Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Houston Astros: 2017 World Series Champions



LOS ANGELES -- The Astros, just four years removed from the low point in their unprecedented rebuilding project, capped their remarkable turnaround with a franchise-defining victory, beating the Dodgers, 5-1, in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium to win their first championship.

Houston, which pulled out heart-stopping wins in Games 2 and 5, took some drama out of Game 7 when it built an early 5-0 lead, capped by George Springer's two-run homer off an ineffective Yu Darvish in the second. The Astros kept the Dodgers at bay with a steady stream of relievers to finish piecing together the biggest 27 outs in franchise history, including Charlie Morton inducing a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve for the game's final out.

"I got the last out for the Houston Astros becoming World champions," said Altuve. "It was a ground ball to me. I threw to first, and I think this is the happiest moment in my life in baseball."
Houston joined the 1985 Royals as the only teams to win two seven-game series in the same postseason.

The franchise that began play in the National League in 1962 -- and endured numerous playoff heartbreaks -- won its first World Series just four years removed from losing a franchise-record 111 games during an ambitious rebuilding project that netted several key contributors on this year's 101-win team.

"We had some rough years, but we stuck to our plan," said Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. "I want to thank ownership for supporting us the whole way and giving us the freedom to go out and get this group of players. We did it. We knew we had a plan that could get us here, and we got it. World championship."

After missing the postseason last year, the Astros stormed to their first American League West division title before knocking off the Red Sox in the AL Division Series and Yankees in the AL Championship Series, in which they rallied from a 3-2 series deficit. Beating the Dodgers, who won an MLB-best 104 games, in a hard-fought Fall Classic brought the city of Houston its first major sports title in 22 years.

"This is one of the best World Series of all time, and it's because of these players," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "These players ... never stopped, they never quit and they're always going to be called champions."

Three pitches into the game and Darvish was in trouble, as Series MVP Springer doubled into the left-field corner. A fourth pitch and Darvish trailed, as first baseman Cody Bellinger fielded Alex Bregman's bouncer in the hole and threw it behind a covering Darvish and into the Astros' dugout, putting Bregman at second. Bregman stole third on a slider in the dirt to Jose Altuve and then scored on Altuve's groundout.

Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. helped himself with the bat in the second inning. Brian McCann worked back from 0-2 to walk leading off, was doubled to third by Marwin Gonzalez and, with one out, McCullers bounced slowly enough to second base to allow McCann to score. Springer followed by crushing a 3-2 pitch, becoming the first player to homer in four consecutive games of the same World Series, to make it 5-0.

"This is a dream come true," said Springer. "It's an honor [to win Series MVP]. But you know what? It's about the Houston Astros tonight and our city and our fans. We're coming home a champion, Houston."

Darvish didn't survive the second inning for the second time in this World Series. The Astros tagged him for five runs (four earned) and three hits in 1 2/3 innings.

The Dodgers, appearing in the World Series for the first time since beating Oakland in 1988, used starters Clayton Kershaw (four scoreless innings) and Alex Wood (two scoreless innings) in relief and closer Kenley Jansen in the seventh inning trailing by four runs. The Dodgers' offense went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Clayton Kershaw throws four shutout innings in relief, striking out four and allowing only two hits

Escape artists: McCullers only lasted 2 1/3 innings, but he worked his way out of jams in the first and second innings. McCullers pitched around a leadoff double and a couple of hit-by-pitches to strand the bases loaded in the first, then escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the second with a double-play liner by Chris Taylor. McCullers allowed three hits, but hit a World Series-record four batters.

"I don't think you can put it into words what it means to the people of Houston," said McCullers. "We wear [the Houston Strong] patch and we wore it proudly. The people in Houston are never far from our minds. We know they're at Minute Maid watching, they're going crazy for us. … They deserve this as much as we do, man, and we're going to party hard."
Springer's biggest dinger: Springer changed the dynamic and tone of the game with his two-run homer off Darvish, which gave Houston a 5-0 lead. Springer belted five home runs in the World Series, and he set records for extra-base hits (eight) and total bases (29) in the Fall Classic.

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With neither starter getting the win, this is the first seven-game series (out of 39) in Fall Classic history in which starting pitchers recorded just two wins (Kershaw in Game 1 and McCullers in Game 3). As recently as 2011, we saw a seven-game series in which starters got three wins, and that has happened five other times (2002, 1979, '75, '72, '47).

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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