World Champion Houston Astros
World Champion Houston Astros
LOS ANGELES – Baseball was not always fun for the Houston Astros in 2017, yet it always remained motivational.
On Wednesday night, it never was more inspirational.
The Astros won Game 7 of the World Series, pushing aside the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 5-1 victory that was so simple, so complete that it belied the competitive nature of the matchup.
The city of Houston needed something it could sit back and enjoy, without having to fret and fuss first.
During a summer when Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area, the Astros first provided a distraction, then hope and now pride with their first World Series championship.
“I’ll tell a quick story about Jose (Altuve), who was separated from his family, as were a lot of guys,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Some were with their families, some weren’t. And Jose came up to me and said, ‘How long do we have to play like this, with our family back in Houston getting surrounded by water?’ They were safe but yet scared.”
Not long after the Wednesday game, an Astros fan waited in front of a Dodger Stadium elevator, tears flowing, sobbing quietly.
“We deserved this,” she said, no doubt talking about everything Houston went through.
In that context, playoff matchups against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and finally the Dodgers were far less intimidating. And the Houston Strong credo was something the Astros exemplified as well.
Perhaps nobody represented it better than George Springer, the World Series MVP who was struggling so much after Game 1 that questions were being raised about moving him from the leadoff spot.
Springer simply powered the Astros to the franchise’s first title, crushing a two-run home run in the second inning that gave his club a commanding 5-0 lead on the way to the victory.
“I remember my approach was to get something out over the plate, something I could drive,” Springer said. “I just remember swinging and hearing the sound off the bat, and I knew it was a good sound. I rounded third and got home, and that’s a crazy feeling. It’s a surreal feeling.”
In a World Series that saw back-and-forth battles nearly every game, only Houston got off and running in Game 7.
The Astros won their title in just their second World Series appearance, after falling short in 2005. The Dodgers have six titles but remain without a championship since 1988.
“It’s unbelievable and indescribable,” Springer said. “When you get to spring (training), you see who you have and there is always that thought of we could do it. But 162 games are a lot of games, and a lot of things have to go right to get here. Our team believed in each other all year.”
Springer tied a record for most home runs in one World Series with five, joining the New York Yankees’ Reggie Jackson (1977) and the Philadelphia Phillies’ Chase Utley (2009). He also became the first player to hit home runs in four consecutive games of the same World Series.
The Game 7 blast also gave Springer a record eight extra-base hits in a single World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ Willie Stargell (1979) previously held the record with seven.
“George, when he goes, we all go,” Hinch said. “I think you saw the rest of this series that when he gets going, it gets pretty scary, and he can do a lot of damage. He’s at the top of this lineup for a reason, and he sets the table for the guys at the top of the order.”
Springer’s home run Wednesday chased Dodgers starter Yu Darvish after just 1 2/3 innings. The Los Angeles right-hander gave up five runs (four earned) on three hits and a walk.
Darvish (0-2) recorded a total of just 10 outs during his World Series starts in Games 3 and 7.
“I didn’t make adjustments, or the stuff that I didn’t have hurt the team,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “But this pain is going to stay in me for a while. I’ve just got to learn from it and just go from there.
The Astros got things going early when Springer doubled to lead off the game. He scored when first baseman Cody Bellinger could not hit Darvish on a throw to first base after a ground ball from Alex Bregman. The Astros made it 2-0 when Bregman stole third and scored on a groundout by Altuve.
Just before Springer delivered his two-run blast, the Astros made it 3-0 when starting pitcher Lance McCullers grounded out to bring home a run. Springer then lifted a 3-2 fastball into the seats in center field.
Bellinger’s rough day was only starting with the errant throw. He also struck out in his first two at-bats to extend his consecutive strikeout streak to six plate appearances. He added a third strikeout to give him a record 29 whiffs in this postseason alone, breaking the record that the Yankees’ Aaron Judge held for all of 11 days.
“I was just overaggressive and didn’t make adjustments,” Bellinger said. “Hopefully it sticks with me until the next time we’re in the playoffs to know what I feel like right now. We have such a young and talented group here, I have no doubt in my mind that we’re going to get back.”
McCullers delivered 2 1/3 scoreless innings to open the game, but he was far from sharp, hitting four Dodgers batters, including Justin Turner twice. He was supported by four relievers out of the beleaguered Houston bullpen, although one of those relievers pressed into service was starter Charlie Morton.
The Astros’ bullpen entered with a 7.29 ERA after the first six games but had its day in Game 7, giving up just one run on three hits over the final 6 2/3 innings. Morton (1-0) earned the victory, allowing one run on two hits over the final four innings.
