Houston, we have a celebration.
For the first time in franchise history the Astros are World Series champions. The Astros completed a remarkable season and an even more incredible journey that saw them start literally at the bottom in 2011, by defeating the Dodgers 5-1 in World Series Game 7 in Los Angeles.
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Let that sink in, Astros fans.
After enduring three straight 100-loss seasons at the peak of their rebuild from 2011-2013, a moment like this should have felt like an impossible dream. But the front office led by general manager Jeff Luhnow never lost confidence. The process never stopped. He knew he had the players and the resources to make this happen, and then the players went out and brought them the ultimate prize.
That speaks to the trust and belief that helped forge this team together, and allowed them to excel perhaps sooner than anyone expected. Well, except maybe Sports Illustrated.
The entire journey was filled with highs and lows. Now that all of those moments have been added together, the Houston Astros are on top of the baseball world.
If we could cover all of the moments, we would. We know how special this is to Houston. But allow us to at least present the 10 best moments from the Astros 2017 championship season.
In a classic World Series that saw the Astros and Dodgers engage in pitching duels, slugfests and record-breaking marathons, the Astros came out on top in Game 7. Behind MVP George Springer’s fifth home run in the series and a brilliant performance from their much-maligned bullpen, Houston clinched it in Los Angeles.
Of course, the game never felt as comfortable as the score might indicate. Not after Game 2 or Game 5. And certainly not with the Dodgers threatening by loading the bases twice in the early innings. Houston stood tall, holding the Dodgers to a dismal 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
And the man who took it home? It wasn’t Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel or Lance McCullers Jr. It wasn’t even closer Ken Giles. It was 33-year-old Charlie Morton who recorded the 12 biggest outs in franchise history.
Justin Verlander delivers over and over again
We’ve seen some big August trades before, but few have matched the impact Justin Verlander has had on Houston. In 11 appearances after the trade, including five starts and one relief appearance in the postseason, Houston only lost one game Verlander appeared in. That was Game 6 of the World Series, when he allowed two earned runs in six innings.
During that time, Verlander never allowed more than three runs in a single outing. He was their savior in Game 6 of the ALCS. Simply put, the Astros would not have won the World Series without him.
Jose Altuve hits three homers in ALDS Game 1
At this point we shouldn’t be surprised by anything Jose Altuve does. Despite his stature, the Astros second baseman has long proven himself to be among baseball’s best players. Still, we couldn’t help but be astonished when Altuve joined the likes of Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, George Brett and Albert Pujols as players to hit three home runs in a single postseason game.
Altuve accomplished that feat in Houston’s Game 1 victory against Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Altuve hit solo shots in the first and fifth, with both coming against Boston’s ace. Then he capped the historic day with another solo shot in the seventh. Overall, Altuve was extraordinary in the postseason, hitting .310.
Topping the Yankees in ALCS Game 7
The World Series almost didn’t happen for Houston. After upsetting the top-seeded Cleveland Indians in the first round, the New York Yankees took the Astros to the brink by winning Games 3, 4 and 5 at home. The Astros defended Minute Maid Park with the same ferocity, winning Games 1, 2, and 6. In Game 7, it was a masterful pitching performance from Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, and a perfect throw home from Alex Bregman that fueled a 4-0 win.
Home run barrage in World Series Game 2
In a World Series filled with huge moments, some of the the biggest for Houston happened in the final three innings of Game 2. The Astros were on the brink of falling behind 2-0 in the series when Marwin Gonzalez stunned Kenley Jansen with a ninth inning home run. One inning later, the Astros seemed to take control of the game when Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hit back-to-back home runs. After the Dodgers rallied to tie it themselves, it was George Springer who delivered the decisive blow, launching a two-run homer against Brandon McCarthy.
At the time, we could not have imagined a wilder World Series game, but this series was just getting started.
Alex Bregman’s walk-off single in World Series Game 5
The game that refused to end (not that anyone was complaining) finally did when Bregman bested Kenley Jansen with a walk-off single in the 10th inning. With pinch-runner Derek Fisher on second base, Bregman dropped a hit into short left field and then watched in anticipation with the rest of us as the moment played out at home. A good throw from Dodgers left fielder Andre Ethier may have gotten Fisher, but that throw was offline and the Astros celebrated a pivotal win.
Winning the AL West in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey
It was a foregone conclusion almost from early May, but clinching their first-ever AL West championship was still a special moment for the Astros. Especially being able to do it at home in a win against the Mariners on Sept. 17.
Even today the city is still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Harvey. Along the way the Astros have provided aid off the field, and at least some respite on the field by giving the city something to rally around. The division title was Houston’s first since moving to the AL. Their last came in 2001 when they were members of the NL Central.
The 11-run inning
The Astros hottest stretch of the regular season was an 11-game winning streak that bridged May and June. In the midst of that was an epic offensive inning that put anything we saw in the World Series to shame, and that’s saying something.
Trailing the Minnesota Twins 8-2 in the eighth inning, Houston erupted for 11 runs. The inning included eight hits, one walk, one hit-by-pitch, one balk, one replay review that actually didn’t go the Astros way. Oh, and there was a 10-minute rain delay in the middle of it too. Josh Reddick, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran all reached base twice in the inning, with Beltran’s three-run homer capping the rally.
George Springer’s unlikely home run feat
George Springer was in the middle of many of Houston’s biggest moments during the postseason. That was also true during the regular season.
Springer finished the season with 34 homers. Two of those came in back-to-back appearances, though probably not how you’re thinking. On April 5, Springer won a game against the Mariners with a walk-off homer in the 13th inning. One night later, he led off the first inning with another homer, making him the first player in 27 years to hit a walk-off and leadoff homer back-to-back.
The 100th win
Obviously, a World Series championship is the ultimate culmination of every baseball journey. But for an Astros franchise that spent half a decade rebuilding, another milestone had some special meaning.
On Sept. 30 in Boston, the Astros reached 100 wins for the first time in the franchise’s 56-year history. That alone is huge. Beyond that, this is a franchise that just four years ago completed its third straight season with 100-plus losses. The rebuilding plan and process was clear throughout, but to flip the script so emphatically is a remarkable accomplishment for everyone involved.
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