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.”
HOUSTON — After working in tandem to splendid results earlier in the evening, Astros right-handers Lance McCullers and Brad Peacock shared a podium late Friday night and reveled in their moment together.
They were thrilled after having thrived before an extensive gathering of friends and family and elated to be reliving their co-authoring of a landmark victory in franchise annals.
After McCullers wobbled but held firm to a lead that came courtesy of a four-run second inning, he handed the ball to Peacock, who breezed to the finish of the Houston’s 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros grabbed a 2-1 series lead with their first-ever World Series home win. Game 4 is set for Saturday night.
After allowing two inherited baserunners to score in the sixth, Peacock shackled the Dodgers for the duration of the game, allowing just one baserunner — a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Andre Ethier in the seventh — while working 3 2/3 hitless innings for his first postseason save.
“After the eighth (Astros manager) A.J. (Hinch) asked me if I felt good and I said, ‘Yeah,'” said Peacock, who had an 8.44 ERA this postseason. “He said, ‘Alright, you’re going back out.’ I was shocked, but I was glad he gave me the opportunity to do that. It was a lot of fun out there for sure.”
McCullers (1-0) labored and allowed three runs, four hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings, escaping the top of the third with just one run on his ledger courtesy of a 3-6-1 double play off the bat of Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager after walking the bases loaded to open the inning.
McCullers pitched with a bit of wiggle room after the Astros erupted and secured a 4-0 lead against Dodgers right-hander Yu Darvish (0-1) a half-inning earlier. That support proved vital.
“I didn’t have much tonight from the get-go,” McCullers said. “I was not really able to locate pretty much anything. So the third inning I just wasn’t making my pitches. After a big four-run inning, you don’t want to change you approach … because that’s the easiest way to get in trouble. I stuck with mine and I just didn’t land pitches. I just wasn’t executing at that time.
“I did the best that I could for as long as I could until P came in and pitched absolutely unbelievably.”
Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel ignited the onslaught with a homer and finished 2-for-5, one of three Astros to produce a multi-hit game. Houston, however, stranded 12 baserunners.
It was a nightmarish outing for Darvish, who dominated in his lone regular-season appearance at Minute Maid Park and was victorious on the road at Arizona and Chicago in the postseason.
From the onset, the Astros were on top of Darvish, starting with George Springer and his opposite-field leadoff double in the first inning. Darvish survived that inning unscathed but wasn’t so fortunate in the second when the Astros unleashed a barrage of hard-hit balls.
The first five batters of the second reached base safely for Houston, starting with the Gurriel leadoff homer to left. Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann later added run-scoring singles and, when Jose Altuve doubled with two outs, Darvish was yanked after recording only five outs.
Darvish produced just one swing and miss among his 49 pitches. He allowed six batted balls with exit velocities of 100-plus mph and saddled the Dodgers with a deficit they couldn’t erase.
“The fastball command wasn’t there, and the slider was backing up,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So he just really didn’t have the feel and couldn’t get any type of rhythm going.
“They were taking good swings, obviously taking good at-bats against him. But it just goes to the fastball command and the breaking ball just wasn’t there tonight.”
NOTES: Astros 1B Yuli Gurriel was caught by television cameras making a racist gesture mocking Japanese-born Dodgers RHP Yu Darvish after Gurriel homered off Darvish to open the second inning. “I didn’t mean to offend anybody,” said Gurriel, a Cuban who played professionally in Japan. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred plans to speak with Gurriel on Saturday. “No one is perfect,” Darvish said. “That includes both you and I. What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant step for mankind.”… Despite posting an OPS of .499 against right-handed pitchers this season, Dodgers LF Enrique Hernandez was in the starting lineup. Hernandez delivered a key RBI single against Astros RHP Ken Giles in Game 2. He was initially the designated hitter before flipping positions with Joc Pederson, and finished 0-for-1 with a walk before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh. … In line with the quality of his at-bats, Astros 3B Alex Bregman hit second in the order, a spot normally reserved for left-handed-hitting RF Josh Reddick against right-handers. Bregman carried a four-game hitting streak into Game 3, with a slash line of .294/.333/.588 and four RBIs over that span. He finished 0-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in Game 3.
LOS ANGELES — The Houston Astros had every reason to lose trust in George Springer. They had every reason to feel doom trailing in the late innings against perhaps the best closer in baseball.
Call this Houston team a testament to faith as it stayed the course Wednesday, rallied to force extra innings and ultimately evened the World Series with a wild 7-6 victory in 11 innings over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Springer’s two-run home run in the top of the 11th inning off Brandon McCarthy (0-1) proved to be the game-winner.
