|2004 Houston Astros|
|National League Wild Card|
|Major League affiliations|
|Owner(s)||Drayton McLane, Jr.|
|General manager(s)||Gerry Hunsicker|
|Manager(s)||Jimy Williams and Phil Garner|
(Bill Brown, Larry Dierker, Jim Deshaies, Greg Lucas, Bill Worrell)
(Milo Hamilton, Alan Ashby)
(Francisco Ernesto Ruiz, Alex Treviño)
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The 2004 Houston Astros season was the 43rd season for the Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise in Houston, Texas. Five years removed from opening Minute Maid Park, the Astros hosted the All-Star Game, which was the first held in Houston since 1986. Having limped into the All-Star break with a 44–44 record, Phil Garner was named to replace Jimy Williams as manager. The Astros finished second in the Central division and captured the NL Wild Card. The Astros won a postseason series for the first time in franchise history by defeating the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series (NLDS), scoring an NLDS-record 36 runs. Roger Clemens won the NL Cy Young Award, becoming the fourth pitcher to win the award in both leagues, and the only one with seven overall.
When he hit his sixth career grand slam against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 9, first baseman Jeff Bagwell tied a club record. Starting pitcher Roger Clemens was named National League Pitcher of the Month in April after going 5–0 in a win–loss record (W–L) with a 1.95 earned run average (ERA), 32 strikeouts and 14 bases on balls in 32+1⁄3 innings pitched. In just one start did he allow more than one run. Clemens passed Steve Carlton to move into then-second place behind Nolan Ryan on the all-time strikeout list on May 6 against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 6–2 victory while striking out nine and bringing his career total to 4,140. In May, outfielder Lance Berkman produced a .785 slugging percentage with 24 runs batted in (RBI), winning his first career National League Player of the Month honors.
In a three-team deal involving the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics, the Astros acquired center fielder Carlos Beltrán. The Royals sent Beltrán to Houston for minor league catcher John Buck and cash. The A's sent minor leaguers pitcher Mike Wood and first baseman Mark Teahen to the Royals. The Astros sent relief pitcher Octavio Dotel to the A's. Dotel, the Astros' closer, had a 0–4 W–L with a 3.12 ERA in 34+1⁄3 innings pitched, 50 strikeouts and 14 saves in 17 opportunities. He had replaced Billy Wagner in that role following his trade to Philadelphia in the previous off-season.
The Astros fired manager Jimy Williams and replaced him with Phil Garner at the All-Star break. With a 44–44 record, the team had been slumping after spending the first month and a half of the season in first place in the National League Central division. That was considered a disappointment due to hopes of reaching the World Series after signing free agent starting pitchers Clemens and Pettitte, and acquiring Beltrán weeks earlier.
The 2004 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 75th playing of the midseason exhibition baseball game between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and National League (NL). The game was held on July 13, 2004 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, the Houston Astros' home stadium. The previous All-Star Game held in Houston was in 1986 in the Astrodome. In the Home Run Derby, Miguel Tejada of the Baltimore Orioles defeated Berkman in the final round, 5–4. Tejada established records of both 27 home runs overall, and 15 in a single round, while Berkman hit the longest home run of the competition at 497 feet (151 m).
Three members of the Astros were in the starting lineup; Roger Clemens, who had played in the 1986 All-Star Game, was the starting pitcher, Jeff Kent was at second base, and Berkman was one of the three outfielders starting in the game. Beltrán, first named to the American League team before the trade, was added to the National League team as a reserve. The game had an attendance of 41,886 and boxing legend Muhammad Ali threw the ceremonial first pitch of the game. The final result was the American League defeating the National League 9-4, thus awarding an AL team (which would eventually be the Boston Red Sox) home-field advantage in the World Series.
A triple play and a seven-run seventh inning on August 19 against Philadelphia highlighted an Astros 12–10 win. With the Phillies leading 7–2, Todd Pratt grounded into a bases-loaded triple play in the fifth inning, Houston's first in 13 years. Berkman, Craig Biggio, and Eric Bruntlett each homered in the seventh inning.
