Houston Astros win World Series, earn first ever title
It’s Game 7 of the World Series, the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The batter swings on the first pitch of the count, a groundball to the right. With an easy pass to first base to get the out, the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and are World Champions for the first time in their 56-year history.
The Fall Classic started slowly and quickly at the same time, a warmup, a tease to what was to come. A four-run doozy, Game 1 lasted only two hours and 28 minutes, one of the shortest World Series games ever. Game 2, at the time, seemed like the pinnacle of what a championships series between the two best teams in Major League Baseball (MLB) could be. The 11-inning contest boasted eight home runs from eight different players, four from each team. Games 3 and 4 evened the series at two games apiece and continued both teams’ great hitting.
But Game 5 was the game that captivated the world, the game that told people who didn’t even watch baseball that they should be watching baseball. A 25-run, home run extravaganza spanning 10 innings, Game 5 extended the excitement of Game 2. There were three three-run homers in two innings, and by the later innings, there was a constant feeling of “How can it get any better than this?” The game has been cited in the conversation of juiced balls and is already considered one of the best World Series games ever. After the insanity of Game 5, Game 6 brought the series back to earth, another four-run game to the Dodgers.
With all the twists and turns of the series, the errors and home runs, the wild pitches and endless calling to the bullpen, the relative mundaneness of Game 7 should have been just what we expected, because of its unpredictability. After late-inning game-tying runs and the loud whacks of the bat, it seems fitting that baseball’s best offense got all five of its game-winning runs in the first two innings.
For the Astros, everyone, from the team’s stars to the underrated signees, had their chance to help the team. World Series MVP George Springer opened the game with a double and capped off an amazing series with his fifth homer of the series. The American League batting leader and probable MVP José Altuve drove in a run off a groundout. But in the end, for a team with two Cy Young Award pitchers, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, the winning pitcher was the journeyman and oft-injured Charlie Morton, whose signing after last season raised some eyebrows. In his first relief pitching since 2008, Morton smothered the Dodgers offense for the final four innings in the biggest game of his career.
For the Dodgers, starting pitcher Yu Darvish laid his second egg of the series, not lasting the second inning and giving up all five of the Astros’ runs. Ace Clayton Kershaw pitched for the last time in a Cy Young Award-worthy year for four scoreless innings in relief. The only candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, Cody Bellinger, who hit 39 home runs during the season, set the single postseason record for strikeouts with 29, 17 in the World Series, another record.
The Dodgers had many chances to climb out of the five-run hole they fell into in the second inning but left ten players on base. Nevertheless, the series should be less about how the Dodgers lost and more about how the Astros won. The teams could not be more different. The Dodgers, with the highest payroll in the MLB, have a storied history with franchise Hall of Famers and multiple championships and won their division this year for the fifth straight time. In the last five years, the Astros have rocketed from the absolute bottom of the league to the top, winning only their second pennant, and their first championship.
As Morton retired the final three batters in the ninth inning, it almost seemed like destiny that the Astros would fulfill that crazy Sports Illustrated prediction from 2014.
The publication had proclaimed that Houston would win the one year that their city needed it the most, and boy did the Astros need it most this year.
Nine weeks after Hurricane Harvey swept through Houston, devastating everything from the streets to the people’s homes, the Astros have given the people something to cheer about, a welcome distraction from the trials of reality. This World Series and the Astros’ win are things that everyone, from Dodgers faithful to clueless fair-weather fans, can enjoy. This is what sports are all about.