HOUSTON -- The raucous crowds that nearly filled Minute Maid Park for the final weekend series of the season against the Yankees for the final appearances by Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera has given Astros manager Bo Porter hope a baseball town still lives inside Houston.
The Astros routinely played before huge crowds in the 2000s when they made the playoffs with regularity, including a trip to the World Series in '05. Entering Sunday, the Astros were averaging 20,199 fans per game, including 37,199 on Saturday.
"I've lived here a long time," Porter said. "This here is a great baseball city with great fans. Yes, they have been patient, but at the same time as an organization we can all attest to the fact that our fans are starving for a winner and we need to give them one."
Saturday's crowd, which saw Pettitte pitch a complete game in his final start of his career, was the loudest of the season, with perhaps the exception of an Opening Day win over the Rangers.
"It lets you know when they come out in large numbers like that, this place can get loud," Porter said. "It can basically be to our advantage. At the same time, we as an organization have to make sure we're giving the fans a reason to come out and cheer and root the way they were cheering last night."
Castro plans to get Stanford degree in offseason
HOUSTON -- The baseball season is over, but Astros catcher Jason Castro still has some work ahead.
Castro will leave for San Francisco on Monday morning and will resume taking classes this week at Stanford University, where he's two classes shy of a degree in sociology. Castro plans to finish the degree this fall and finally get his diploma -- five years after the Astros drafted him in the first round.
"It's been a long time coming," Castro said. "I got to go back in 2010 and take some classes. I tried to get it all done in one shot, but the way it's kind of structured, I wasn't going to be able to get it all done at once. I broke it up into two parts and this is the second part. I'm excited to get it over with and finally be done."
Castro will be on campus at Stanford twice a week this fall. He's finished all the coursework required for his major, so he just has general elective units remaining.
"It shouldn't be too difficult," Castro said. "But I still have to get back into study mode."
And Castro plans to get into college life as much as he can. He's already got tickets for Stanford's football games against Oregon, California and Notre Dame.
Castro enjoyed a breakout season this year, hitting .276 in 120 games with 35 doubles, 18 homers and 56 RBIs with a .485 slugging percentage, setting career highs in nearly every offensive category. He was twice named American League Player of the Week and was the first Astros player to represent the AL in the All-Star game.
Harrell energized to improve for 2014 season
HOUSTON -- A year ago, Lucas Harrell was putting the finishing touches on a fantastic season in which he led the Astros in wins, innings pitched and starts, and ranked second in the Major Leagues in innings pitched by a rookie. He threw at least five innings in all but one of his 32 starts.
Harrell's second full season in the Major Leagues didn't go quite as well, which has only made the right-hander even more determined to come back in 2014 and re-establish himself.
"I had a rough season this year, and it's just one of those things to where I'm looking to work on some things and improve and come back next year with a clear, fresh mind and just kind of get back to what I did last year and kind of take this as a learning lesson and a fuel to the fire for when I work out," said Harrell, who will remain in Houston in the offseason.
After going 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA last year, Harrell entered Sunday's season finale with a 6-16 record and a 5.80 ERA. He was moved out of the rotation in July and has been limited to long relief duties, as well as a few spot starts here and there.
"I think that my goal is to go to Spring Training next year and be the No. 1 guy, not just be one of the guys," Harrell said. "I want to be the guy they look at like they did the year before, when I was going out there and they thought we had a chance to win. I want to build that back. This offseason, I plan on living here and working out. That will be good. It will give me a chance to do a lot of stuf fin the community."
Last November, Harrell led the American Diabetes Association's Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes event at Minute Maid Park, walking with fans to raise money for research. His father was diagnosed with diabetes three years ago.
• Before talking about the Astros for the final time before a game Sunday, Porter took some time to address the reporters.
"It's my first year, and you guys made it seamless," Porter said. "I thank you guys. It's been a tough year for all of us, but I really appreciate your guys' professionalism and the way you went about your business."