THE PALLILOG

The scene at Chavez Ravine is one that won't soon be forgotten

Jose Altuve came up huge. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If you could pick one sporting event in your lifetime that you could re-experience as if it was happening for the first time, what would you pick?

For Rockets’ fans, the game seven win over the Knicks for Clutch City title No. 1 would have to be No. 1. Among Texas Longhorn fans the vote winner would certainly be the BCS Championship win over USC. As a Syracuse alum, SU winning the NCAA basketball championship over Kansas in 2003 is tops for me.

Many. many Astros probably had their “oh to experience that again” game Wednesday night. The Astros don’t yet have a World Series Champion flag to fly, but their game two win over the Dodgers was the most dramatic and significant win in Astros’ history. Their first ever win of a World Series game came in an absolute epic. I am aware of the risk of recency bias. Nevertheless, Astros-Dodgers was the most amazing baseball game I have ever attended, perhaps the most amazing that I have ever watched.

Some might opt for the 18 inning Division Series winner over the Braves in 2005. That was amazing, too. The Astros trailed 6-1 in the 8th before a Lance Berkman grand slam gave them hope, then Brad Ausmus (of all people) tied it with a homer with two out in the bottom of the 9th. Both blasts as prelude to Chris Burke’s game winning homer in the bottom of the 18th.  It was glorious stuff, but it was the Division Series, not the World Series.

The number of Wow! moments that happened in L.A. in game 2 was flat out stunning. The Dodgers rendered Justin Verlander a pitching mortal. An awesome mortal, but mortal. When Corey Seager belted a 97 mile per hour Verlander fastball for a 2-run homer giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 6th, it felt for a moment like the season died. It stayed 3-1 into the 8th. The Astros halved their deficit in the 8th, but in the 9th they had to contend with Dodger closer Kenley Jansen—merely the best in the game, and darn near perfect this season: 46 save opportunities, 45 saves converted.

Having had the privilege of being in Chavez Ravine for the games, I can tell you that when Jansen comes out of the bullpen a brief de facto concert breaks out. Jansen’s entry music is the 90s hip-hop classic California Love. The roar that goes up could make one think that Tupac himself was coming out of the pen. Dr. Dre actually was in attendance.

When Jansen enters the fray, Dodger fans reasonably presume victory is assured. Oh well. Marwin Gonzalez had been near catatonic offensively this postseason, a paltry six hits in 42 at bats.  Gonzalez had already struck out twice in the game, and quickly fell behind 0-2 vs. Jansen. But instead of strike three, Gonzalez struck a blow for Astro annals, a blast not too far left of dead centerfield. Like that the game was tied. The stunning moment pace accelerated from there.

In the top of the 10th Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa showed the baseball world why that with longevity together they truly have a chance to wind up the greatest middle infield combo in history. Back-to-back Altuve and Correa blasts (off of former Astro Josh Fields) gave the Astros a two run lead. Euphoria reigned in the Astros dugout. But then Ken Giles happened. He simply blew it more then he choked, but Giles now has to deal with some of the demons that basically ruined Brad Lidge’s Astro career.  A homer, a walk, a wild pitch, and a base hit, and the lead was lost. The game however was not, so in the top of the 11th George Springer capped a fabulous night at the plate (bursting out of his own 3-30 offensive catatonia) with a 2-run homer to right-centerfield. Chris Devenski teetered bigtime in the bottom of the 11th, two line drives and a homer before finally ending it with a strikeout of Yasiel Puig. With a little imagination I could hear the deep exhaling all the way from Houston.

It was fours and 19 minutes of relentless intensity, pressure, ebb and flow, and in the end for the Astros an almost desperately needed victory. This is why we love sports. At their best very little else in life gets our juices flowing the same way. So now for three nights the last weekend of October 2017, Minute Maid Park in Houston Texas is the best place on earth to be.

Buzzer Beaters: 1. It is very lame how far Houston remains behind most U.S. major cities re: light rail   2. Best Halloween candy: Gold-Milky Way  Silver-Three Musketeers  Bronze-Smarties   3. Best sports movie line ever: Roy Hobbs in The Natural: “God, I love baseball.”

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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