The Houston Astros couldn't have hoped for a better ending to their time in the National League, all things considered. If you set aside the fact that Houston has the worst team in baseball, something that's had to be reiterated for months now, then beating the St. Louis Cardinals to avoid a sweep in the last National League game at Minute Maid Park is a noble feat.
Bud Norris logged his first win since May 21 with Wednesday's victory. Norris had lost 12 out of 18 decisions since then, and the Stros were losers of the last 10 meetings with the longtime rival Red Birds. There was no real reason to expect the Astros to beat the Cardinals Wednesday, other than the unpredictable nature of the sport.
Houston had won just 50 games this season... total. This is the team next to last in hits and batting average out of 30 Major League squads. The Astros have one of the five highest team ERAs in baseball. And they were ending the home season starting a pitcher who hadn't won a game in four months.
Playing the Cardinals in the last National League home game in Astros history could have seemed like insult to injury before the game, but by the time Norris had put in his 7 1/3 innings shutout performance with Wilton Lopez poised for the five-out save, fans at Minute Maid Park were into it.
And you could make the argument that the fans who still go to Astros games are already into it, whether the Cardinals pound their heads in or not. But they were given something to cheer for, even if the next time most of them see the Stros will be as an American League squad.
On that front, there obviously isn't a lot to look forward to, considering the Stros would have had a hard time returning to relevance in the National League, much less the AL. But keep in mind the timing of all this. Just when the Astros are going through a culture change as an organization, they are taking on an even bigger challenge.
It would be much more difficult for fans of a winning team to accept moving to a league that could threaten said success, than for a losing team that you can at least count on to be that.
So when Houston is stinking it up next season against the Rangers, Angels and A's, everyone can just ask, "Hey, what'd you expect?" And if it ever turns around, then it was all in the master plan anyway, right?
For now, it's a bit nostalgia, a bit relief and definitely heads up for leaving with a win.
Here's Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow on leaving the the NL, via the Houston Chronicle:
"I know our fans are going to feel nostalgic about leaving the National League and all the great memories, rivalries with the Dodgers, rivalries with the Cardinals and Cubs and so forth," Luhnow said. "It's been great. We had 50 years in this league. We had one World Series appearance. We're going into a new league. We want to really have success over there."