If the Houston Astros had plenty on their minds — and the weight of history on their backs — it hardly seemed like a burden when they arrived at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.A franchise that hadn’t won a championship since joining the major leagues in 1962 faced the daunting task of playing Game 7 of the World Series in front of a boisterous crowd supporting the Dodgers.
But the Astros appeared oddly at ease. Manager A. J. Hinch kept his pregame news conference light, shortstop Carlos Correa and second baseman Jose Altuve lounged on the grass as they awaited batting practice, and the scene inside the clubhouse was reassuring: Music played, game plans were reviewed and no one was staring into his locker.“I was thinking, well, let’s see how everyone looks,” said Carlos Beltran, one of the veteran leaders. “If I feel like we’re tight, we might need to say something.”
The Astros, playing coolly and confidently from the first pitch, got some big offensive contributions early from their leadoff hitter, George Springer, and used five pitchers to hold off the Dodgers for a 5-1 victory that had little of the drama that had defined the rest of the Series.
Springer, who was named the most valuable player of the Series, began Game 7 with a double and hit a two-run homer in his next at-bat to help stake the Astros to a 5-0 lead in the second inning. It was Springer’s fifth home run of the Series, tying a record, and he also became the first player to hit homers in four consecutive games in the same World Series.
Lance McCullers Jr., Brad Peacock, Francisco Liriano and Chris Devenski combined to thwart the Dodgers’ hitters through the first five innings before Charlie Morton, normally a starter, pitched the final four.
And when Morton retired Corey Seager on a grounder to second for the final out, the Astros sprinted out of the dugout and the bullpen and mobbed one another on the infield as catcher Brian McCann jumped into Morton’s arms.
“I have faith that things work out,” said Morton, who threw only 17 innings for Philadelphia last season, “but if you would have told me that, I would have laughed. I’ve never even come close to something like that. I’m fortunate to be here. It’s unreal.”
If the Astros played with a collective calm on Wednesday night, perhaps it was because their resolve had been tested so frequently, not just on the field but off it, as well. In late August, they returned home from a road trip to find Houston devastated by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
In the postseason, they had to win Games 6 and 7 at home to survive the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. And in this Series they rallied for two epic comeback victories, winning both Game 2 and Game 5 in extra innings with a barrage of home runs.And in Game 7, they prevailed the way they often had in the playoffs — with solid pitching, sufficient hitting and airtight baseball.
The Astros’ defense, with few exceptions, was bold and brilliant during the postseason. They threw out four runners at home plate and forced out one more. Game 7 was no exception, with third baseman Alex Bregman diving to take a hit away from Austin Barnes and Springer racing into the right-center gap, and wheeling and firing to second to force Seager to retreat to first.
First baseman Cody Bellinger threw behind pitcher Yu Darvish, who was covering first base, allowing Springer to score the game’s first run from second base. The Astros pushed two more runs home on groundouts to the right side that the Dodgers played conservatively, putting Los Angeles in a 3-0 hole. Then, in the second inning, Springer belted a 3-2 fastball from Darvish deep into the left-field pavilion.
“I just remember swinging and hearing the sound of the bat and I knew it was a good sound, and then I saw the flight of the ball,” Springer said. “I got to first base and I rounded third and got home, and that’s a crazy feeling. It’s a very surreal feeling because this is Game 7. This is what you dream of as a kid and for that to happen is indescribable.”
The Dodgers’ winter of regret began even before Game 7. Their closer, Kenley Jansen, who was dominant throughout the season, could not hold a 3-1 lead in Game 2 and was beaten in Game 5. Clayton Kershaw, considered the best pitcher in baseball, throttled the Astros in Game 1 and threw four scoreless innings of relief on Wednesday night, but he could not hold leads of 4-0 and 7-4 in Game 5.
Darvish also had an opportunity to bounce back from a dreadful start in Game 3 and take his retribution against Yuli Gurriel, the Astros’ first baseman who had mocked Darvish during that game by making an offensive gesture after hitting a home run off him. But he lasted just five outs — the same as he did in Game 3.For the Dodgers, some of whom lingered in the dugout after the last out, the final scene was as painful as it was joyful for the Astros — the visitors enjoying a Hollywood ending.