Bagwell recorded his 200th career stolen base on August 30 against the Cincinnati Reds to become the tenth player in MLB history to reach that plateau while hitting 400 home runs. On September 18, Bagwell collected his 1,500th career RBI with a single in the third inning against the Brewers. Two innings later, he homered for his 1,500th run scored, becoming just 29th player in MLB history and first Astro to reach both milestones. Bagwell finished with 27 home runs, stopping a streak of eight consecutive seasons with at least 30 but extending a streak of 12 with at least 20.
The Astros won 36 of their final 46 games to win the National League wild card.
After the Astros acquired Beltrán from the Royals, he played 90 games batting .258 with 23 home runs, 53 RBI, and 28 stolen bases. His combined totals in 2004 included 159 games with a .267 batting average, 38 home runs, 104 RBI, 42 stolen bases, and 121 runs scored.
|St. Louis Cardinals||105||57||0.648||—||53–28||52–29|
|2004 Houston Astros|
Main article: 2004 National League Division Series
In Game 2, Bagwell hit his first career postseason home run off Mike Hampton in the first inning in a 4–2 extra-inning loss.
After seven failed attempts in 43 years of franchise history to win a playoff series, the Astros defeated the Atlanta Braves in five games for their first. Behind the quartet dubbed the "Killer B's" – composed of Bagwell, Beltrán, Berkman and Biggio – who batted .395 (34-for-86) with eight home runs, 21 RBI and 24 runs scored, the Astros' offense ignited, scoring an NLDS-record 36 runs. Beltrán homered four times in this series.
|1||Houston 9, Atlanta 3||October 6|
|2||Atlanta 4, Houston 2 (11 innings)||October 7|
|3||Houston 8, Atlanta 5||October 9|
|4||Atlanta 6, Houston 5||October 10|
|5||Houston 12, Atlanta 3||October 11|
Main article: 2004 National League Championship Series
The Astros faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs for the first time in 2004 in the National League Championship Series (NLCS). By hitting one home run in each of the first four home runs in the NLCS, including the game-winner in Game 4, Beltrán tied Barry Bonds' record for home runs in single postseason-record with eight, continuing a strong performance from the NLDS. Counting a two home-run performance in Game 5 of the NLDS, that gave Beltrán at least one home run in a record-setting five consecutive postseason games, later eclipsed by Daniel Murphy's home runs in six consecutive postseason games in 2015.
Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds hit the game-winning home run off Dan Miceli in the 12th inning of Game 6, for a 6–4 final score and forcing a Game 7. It was the third game Miceli lost of the 2004 postseason.
|1||St. Louis 10, Houston 7||October 13, 2004|
|2||St. Louis 6, Houston 4||October 14, 2004|
|3||Houston 5, St. Louis 2||October 16, 2004|
|4||Houston 6, St. Louis 5||October 17, 2004|
|5||Houston 3, St. Louis 0||October 18, 2004|
|6||St. Louis 6, Houston 4||October 20, 2004|
|7||St. Louis 5, Houston 2||October 21, 2004|
See also: Minor League Baseball
|AAA||New Orleans Zephyrs||Pacific Coast League||Chris Maloney|
|AA||Round Rock Express||Texas League||Jackie Moore|
|A||Salem Avalanche||Carolina League||Russ Nixon|
|A||Lexington Legends||South Atlantic League||Iván DeJesús|
|A-Short Season||Tri-City ValleyCats||New York–Penn League||Gregg Langbehn|
|Rookie||Greeneville Astros||Appalachian League||Jorge Orta and Tim Bogar|
LEAGUE CHAMPIONS: Greeneville
In the bottom of the seventh, with one out and the game tied 5–5, Beltran dipped down like a golfer and scooped a 2-and-2 slider from St. Louis righthander Julián Tavárez into the right-centerfield bullpen. It was a record fifth straight postseason game in which Beltran hit a home run. 'The ump was reaching back to get another ball,' says Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who was watching from the on-deck circle, 'because that [pitch] was in the dirt.'