Four years ago, the Houston Astros lost 111 games and finished a staggering 45 games out of first place. That’s a long hill to climb, but Houston knew it was in good hands. The team had recently hired Jeff Luhnow as general manager, and his blueprint for building a supertanker of a franchise included some lean years. The payoff, Luhnow said, would be worth the wait.
This season, the Astros won 101 games and finished a major league-best 21 games ahead of their closest division rival. Then they blasted through the playoffs and registered four thrilling victories over the Los Angeles Dodgers to claim their first world title in franchise history, fulfilling a prophecy along the way.
Jeff Luhnow was right all those years ago. This was worth it.
For a World Series rife with lead changes and extra-inning drama, Game 7 was surprisingly… conventional. For the Astros, that was a good thing. Houston hit the ground running, with George Springer ripping a loud double to left field to lead off the game. It was more of the usual for Springer, who was already well on his way to a record-breaking World Series. Springer came around to score, as did sophomore third baseman Alex Bregman, and the Astros had an early 2-0 lead.
The Dodgers matched Springer’s effort in the bottom half, as leadoff man Chris Taylor laced a double of his own. But Taylor was stranded at third base to end the inning, even after Astros starter Lance McCullers hit two Dodgers batters with errant pitches. That first inning escape act was an early sign that the ball was bouncing Houston’s way, and the trend never stopped. Springer came to the plate again in the second inning and connected for a two-run home run. One batter before, McCullers helped his own cause with an RBI groundout.
The five run lead was enough to chase Los Angeles starter Yu Darvish from the game, and even though the Astros couldn’t muster another run against an all-hands-on-deck LA bullpen that included ace Clayton Kershaw, Houston’s lead was never threatened. In the end, McCullers, Brad Peacock, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski, and Charlie Morton combined to allow one Dodger run on six hits while striking out nine and walking only two. Morton picked up the win by pitching four strong innings in relief—he ended the game with a 1.74 World Series ERA.
After the game, series MVP honors were awarded to Springer, whose five Fall Classic home runs tied an all-time record. He recorded a total of eight extra base hits and 29 total bases, both of which stand as new MLB records for a World Series. His two-run home run in the eleventh inning allowed the Astros to win Game 2; in Game 5, another clutch home run gave Houston a critical lead. In total, Springer batted .379 with a Herculean 1.471 OPS across the seven games. Springer’s feats are all the more impressive for the drought that preceded them—in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, the Houston outfielder batted only .115 with nary an extra base hit.
Now, Springer and the Astros are atop the world, and their historic 2017 team has earned its place in the annals of history. With the conclusion of the World Series, the baseball season is officially over, and teams across the league are turning their focus to 2018. The Astros will, too. But first, there’s one more celebration to be enjoyed.
On Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., the Astros will be joined by mayor Sylvester Turner, team mascot Orbit, and host of club officials for a victory parade downtown. The procession will start at Smith and Lamar and end with a celebration at city hall.
For a city that has endured much in 2017, Friday’s festivities promise a Texas-sized slice of joy.
Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan, Houston Astros