Houston Astros: Ranking Their 8 Biggest Rivals

Brandon Croce@@BrandonCroceAnalyst IAugust 10, 2011

Houston Astros: Ranking Their 8 Biggest Rivals

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    One of the best aspects of sports is rivalries like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers and the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. Every time these teams meet there is an added excitement because of the animosity between players and the fan base.

    The one thing those rivalries all have in common is that they have a long history as well as regularly competing for championships. The Astros' have some rivalries but unfortunately have lost a bit of excitement these past few years with their struggles on the field.

    With that said the Astros have rivals both on the team level as well as individually. These are the top eight rivals of the Houston Astros.

8. Texas Rangers

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    The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers have a rivalry primarily based on geography, since both are based in the state of Texas. The two teams met for the first time in the regular season back in 2001 but the rivalry was born back in the early 90's when Nolan Ryan left the Astros and joined the Texas Rangers.

    The two teams play for the Silver Boot trophy, which is awarded to the team who wins the six-game series each year, and the Rangers have won it eight times in the 11 year history. Unfortunately, this rivalry is only No. 8 because the two teams are in different leagues and do not play enough to warrant anything higher.

    If the Astros were to move over to the American League, this could quickly become the best rivalry for the team. 

7. Lance Berkman

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    This has become a love/hate relationship for Astros' fans because they can still remember all the good years that Berkman had in Houston but he is killing the Astros this season. To make matters worse, he is doing it in a Cardinals uniform.

    He is hitting .292 with 28 home runs and 75 RBI this season for the second place Cardinals but really turns it on when he plays Houston. In only 28 at-bats against the Astros, he has five home runs, 12 RBI and a .429 batting average.

    He was always a fan favorite in Houston and will probably return as one, once he stops crushing the ball against the Astros.

6. Carlos Zambrano

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    Big Z has been terrorizing the Houston Astros for the better part of a decade now. He has struggled a bit over the past few years but always seems to show up against the Astros.

    Zambrano got his first major league win against the Astros and threw his only no-hitter against the Astros in 2008. He has come close a number of other times at no-hitters against the Astros over the years.

    He has not only hurt the Astros on the mound but at the plate as well, hitting six home runs against the team since 2002.  

5. Jim Edmonds

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    This catch was in Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS which pretty much became the deciding moment of the series, giving the Cardinals the win and a trip to the World Series. To make matters worse, it was Jim Edmonds who pushed the series to a seventh game with a walk off home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 the night before.

    This should of not come as a surprise for Astros' fans as Edmonds made a career of giving the Astros nightmares with his play with the Cardinals, whether at the plate or in the field. He went on to play for almost every other NL Central team including the Brewers, Cubs and Reds.

    If the Astros did not reach the World Series in 2005, that catch may still haunt fans to this day.

4. Chicago Cubs

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    This rivalry is based from being in the same division and it has had some great story lines over the years. I already wrote about Zambrano's dominance of Houston but the Astros were on the unfortunate end of Kerry Wood's 20 strikeout performance back in 1998 as well.

    The Astros have had more regular season success and postseason appearances over the past 20 or so years than the Cubs but the Cubs always seem to put up a good fight, dating all the way back to 1989 when the Astros had a nine run lead heading into the sixth before losing 10-9 in 10 innings.

    Patrick Michael over at Yahoo! put together the top five games for the Cubs in the rivalry in this article

3. Atlanta Braves

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    The Atlanta Braves owned the Houston Astros in the mid-90s once the playoffs rolled around. They knocked the Astros out of the playoffs three times over a four year span. However, the Astros returned the favor after the turn of the century, knocking the Braves out of the playoffs in back to back years. 

    In 2004, the Astros needed five games to beat the Braves and technically needed five games in 2005 as well. The official series record was 3-1 but the Astros needed 18 innings to put the Braves away in Game 4. The game ended thanks to a walk-off home run by Chris Burke landing in the Crawford Boxes.

    The rivalry has cooled off a bit with the Astros but considering the two teams have met five of the past six times the Astros made the playoffs, I would not be surprised if they met again in the playoffs in the future.

2. Albert Pujols

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    Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball and seems to always have good games against the Astros. Over the past three seasons he has hit .335 with 12 home runs and 33 RBI in 161 at-bats against Houston.

    Fans will probably remember him most from the home run he hit in the 2005 NLCS off Brad Lidge that probably still hasn't landed. With the Edmonds walk off and circus catch a year earlier, Astros' fans were probably thinking it would be the same story, a different year after the three run home run.

    The Astros eventually went on to win the series, earning their first World Series appearance but Pujols made sure fans had to worry a little longer until they eventually won Game 6.

    With three Cardinals on this list, it was pretty easy for me to name the best rivalry the Astros have.

1. St. Louis Cardinals

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    This has been the Astros biggest rival for some time now and while it has slowed a bit over the years with the Astros lack of success, fans still get excited for these games. From 1996 to 2006, either the Astros or Cardinals won the NL Central every year except 2003, when the Cubs claimed the crown.

    The team battled in back to back NLCS, with the Cardinals winning in 2004 and the Astros winning in 2005. The series record hovers around .500, with the Cardinals slowly starting to take the series lead the past few years.

    If the Astros don't end up moving to the American League, this rivalry will hopefully become rejuvenated in a few years when the Astros are done rebuilding the organization.