Tag Archive | Astros

Why Houston Reigns

The Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers gave us a classic World Series. These were the two best teams all year and they played like it in the Fall Classic. All baseball fans should be grateful for the series we got. It seems like they are, if the TV ratings are anything to go by. Ultimately, the Astros edged out the Dodgers in one of the best series we’ve ever had. How did they do it? Let’s take a look. 

Who are Yu?

Yu Darvish is one of the most talented pitchers in baseball. He’s been an All-Star, a Cy Young Award runner up, and a dominating force for the Texas Rangers. When he got traded to the Dodgers this summer, it signaled that LA was locking and loading for a postseason run. He started one game each in the NLDS against the Diamondbacks and the NLCS against the Cubs and won both. He looked good as the Dodgers lost only one game en route to the Fall Classic. So. Who wore his uniform in Games 3 and 7 of the World Series? 

Darvish looked AWFUL in his two starts against the Astros. He only went 1 & 2/3 innings in each start, for a total of 3 & 1/3 innings across two games. His ERA for the series was 21.60. He gave up nine runs, eight of them earned, nine hits, two home runs, walked two men, and struck out no one. Darvish did not show up on the biggest stage of his career. I hope the man gets another chance to pitch on a playoff team so he can turn this around. Because, sadly, Darvish deserves to be at the top of the list for blame for this series going poorly for LA. 

Dave Roberts’ Over-Managing

I love Dave Roberts. The man made the biggest play in Red Sox history, stealing 2nd base on Mariano Rivera in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. He helped to spark the greatest comeback in baseball history. He has also been a great manager since he took up the job with the Dodgers last season. He won the NL Manager of the Year award last year and led the Dodgers to the NLCS against the Cubs. After a slight retooling, the Dodgers won 104 games, the second most in franchise history and most in baseball. They won the division by 11 games over the Diamondbacks and lost only one game in the playoffs. Then the Fall Classic arrived and Roberts meddled a little too much. 

Game 2 is the worst example of this. Rich Hill started the game for LA and was dealing through four innings. He had only given up one run, three hits, struck out 7, and had only thrown 60 pitches. He had at least two more innings in his left arm. Yet for some reason, Roberts turned the game over to his bullpen from the 5th inning on. Hill responded appropriately. 

That decision to pull Hill put more stress on the bullpen to deliver against one of the best lineups in the game. And the gamble backfired. The Astros turned the game from a duel between Hill and Justin Verlander into an extra inning slugfest. That extra work Roberts put on his bullpen came back to haunt the Dodgers, as their relievers were not that sharp in Games 3 or 5 in Houston. I can’t look at that outcome and not think Roberts made a mistake with managing his staff. 

Houston Learned Clutch Play

The history of the Houston Astros is riddled with playoff disappointments. The 1980 and 1986 NLCS saw painful defeats to the Phillies and Mets respectively.

The late 90’s and early 2000’s saw the Astros reach the playoffs four out of five seasons and never make it out of the Division Series. They lost to the Braves and Padres in that those series.

2004 and 2005 were the glory years of the Stros. They played the NL Central rival St. Louis Cardinals in consecutive years for the Pennant. 2004 went a memorable seven games with the Cardinals edging out the Astros.

2005 was also an excellent series and the Astros finally broke through, winning the Pennant and reaching the World Series for the first time. They also closed out Busch Stadium in the process. Their first World Series trip went badly, as the Astros were swept by the Chicago White Sox. 

After that run, Houston fell on hard times. They did not make the playoffs for the rest of the decade. And after 2012, the Astros became the 2nd team to switch leagues, joining the American League’s West Division, to balance out the leagues at 15 teams a piece. In the AL, Houston struggled. They lost 111 games in their first year in the AL West, one of the worst records in the history of baseball. And yet, there were some positives to take. They picked up draft picks, drafted Carlos Correa and George Springer, picked up Jose Altuve, and built a title contender. They made the playoffs again in 2015 and held a 2 games to 1 lead over the Kansas City Royals and a 6-2 lead in the 8th inning of Game 4 in Minute Maid Park. They then choked the game away, giving up 7 runs over the final two innings and losing 9-6. The Stros then lost 7-2 in the final game of that series on the road. 

