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It didn’t look or feel much like a home game for the Astros. Before an announced crowd of 3,485 in St. Petersburg, Fla., each of whom had paid $10 for general admission, the Astros donned a first-time uniform combination: road gray pants and dark blue alternate tops usually worn for batting practice. “It’s all we had with us,” manager A.J. Hinch said.

It also didn’t look much like the Astros felt like playing baseball, giving up runs early and often to the Rangers in a 12-2 loss. And can you blame them? They were playing a thousand miles from home, on a single day’s notice, just as Houston begins the long process of bailing out and tallying its losses after the historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“The team, the atmosphere, I’d say was kind of mixed,” said infielder J.D. Davis,“We were really motivated to do well for Houston. Looking at the TV of half of Houston under water is kind of hard. We played hard but just came up short.”

The whole thing felt very, very strange. “It’s hard to imagine playing,” Hinch said. “But it’s hard to imagine not playing.” At least there was some hometown flavor: The PA played the Astros players’ walk-up music, and the seventh-inning stretch was capped with “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

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The night was slightly marred by the controversy over where this series is being played. The Astros had proposed trading home dates with the Rangers for a late-September series currently scheduled for Arlington, but the Rangers declined. I understand why the Rangers said no, and I understand that they weren’t obligated to do anything; it still left an unpleasant taste in everyone’s mouths, even as MLB.com executed a post-publication edit of an article critical of their decision. 

With the loss, the Astros’ lead over the Indians for best record and home-field advantage in the AL dropped to 4.5 games, while the Rangers moved to within three of the second wild card. These games may end up mattering down the stretch, even if it sure doesn’t feel like they mean much now.

“There are a lot of people struggling,” Hinch said. “There are some people here with family that’s stranded. It’s not comfortable, it’s not fun; this is real life and real emotion.

“We’re humans first. You can manage them all you want, but you’ve got to let people be humans. These guys do a really good job of bring together; I think we’re all leaning on one another. We’re all going through the same thing together. All you can do is hope and pray and stay in contact with your loved ones.”

The Astros will donate all proceeds from tickets, parking, and concessions from this three-game series to their hurricane relief fund. You can donate to that fund here.