10/03/2004 7:00 PM ET
Astros' month-by-month review
Monthly recap highlights dramatic final months
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
|The firing of Jimy Williams at the All-Star break seemed to revive Houston's season. (David Phillip/AP)
April: 14-9 record
The season began as expected for the Astros, who, along with the Cubs, were favored to compete for the National League Central division title. Roger Clemens became the first Astros pitcher to begin a season 5-0 and was awarded his first career NL Pitcher of the Month honor. The Astros exchanged sweeps with the St. Louis Cardinals and were tied for first on the final day of the month.
The Astros won eight of their first 10 games in May and were three games up in the division when they fell upon hard times. They lost two of three to the Marlins and Mets at home before suffering a four-game sweep to the Reds in Cincinnati. They recovered to take both games of a two-game set at home, but they end the month on a sour note, dropping two of three to St. Louis.
The Astros began the month with their longest road trip of the season, a four-city, 12-game jaunt, on which they went 6-6. They returned home to suffer their second four-game sweep in less than a month when they dropped a home series with the Cubs. Prior to the final game of that series, they traded inconsistent outfielder Richard Hidalgo to the Mets for David Weathers and Jeremy Griffiths. Houston then won back-to-back series over the Angels and Pirates, and during the final game with the Pirates, the club announced it had acquired center fielder Carlos Beltran in a three-way trade that sent closer Octavio Dotel to Oakland.
Jimy Williams' fate was decided after the Astros toiled through a 2-5 trip through southern California just before the All-Star break. The Astros fired Williams the day after the All-Star Game and replace him with Phil Garner, who guided the Astros to an 8-8 record heading into August.
The Astros started the fifth month slowly, dropping series to the Braves, Expos (twice) and Mets to fall three games under .500. But Houston swept the Phillies twice within 10 days and then headed to Chicago, where they took three of four over the Cubs. That series turned out to be the beginning of a 12-game winning streak and was the starting point of a dramatic turnaround.
The Astros secured the best September in franchise history with a 20-7 record. Their season-high dozen-game winning streak ended on Sept. 9 with a loss in the first game of a doubleheader in Pittsburgh. But after losing three of five to the Pirates, Houston beat St. Louis two of three at Busch Stadium.
Following a sweep of the Brewers and a series loss in San Francisco, the Astros took two of three in Milwaukee and returned home to sweep the Cardinals. They moved into first place in the Wild Card standings and held onto the lead through the final weekend of the regular season.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.