Posted on November 2, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros World Series

Image via chron.com

For the first time in franchise history, the Houston Astros are World Series champions. With a 5-1 win over the Dodgers in a decisive Game 7 Wednesday night, the Astros delivered a long-awaited championship to a city still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey earlier this fall.

“It’s hard to draw it up any better,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “I don’t care who we beat or where we beat them, I just want to be the last team standing, and we’re taking this trophy, this championship vibe we’ve got going back to Houston. We’ll forever be a championship city.”

Game 7 itself was rather anticlimactic considering the twists and turns that filled the entire series. Just as they did in Game 3, the Astros jumped on Los Angeles starter Yu Darvish early in the game. By the end of the 2nd inning, Houston had built a 5-0 lead that would hold up.

Meanwhile, Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. pitched himself into trouble during the first two innings. But despite lacking his best stuff, McCullers managed to get himself out of trouble. But sensing that it was just a matter of time until McCullers gave up a big hit, Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled him after 2.1 innings.

It was a risky move putting the game in the hands of Houston’s bullpen, which has been unreliable for much of the postseason. But Brad Peacock delivered two scoreless innings and Charlie Morton pitched the final four innings. Morton gave up a run in the 6th inning, but otherwise cruised through the final innings and was named the winning pitcher in Game 7.

“Our team believed in each other all year,” said George Springer, who was named World Series MVP. “Through the good times and the bad times, through a rough stretch in August, to getting down 3-2 against a very good New York team (in the ALCS), there’s a lot of things that happened. I’m so happy to be a part of it to bring a championship back to a city that desperately needed one. It is a surreal feeling.”

With Springer hitting .379 with five home runs, even after going 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in Game 1, he was the obvious choice for MVP. Time after time, he was the catalyst that sparked Houston’s offense. That includes Game 7 when he led off the game with a double, ultimately scoring the first run of the game. One inning later, he hit a 2-run home run off Darvish to help knock him out of the game.

“George, as (the leadoff hitter), when he goes, we all go,” said Hinch. “I think that was seen the rest of the Series; when he got going, it gets pretty scary. He can do a ton of damage. He’s at the top of the lineup for a reason.”

Springer’s five home runs tied the record for long balls in one home run. He also set a new record with 29 total bases in a single World Series. By winning MVP, Springer now has a trophy that bears the name of his childhood idol, Willie Mays.

“I used to go in the backyard with my dad and he would hit me fly balls and I’d pretend to be him,” Springer said. “I would pretend to be Willie Mays. And to earn this is great. It’s an honor. But it’s not about me. It’s about the team and what the team has done tonight.”

Houston’s championship was the culmination of a four-year rebuilding process after the Astros lost over 100 games in three straight seasons from 2011 to 2013. Since then, the Astros have slowly added young talent to the organization. Sensing they were close to competing for a championship, the Astros were more aggressive in making signings and trades over the last year. The addition of Justin Verlander at the end of August was arguably the last piece of the puzzle that put them over the top.

“I believed in what Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane used to talk to me, ‘Hey, we’re going to be good. We’re going to be good,’” Jose Altuve said of the team’s rebuilding process. “Then OK, let me keep working hard. Let me get better every year and try to be part of the winning team. I always believed that we’re going to become good. Then I saw Springer get drafted, (Carlos) Correa and (Alex) Bregman, and I was like, ‘OK, here we go.'”

Even amidst the raucous postgame celebration, the Astros are already thinking about their chances of repeating as World Series champions next year.

“You look around this ballclub and we’re going to be coming into Spring Training next February with most of the guys here, so really good chance of defending it,” said Josh Reddick. “I think we all realize that trophy could stay in Houston for a few years”

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