WORLD SERIES GAME 7

ASTROS WIN THE WORLD SERIES!

Finally, the Astros are World Series champions. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Finally. After fifty-five years of waiting and after enduring and winning amazing postseason battles in the ALCS and World Series, the Houston Astros are the 2017 MLB Champions and have fulfilled their promise to be Houston Strong and make Houston proud.

The Astros jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in Game 7 and never looked back, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 and taking the World Series 4-3. George Springer highlighted the offense with a two-run home run in the second while Charlie Morton pitched four amazing innings of relief to finish the game and seal the amazing end to a magical season.

Springer led off Game 7 with a double into the left-field corner in the top of the first, then scored on an error by Cody Bellinger as he tried to throw out Alex Bregman at first on a ground ball intended to move Springer to third. Bregman advanced to second on the error, then stole third before scoring on an RBI groundout by Jose Altuve, putting the Astros up 2-0 early before Yu Darvish could end the half inning. In the bottom of the inning, Lance McCullers Jr. allowed a leadoff double to Chris Taylor, then loaded the bases after hitting Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig. He was able to leave all three stranded after a groundout to preserve the lead and end the first inning.

In the top of the second, Brian McCann worked a leadoff walk after being down 0-2 to Darvish, then moved to third on a double by Marwin Gonzalez. McCann would score on an RBI groundout from McCullers to extend the lead to 3-0. Springer was up next and continued his amazing World Series with a two-run homer to make it 5-0 Astros, and for the second time in this series end Darvish's night early. Brandon Morrow took over for the Dodgers and was able to get the third out. McCullers put runners on again after a leadoff single by Logan Forsythe and then a one-out walk to Kike Hernandez but was able to get out of the trouble with some excellent defense behind him including the inning-ending double play by Correa.

Already willing to bring out the big guns, the Dodgers brought out Clayton Kershaw in relief in the top of the third inning. Kershaw as able to get the first 1-2-3 inning for Los Angeles including a strikeout. McCullers once again got into a stressful situation in the bottom of the inning, allowing another leadoff hit before hitting Turner for the second time, putting runners on first and second with no outs. McCullers was able to get a strikeout for the first out before A.J. Hinch made the call to his bullpen, bringing in Brad Peacock. Peacock was able to get a flyout and strikeout to end the inning and strand two more Dodgers runners as the Astros took their 5-0 lead into the fourth.

Kershaw was able to get through another inning in the top of the fourth, working around a one-out single by Marwin Gonzalez with a groundout and flyout. Peacock continued to do well, retiring the Dodgers in order including a strikeout to keep the Astros' five-run advantage intact after four innings.

Kershaw continued to dominate in the top of the fifth, getting two strikeouts in another 1-2-3 inning. Peacock issued a one-out walk to Corey Seager then a single to Turner, putting runners on first and second and prompting A.J. Hinch to bring in Francisco Liriano to face the left-handed Bellinger. Bellinger grounded out for the second out, then Chris Devenski came in and got the final out of the inning to keep the Dodgers off the scoreboard.

Carlos Correa led off the sixth with a single, then advanced to second on a groundout by Yuli Gurriel, then third on a groundout by McCann, but was left stranded as Kershaw intentionally walked the next two batters before getting the pinch-hitting Cameron Maybin to pop out to keep the Astros from adding to their lead. Morton took the mound for Houston in the bottom of the inning and allowed a leadoff single and no-out walk. The Dodgers then got their first run of the night on an RBI single from Andre Ethier, making a 5-1 game. Morton bounced back from it getting a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.

Kenley Jansen was next on the mound for the Dodgers in the top of the seventh and worked around a two-out walk to Altuve to get through the half inning. Morton returned in the bottom of the inning and was able to get through the heart of the Dodger's lineup on just eleven pitches to send the game into the eighth.

Alex Wood was next out of the Dodger's bullpen and was able to throw a scoreless, hitless inning in the top of the eighth. Morton returned for another inning of work in the bottom of the inning and was able to get through it by retiring the Dodgers in order and putting the Astros three outs away from the trophy.

Wood continued on in the top of the ninth and had another 1-2-3 inning to send the game to the bottom of the ninth. Down to their last chance, the Dodgers were unable to get anything done against as Morton went on to retire the Dodgers down in order including a groundout to seal the deal and begin the celebration over five decades in the making. 

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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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