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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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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