of the playoffs, were presented with an uphill climb.
Instead, the postseason proved big for the 'Stros, who won Game 1 of their series in Atlanta before defending home field. The Game 4 clincher was one for the history books.
In Game 4, the Astros faced a 4-0 hole early on thanks to a forgettable fourth inning that included an Adam LaRoche grand slam. With the score at 6-1 entering the eighth, Lance Berkman answered with a grand slam of his own. And, being down 6-5 in the ninth, the Astros mustered a game-tying home run from Brad Ausmus, who was at the plate down to two outs.
A full nine innings after the game-tying blast, the Astros gave the Houston faithful an NLCS berth thanks to a walk-off homer from Chris Burke.
In the course of a game, which at the time set the record for longest MLB postseason matchup in innings and time length, the Astros displayed their redemptive characteristics that drove them that postseason, whether you call it resilience or peaking at the right moment. They also finally broke through the Braves, who tormented Houston in past NLDS contests, improving to 2-3 against Atlanta in the opening postseason round.
The NLCS pitted Houston and St. Louis for a second straight postseason. Feeling confident after a comeback victory in Game 4, the Astros were poised to overcome a Cardinal-size hurdle. And, unlike in 2004, Houston was able to beat their rivals on the road. In that series, the Astros took the middle three home games after dropping the first two in St. Louis. The Astros failed to eliminate the Cardinals in the subsequent sixth and seventh games of the series, which took place in the shadow of the Mississippi.
After dropping Game 1 in 2005, the Astros won the next three games, including Game 2 at Busch Stadium, before losing Game 5 in what would have been a surefire clincher. In that game, up 4-2 heading into the 9th, elite closer Brad Lidge gave up an unfathomable three-run home run to superstar slugger Albert Pujols.
The Astros appeared to have put the ghosts of the 2004 NLCS to bed when their second chance at eliminating the Cardinals paid off. In Game 6, the Astros made opposing pitcher Mark Mulder pay, scoring three runs off of him by the fourth inning. Houston's Roy Oswalt solidified the Astros' World Series berth, giving up only one run in seven innings. Redemption was complete. Seemingly.
For the Astros' four games after that, well, we can forget about those contests. Let's just say we never felt the same from the brooming by that team on the south side of Chicago.
Fast-forward 12 years to today, and the same scrappy Houston squad that has no $100-million-contract earners on the roster is on the doorstep once again in the franchise's fifth ever LCS.
Redemption is there for the taking. Like their season-long motto, the Astros have to "earn it."
Report a typo to the ABC13 staff