In one start and one relief appearance, Morton gave up just one run in 10 1/3 innings, offering his fair share to the cause.
“I think we were able to really keep in perspective what was going on in Houston,” Hinch said. “Baseball was important; we were chasing a pennant. This was a team that wanted to win the division. We’ve been knocked out of the division a couple of years in a row.
“We never lost perspective of what was important. You saw these guys at a community center on a day off. You saw these guys do good things for people as they started to rebuild the city. I think that is why the city fell in love with this team all over again and why we had that ‘Houston Strong’ strength that carried us a long way.”
Pinch hitter Andre Ethier drove in the Dodgers’ only run on a sixth-inning single off Morton. Ethier set a Dodgers record with his 51st appearance in a postseason game.
NOTES: Astros OF George Springer became the first player in World Series history to hit five home runs out of the leadoff spot, breaking a tie with Lenny Dykstra (1993). … Astros RHP Lance McCullers became the first pitcher pulled from a Game 7 start after 2 1/3 innings without allowing a run since the Yankees’ Don Larsen in 1958. … Dodgers CF Chris Taylor reached base in all seven World Series games and all 14 postseason games Los Angeles played. … In 318 career games, counting the postseason, Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw made just the seventh relief appearance of his career when he entered in the third inning of Game 7. He tossed four scoreless innings.
LOS ANGELES – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) -Even the winningest team in baseball is not immune to an off night, but for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it came at the worst time. Starting pitcher Yu Darvish gave up five runs in the first two innings, and the Dodgers’ offense could not take advantage of repeated opportunities to get back in the game. The result was a 5-1 loss to the Houston Astros in the deciding Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
Darvish lost for the second time in the Series, giving up five runs (four earned) in 1 2/3 innings. Even so, manager Dave Roberts said he did not consider starting someone else or removing Darvish before the pivotal at-bat of the game, George Springer’s two-out, two-run homer in the second.
Springer’s blast, his fifth homer in the Series, capped a three-run inning that staked Houston to a 5-0 lead. Darvish, acquired at the trade deadline, gave up nine runs (eight earned) in 3 1/3 innings of his two World Series starts.
“Yu has been one of our top three starters since we acquired him,” Roberts said. “And he had a bad one in Houston. But to think that we would start Alex (Wood) on short rest, something he’s never done … I think it’s unfair to Yu. There’s always going to be second-guessing. We felt good with Yu starting the game.
“The velocity, I thought he was right there. I thought he was going to really throw the baseball well. I just can’t explain the results. I really can’t.”
Springer doubled in the first inning when the Astros scored two runs, one unearned, but that and Marwin Gonzalez’s double to right-center field in the second were the only hard-hit balls off Darvish until Springer came around again.
“I understand it’s Game 7, but I just felt his stuff was good,” Roberts said.
Springer doubled off a slider in the first inning and homered on a fastball in the second, knocking Darvish out.
“It hurt the team,” Darvish said through an interpreter about his two starts. “But this pain is going to stay in me for a while. I’ve just got to learn from it and just go from there.”
The Dodgers had a chance to get back in the game early, putting seven runners on base in the first three innings. However, they were 0-for-7 with runners on base in that span, the Astros turning away one chance when Chris Taylor lined into a double play with runners on first and second to end the second inning.
Andre Ethier’s pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth inning made it 5-1, but it was Los Angeles’ only hit in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“They pitched really well,” said Dodgers Cody Bellinger, who was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. “They hit their spots and kept us off balance. When we did get runners on, we couldn’t come through. Once we tried to get a rally going, they shut the door on us. I think we were just a few hits away from breaking out. That’s just how it happens.”
Clayton Kershaw kept the Dodgers within striking distance by working four scoreless innings after entering in the third. He gave up two hits and two walks, both intentional, and had four strikeouts. He said starting Game 7 was never part of the plan.
“Looking back I feel fine, but I don’t think (starting) was anybody’s thought,” Kershaw said. “We had a pretty good plan from the outset of what we wanted to do. We were all ready to go. Unfortunate that it got kind of out of hand pretty quick there.
“We had gone through the scenarios. (Roberts) mentioned that if Yu had a short start there would be a chance to get in there early. But the plan was for me to be in there with the final nine outs of the game with Kenley (Jansen). But it was the other way.”
Jansen also pitched a scoreless inning in relief.
“We feel the pain and are motivated by the pain to get back here,” Jansen said. “We’re human. It breaks your heart. First of all, congrats to the Houston Astros. For us, it sucks. You can feel the disappointment. But we fought. We can’t hang our heads. It’s been a great season.”