It was a dramatic Game 2 as the teams combined to score nine of the 13 total runs from the eighth inning on, with seven runs in extra innings. Six home runs were hit from the ninth inning on, with five coming in extra innings.
Los Angeles’ Charlie Culberson made it close with a solo home run off Astros right-hander Chris Devenski in the bottom of the 11th, but Devenski (1-0) struck out Yasiel Puig to end it.
Springer’s key blast came one night after he struck out four times in Game 1. Before Game 2, Astros manager A.J. Hinch insisted that Springer was fine and that he was not removing his star from the leadoff spot. The home run was one of Springer’s three hits.
“For him to have my back and say that, ‘Hey, you’re still going to hit first, and you’re still going to set the tone for us,’ it slowed me down,” Springer said. “It meant the world to me, and I will always have his back. That just shows who he is.”
Trust goes a long way, and a trust in the process is what the Astros appeared to have despite being down 3-1 in the eighth inning against a Dodgers bullpen that had appeared invincible in the postseason.
In the eighth inning, Alex Bregman hit a leadoff double against Brandon Morrow that just tipped off the glove of Puig in right. One out later, Correa delivered an RBI single off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to get Houston within a run. The hit ended the Los Angeles bullpen’s playoff-record 28 consecutive postseason innings without giving up a run.
Marwin Gonzalez homered off Jansen leading off the ninth to tie it 3-3.
The dramatics were only getting started.
In the 10th, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa both went deep against Los Angeles right-hander Josh Fields, who failed to record an out. The Dodgers scored their two runs in the 10th off Astros closer Ken Giles when Puig hit a home run and Enrique Hernandez delivered a two-out RBI single.
“That’s an incredible game on so any levels, so many ranges of emotion,” Hinch said. “If you like October baseball, if you like any kind of baseball, that’s one of the most incredible games you’ll ever be a part of.”
Springer’s home run came on a 2-1 slider from McCarthy, who was making his World Series debut.
The series shifts Friday to Houston, which will be the site of the next three games.
The victory was the Astros’ first in the World Series in six tries. They were swept in 2005 by the Chicago White Sox and lost Game 1 to the Dodgers 3-1 on Tuesday.
Jansen had never blown a save attempt in 12 previous postseason tries. Called on for the six-out save, he wobbled just enough for the Astros to pounce. The Dodgers had not lost a game all season when they led in the ninth inning, although they had twice been tied only to rally back for the victory.
“Honestly, it was an exciting baseball game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It was an emotional roller coaster. There were some big plays defensively, some big pitches made and obviously some big hits, some big homers.
“Our focus was there and the guys were playing hard … on both sides. Unfortunately, we came up short. We didn’t expect these guys to lay down.”
Coreg Seager gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead when he hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning off Astros starter Justin Verlander. It was one of two hits Verlander allowed over six innings, but both were home runs.
Verlander was seen in the late innings coming in and out of the dugout to offer inspiration to his teammates.
“For everything to be going right tonight for the Dodgers, leading late with their bullpen, and for us to come back and win that game, that’s a game-changer, that’s huge,” Verlander said. “That’s why I love this team. There is no quit. Top to bottom in the lineup, anybody can win a game at any time.”
Dodgers starter Rich Hill went only four innings, throwing 60 pitches in the process. He gave up a run on three third-inning hits while striking out seven. Former starter Kenta Maeda followed Hill with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Dodgers then went to left-hander Tony Watson and right-hander Ross Stripling (one batter each) before Morrow handed it off to Jansen.
Joc Pederson, a surprise starter in left field for the Dodgers, not only tied the game with one swing in the fifth inning, but he also delivered the first hit off Verlander. Pederson had played only four games in left field this season and six games there in his entire four-year career.
The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the opening inning on an RBI single from Bregman.
Of the previous 58 times the World Series was tied 1-1, the winner of Game 2 captured the title on 30 occasions.
“I almost fainted, I think, three times. I’m not joking,” Verlander said about the epic back-and-forth affair. “I was cheering so loudly, I had to take a minute to recompose myself so I didn’t pass out.”
NOTES: Before Game 2, Astros 2B Jose Altuve was named the AL’s winner of the Hank Aaron Award as the most outstanding offensive player in his league. The NL Hank Aaron Award went to Marlins OF Giancarlo Stanton. … Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced his upcoming starters, saying RHP Lance McCullers would get the ball in Game 3 and RHP Charlie Morton would start in Game 4. … The Dodgers have already lined up their rotation for Houston, with RHP Yu Darvish pitching in Game 3 and LHP Alex Wood getting the ball in Game 4. … Dodgers OF Joc Pederson has two postseason home runs, his game-tying shot in Game 2 on Wednesday and one in the Dodgers’ Game 5 clincher of the NL Division Series last season at Washington.