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Game 7 lets Calallen childhood friends reunite in Houston

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Posted at 1:17 AM, Oct 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-31 08:58:03-04

Through six innings, the Astros appeared to be cruising.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel went deep into left field to jump-start the second inning, and Carlos Correa drove Gurriel in again in the fifth.

Most fans were gaining a little more confidence in Houston's ability to get a much-needed win at home that would bring the World Series trophy back to Houston for the second time in three years.

But Corpus Christi native Richard Wendland remained guardedly optimistic. When you've been a lifelong Astros fan who grew up in an era where 80- and 90-something game-loss seasons were a more regular occurrence than 80- and 90-something win seasons, you learn to protect yourself.

Wendland's aunt and uncle took him to Astros games at the Astrodome "when they were mostly irrelevant" in the 1980s and 90s, he said, and those experiences stayed with the 41-year-old Calallen resident. He's been a fan ever since.

So when he had the chance to see his team play in Game 7 of the World Series so close to home, with two of his childhood friends, he jumped at the chance. He and his buddy Steve Sanders hopped in the car, road-tripped it Houston and picked up the the third member of their trio, Chip Houston -- the only one of the three, ironically enough, who is not an Astros fan.

"We just thought it would be a cool trip to go see a World Series Game 7," Wendland said.

The Astros lost Game 7 to the Nationals, 6-2, Wednesday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The games Wendland saw as a boy featured larger-than-life figures such as Nolan Ryan and Jose Cruz. He has no qualms about saying that those teams don't hold a candle to the one he watched take the field tonight.

"This is the best 'Stros team that's ever been," he said. "They got off to a good start but from previous games, I knew it wasn't over."

When Astros skipper A.J. Hinke pulled starter Zack Greinke, despite still having a low pitch count through six innings, then he started to worry.

"It's never over 'til the last out," he said, "but my confidence was not as hopeful."

Nationals' third baseman Howie Kendrick nailed a three-run homer in the seventh, the Astros bullpen sputtered and Wendland said he knew "that October Magic had swung over to the Nationals."

"(The Astros) just fell short to a very talented Washington team," he said."The (Nationals) earned it. That's the bottom line."

That talent includes World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, who took wins in Games 2 and 6, though Wendland said it should have gone to Rice University alum and Houston native Anthony Rendon.

But even knowing what he knows now, he said he'd "absolutely" do it all again.

"I'm an Astros fan, but more so, I'm a baseball fan," he said. "It's the greatest game on the planet."

And there's no shame, he said, in losing Game 7 of the World Series.

"No one should be upset about this," he said. "I lived through three consecutive 100-plus game loss seasons and a decade with no playoffs. We had a great season. Ultimately they didn't win the last game."