LOS ANGELES – From laughingstock to lift off.
George Springer and the Houston Astros rocketed to the top of the baseball galaxy Wednesday night, winning the first World Series championship in franchise history by romping past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7.
Playing for a city still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, and wearing an H Strong logo on their jerseys, the Astros brought home the prize that had eluded them since they started out in 1962 as the Colt .45s.
“I always believed that we could make it,” All-Star slugger Jose Altuve said. “We did this for them.”
For a series that was shaping up as an October classic, Game 7 quickly became a November clunker as Houston scored five runs in the first two innings off Yu Darvish. Hardly the excitement fans felt during the Cubs’ 10-inning thriller in Cleveland last fall.
Well, except for everyone wearing bright orange. Back in Houston, a huge crowd filled Minute Maid Park to cheer as fans watched on the big video board, and the train whistle wailed when it was over.
“We’re coming home a champion, Houston,” Springer said after accepting the World Series MVP trophy named this year for Willie Mays.
Star shortstop Carlos Correa turned the party into a proposal. After doing a TV interview, he got down on one knee and asked girlfriend Daniella Rodriguez, a former Miss Texas USA, to marry him.
“Yes?” he said, putting a ring on her finger as she cried.
Altuve, one of four carry-overs from a club that lost an embarrassing 111 times in 2013 after switching from the NL to the AL, and this collection of young stars silenced Dodger Stadium from the get-go, taking a 5-0 lead in the second inning. Altuve was in perfect position for the final out, a grounder by Corey Seager to the 168-cm second baseman.
“I caught the last out for the Houston Astros to become a world champion. It was a groundball to me, I threw to first, and I think it was the happiest moment of my life in baseball,” Altuve said.
The Astros streamed from the dugout and bullpen to go wild, tossing their gloves in the air.
On the other side, ace Clayton Kershaw and several Dodgers leaned against the railing in the dugout, watching the Astros celebrate. Los Angeles led the majors with 104 wins and a $240 million payroll, and rallied to win Game 6, yet it didn’t pay off for part-owner Magic Johnson and his team.
“Obviously, this one hurts,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And like I told the guys, when you put everything, every ounce of your being into something and you come up short, it hurts. And it’s supposed to hurt.”
Normally a starter, Charlie Morton finished up with four stellar innings of relief for the win.
“We held down a really tough lineup,” Morton said. “For my teammates, for the city of Houston, it’s just unbelievable.”
Springer led off the evening with a double against Darvish, and soon it was 2-0.
Springer hit his fifth homer — tying the Series mark set by Reggie Jackson and matched by Chase Utley — when he connected for a record fourth game in a row, making it a five-run lead.
That was plenty for Houston manager A.J. Hinch. He pulled starter Lance McCullers Jr. soon after the curveballer crazily plunked his fourth batter of the game, and began a parade of four relievers that held the lead as the unconventional Astros overcame a shaky postseason bullpen.
“I knew yesterday I didn’t have much,” McCullers said. “I knew I didn’t have much to give other than to gut it out as long as I could.”
Forever known for their space-age Astrodome, outlandish rainbow jerseys and a handful of heartbreaking playoff losses with stars like Nolan Ryan, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, these Astros will be remembered as champions, finally, in their 56th season.