THE PALLILOG

Looking ahead to what is next for the Astros from Charlie Pallilo

Sports Illustrated nailed it. Courtesy photo

The 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros.

I imagine most inclined to be reading this won’t get tired of hearing that title for, oh, all eternity. Earn It was the Astros’ regular season motto. Earn History was their postseason motto. Check and check. Here’s a hodge-podge of thoughts and facts in the exhaustively gleeful aftermath of the Astros finally scaling Baseball Everest.

Anyone still upset about their forced move to the American League?

So so many things about this team go into defining it as Houston’s first baseball champion. When the Astros went from awful to pretty much deliberately fielding an atrocity of a squad in 2012 and 2013, the point was to pour a rock-solid organizational foundation and build a sustained winner on top of it. For as bad as it got however, and despite as tough and to some extent random running the postseason gauntlet can be, it really demanded ultimate victory to justify the grand tear down and build up process. Four years after 111 losses, General Manager Jeff Luhnow is cemented as architect of the best and most successful team in 56 years of Major League Baseball in Houston.

What odds would you have given on the Astros winning the World Series with Jose Altuve batting under .200? The likely AL Most Valuable Player finished six for 31, that’s .194.

The slack was more than taken up by World Series MVP George Springer. From an 0-4 four strikeout mess of a Game 1 that bottomed out a 3-30 stretch to a World Series record-tying five homers, Springer the first player ever to homer in four consecutive games within one World Series.

Three-plus years ago when Sports Illustrated went with the famous (and widely mocked) cover story declaring the Houston Astros 2017 World Series Champs, it was George Springer featured on the cover. Writer Ben Reiter authored the article. His glory pales in comparison to what the Astros secured Wednesday night, but it’s one of the better called shots you’ll see in a magazine. Or anywhere else.

Along the Astros’ postseason path to the title they took out arguably the three biggest brands in the sport in the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers. They definitely defeated the three largest payrolls of 2017. Next year, the Astros roster will remain laughably (delightfully so for Jim Crane and his ownership partners) inexpensive relative to its quality. Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and Lance McCullers each play another season making basically the MLB minimum salary. The Astros hold a mere six million dollar option on Altuve -- gee, think they’ll exercise it? -- for 2018 (and then just six-and-a-half mil for ’19). Justin Verlander signed at two years just $40 million of Astros’ money is a tremendous value.

The Astros will not lose a single key player to free agency. Barring contract extensions signed in the meantime, after next season the Astros face losing Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, and Evan Gattis. That is nothing to worry about now. They have big league and prospect depth for Luhnow to aggressively seek to upgrade a bullpen which decayed from average to OHMIGOD NO! lousy for much of the postseason. The best offense in baseball could get better with the addition of a designated hitter who isn’t the weakest hitter in the lineup.

Champions face many obstacles to title defenses. In baseball the structure of the postseason is as big as any. The Indians, Yankees, and Red Sox should all be strong again next season, with a worthy National League champ waiting after that. But man this Astros club is built to last, and certainly goes into 2018 as the overwhelming favorite to repeat as champ of the American League West. Get back to the tournament, and there’s the chance to go back-to-back. Only twice in the last quarter century has it been done: the Blue Jays in ‘92/’93, and the Yankees three-peat of ’98-‘00.

An altogether meaningless stat, that I nevertheless find cool: in only one other World Series did the win sequence of home and road teams play out as did Astros-Dodgers ’17.  Home team won game one, road team took game two, home team game three, road team game four, home team game five, home team game six, road team game seven.  In another of the great World Series the Reds outlasted the Red Sox that way in 1975. In World Series seventh games the road team is now 20-19.

BUZZER BEATERS: 1. The day after the Astros win the World Series the Texans lose DeShaun Watson for the rest of the season. Life can be simultaneously beautiful and cruel.   2. The centerfield speaker tower at Dodger Stadium is the best sound system I have ever heard.   3. Best parades: Bronze, Rio’s Carnival looks fairly entertaining   Silver, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day   Gold, Astros today.

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Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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