WORLD SERIES GAME 2

Astros persevere, win Game 2 in extra innings to tie series with 7-6 win

George Springer's 11th inning home run gave the Astros a much-needed win. Harry How/Getty Images

The Astros have finally won their first-ever World Series Game and have tied the series 1-1, but it didn't come easy, nor the way anyone thought it would. Nonetheless, the Astros have stolen a game in Los Angeles to make it a best of five series with the next three at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The Astros made an amazing comeback to force extra innings, went ahead in extra innings, then allowed the Dodgers to tie the game in extra innings, but eventually pulled out the win in a home run filled Game 2 of the World Series that the Astros won 7-6 to even the World Series at a game apiece. Marwin Gonzalez tied the game in the ninth, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa gave the Astros the first lead in extras, but it was George Springer's two-run blast in the top of the eleventh that was the ultimate exclamation point on an incredible back-and-forth Game 2.

Game 2 started with a leadoff walk of George Springer by Rich Hill in the top of the first. Springer became the first stranded runner of the night, though, as Hill was able to get the next three batters out in order. In the bottom of the inning, Justin Verlander looked hot early getting two strikeouts and a popout to end the scoreless inning.

In the second, Hill and Verlander combined for an efficient, quiet inning. The two combined for four strikeouts in a six up, six down scoreless inning to keep the game tied going into the third.

Josh Reddick reached on an infield single to start the top of the third, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Verlander. Springer expanded on his first inning walk with a single to move Reddick to third. The Astros got on the board with an RBI single from Alex Bregman to make it 1-0 Astros and still had runners on first and second with one out. Hill battled back, though, getting two strikeouts to avoid any further damage. Verlander made quick work of the Dodgers in the bottom of the inning, retiring the side on 8 pitches to maintain the 1-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel worked a leadoff walk in the top of the fourth, then moved to second on a wild pitch. Hill was able to get the next two batters out, setting up an intentional walk of Reddick to face Verlander, whom he struck out on three pitches to end the half inning. Verlander faired much better on the mound than he did in the batter's box, working around a leadoff walk to get two groundouts including a double play to end the inning with the Astros still ahead 1-0.

Kenta Maeda took over pitching for the Dodgers in the top of the fifth, ending Hill's short night and despite a couple of loud fly balls towards the warning track, was able to get a 1-2-3 inning. Joc Pederson tied the game with a two-out solo homer to right field off Verlander, the first hit of the night for the Dodgers, in the bottom of the inning, making it a 1-1 game headed to the sixth.

Correa started the top of the sixth with a leadoff single off of Maeda but was left stranded after a foul out from Gurriel before Tony Watson came in from the bullpen and got a double play for the last two outs. In the bottom of the inning, Verlander issued a two-out walk to Chris Taylor in the bottom of the inning, then gave up a go-ahead two-run home run to Corey Seager to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead before Verlander was able to get the last out of the inning.

Ross Stripling was brought in to pitch against Gonzalez to start the seventh and walked him on four pitches. Next out for the Dodgers was Brandon Morrow who worked around a two-out pinch-hit single by Evan Gattis to get through the half inning. Will Harris entered the game for the Astros in the bottom of the inning, but an error by Bregman allowed Cody Bellinger to reach first. Bellinger moved to second on a wild pitch by Harris, but Harris bounced back to get out of the jam and keep the lead at 3-1 for the Dodgers going to the eighth.

Bregman led off the eighth with a hit to the right field corner which bounced off Yasiel Puig's glove and into the stands for a ground rule double. That prompted a call to the bullpen to bring out the Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen. Bregman moved to third on a ground ball by Altuve for the first out, then came around to score on an RBI single by Correa to make it a 3-2 game. Jansen followed that with a foul out and strikeout to end the Astros' threat. Joe Musgrove entered the game for the Astros in the bottom of the inning and was able to get a 1-2-3 inning to keep it a one-run game headed to the final inning.

Gonzalez came up huge for the Astros to lead off the ninth, hitting a solo home run to tie the game 3-3. Springer hit a two-out double but was left stranded as Jansen got Bregman to ground out to end the half inning. Ken Giles took the mound in the bottom of the ninth and despite a two-out fly out to the warning track by Cody Bellinger, was able to send the game to extra innings tied up at 3.

The Dodgers went to Josh Fields in the top of the tenth but he would crumble to the Astros' offense, allowing a leadoff go-ahead solo home run to Altuve, followed by another solo home run by Correa to put the Astros up 5-3. Yuli Gurriel was next and hit a double to center, prompting another call to the Dodgers' bullpen to bring in Tony Cingrani, who was able to stop the bleeding and end the top of the tenth. Giles allowed a leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning to Puig to make it a 5-4 game, then a two-out walk to Logan Forsythe. Forsythe advanced to second on a wild pitch from Giles, then would come around to score the tying run on an RBI single by Kike Hernandez, ending the night for Giles in favor of Chris Devenski. Devenski was able to get a flyout to finally get the last out of the tenth and send the game on to the eleventh.

In the top of the eleventh, Brandon McCarthy came out of the bullpen as the last Dodgers reliever available. Cameron Maybin, who came in to play center field in the tenth, hit a leadoff single then came around to score on a two-run homer from Springer to put the Astros ahead once again, this time 7-5. McCarthy was able to get the next three batters out to send the game to the bottom of the eleventh. Devenski returned for the bottom of the eleventh and despite a two-out homer by Charlie Culberson to bring the Dodgers yet again within one run at 7-6, was able to get the final out, finally, to seal the Astros' win.

Game 3: Both teams get a day off on Thursday before resuming play in Houston on Friday. First pitch of Game 3 is scheduled for 7:09 PMCentral Friday night and can be seen on FOX. The Astros will send out Lance McCullers who had a great start in New York in Game 4 of the ALCS then pitched four dominant innings of relief in Game 7 to clinch the AL pennant. The Astros will face a familiar face as the Dodgers send out Yu Darvish whom they acquired from the Rangers earlier this year. In Darvish's two starts against the Astros this year as a Ranger he was part of a 7-1 loss where he allowed three runs and also a 6-1 win where he allowed just one.

 

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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