No apologies needed as amazing Astros crash the World Series: 'We spoiled the party'
HOUSTON – In reaching the World Series for just the second time in their 56-year history, the Houston Astros set up the first championship matchup pitting two 100-game-winning teams since 1970.
That seems appealing enough, except there’s virtually no history between the Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, who have never met in the Fall Classic and only once before in the postseason. So there won’t be any history to hash over, no old scores to settle between teams that used to share a city, as would have been the case if the Dodgers faced the New York Yankees in the World Series for a 12th time.
Baseball will just have to settle for a clash of the best clubs in their respective leagues.
The Astros made sure of that by dispatching the Yankees 4-0 in Saturday’s Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, and they couldn’t care less what the suits think.
“We know Major League Baseball wanted the Yankees and Dodgers,’’ said Dallas Keuchel, who will start Game 1 for Houston. “There was no bones about it. We kind of spoiled the party for them. We’re happy to do that.’’
Casual fans who were not paying close attention will find the Astros are quite the compelling team, built around young stars like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa and supported by veterans like Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, who provide stability in wobbly times.
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The Yankees will attest to that after outscoring Houston 19-5 in sweeping the middle three games of the series in New York to get to the brink of their 41st pennant, only to have it yanked away by a combination of Houston’s superb starting pitching, excellent fielding and newly reawakened offense.
The Astros scored nine runs in the first five games and lugged a .147 batting average into Minute Maid Park for the weekend, but scored 11 runs in the final two games while holding the Yankees to one.
Brian McCann, who started the series 0-for-11, drove in three runs with two clutch doubles in the final two games while Altuve had two home runs and four RBI.
“I said before the series started, this team is built for a seven-game series because somebody different can step up every night offensively,’’ general manager Jeff Luhnow said after the trophy presentation. “Tonight it was (Evan) Gattis and McCann, Altuve. Other nights it’s been Correa. (George) Springer’s going to have his nights, hopefully in the next week or so. We don’t have to rely on one or two guys. The ninth hitter can do damage.’’
And yet, it wasn’t the regular season’s most prolific offense that won the series for Houston.
Ace right-hander Justin Verlander was rightfully awarded the MVP award after shackling the Yankees over two starts, giving up one run in 16 innings and delivering a huge performance that allowed the Astros to regain momentum and confidence with a 7-1 victory in Game 6.
In the clincher, it was journeyman right-hander Charlie Morton notching the first postseason victory of his career, throwing five innings of two-hit ball and combining with Lance McCullers to whitewash the Yankees. McCullers, who had only once come out of the bullpen in the majors, gave up one hit over the last four innings to record his first save at a most opportune time.
Both Morton and Verlander benefited from terrific leaping catches against the fence by center fielder Springer, who batted just .115 in the series but thwarted New York scoring opportunities the last two nights.
Yet the biggest play of Game 7 was turned in by third baseman Alex Bregman, who had the gumption to throw home to preserve a 1-0 lead in the fifth. Fielding Todd Frazier’s slow tapper with runners on first and third and one out, Bregman fired a BB that hit catcher McCann’s mitt just inches off the ground as Greg Bird slid into the out.
It was a play most players in Bregman’s position wouldn’t attempt, let alone a converted shortstop who just concluded his first full season in the majors, and it exemplified the Astros’ resourcefulness.
“This team as a whole can win baseball games in so many different ways, and I think we showed so many of those different aspects in just this series,’’ Verlander said. “In seven games I think we showed we can win with pitching, hitting, defense, we can win with base running. There's just so many facets to this team that -- you don't win 100-plus games by accident throughout the season. You have to find different ways to win a ballgame.’’
The Dodgers, and perhaps much of the country, are about to learn the Astros are quite capable of doing that.
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