Going into the 2017 playoffs, the Astros had a franchise history of failure and recent slip ups. They had to stare down the best starter in the AL in Fenway in the ALDS and won in 4 games. They dueled the Yankees in a 7 game ALCS and won. And they had a legendary 7 game bout with the best team in baseball and made the defensive plays needed to win. They got the big hits, the timely pitching, and the playoff magic that has been absent from their franchise’s entire history. The Astros finally learned how to win. 

LA’s Game 7 Whimper

After all the mismanagement, Darvish disappointments, and Astros making big plays, the LA Dodgers had their fair share of offensive chances in Game 7. Clayton Kershaw pitched like his Hall of Fame self in relief, and the Dodgers had some chances to cut into the lead. Except they blew their chances. They left 10 men on base throughout the game and wasted prime offensive chances. After offensive outbursts throughout the series, Houston pitchers dodged bullets through the final game of the season and the Dodgers uncharictaristically went out quietly in the biggest game of the season. Give the Astros credit. They pitched their way into a Game 7 victory and earned the win. It was just surprising to see LA go so quietly after that series. 

All things considered, Baseball had a marvelous series. LA and Houston both had some goofs, but the teams entertained fans and I hope people become fans of this sport as a result of this series. Congratulations to the World Champion Houston Astros. Now begins the long offseason wait for pitchers and catchers to report to Spring Training. Only 103 days until February 13th! 

2017 World Series Preview

I’ve certainly had my share of baseball this year. I’m an avid Red Sox fan and went to many games at Fenway, most notably David Ortiz’s retirement game against the Angels in June. I called games at MIT and followed the North Carolina baseball team for my friends on the team. And I hosted baseball players for a championship season in Brewster for the Whitecaps. You’d think that’d be enough baseball, right? Not for me! 

I am excited for this year’s World Series! Not because of rooting interests, like last year for the Cubs, or any loyalty I have in a team, like with the Red Sox. No, I’m excited because this is a series between the two best teams in baseball. 

Houston led the AL for most of the year until Cleveland went on their crazy run of 22 straight wins. Even with that record, I thought Houston was a better team than Cleveland. Turns out they had enough to get by the Red Sox in 4 games and the Yankees in a strong 7 game series. Carlos Correa, George Springer, Evan Gattis, and MVP Candidate Jose Altuve lead one of the best lineups you’ll ever see. Altuve is also 5’6″ and has big home run power. He is awesome to watch and is enough to power a team on his own. The pitching is also deep, with 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock, and newly acquired Justin Verlander headline the starters. Verlander may be the most important. The former Cy Young winner and MVP of the league was the easy choice for MVP of the ALCS and looks like a new man after leaving Detroit. The bullpen is anchored by Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregorsom, and Will Harris. It’s a good bullpen that can do the job, but the pitching strength is the rotation. If the lineup is clicking and the rotation is strong, Houston won’t need to push their pen and will win the series. If they have to depend on their bullepen, they are in trouble. The lineup is strong from top to bottom and the starters look amazing. They deserve to be in the World Series. Their opponent does too, though. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers had a summer like no other. They went on a 52-9 stretch in the middle of the summer and looked like they’d set the record for most the season. Then they lost 11 in a row and panic set in. Then the Dodgers righted the ship and have dominated the playoffs. Neither Arizona or Chicago were close to LA in their playoff series. The Diamond backs were swept and the defending champion Cubs were outed in a rather easy five game victory. Justin Turner, Yadira Puig, Cody Bellinger, and Corey Seager have been bashing baseballs all season and leaving the dominant Dodger lineup. Their starting staff is anchored by certain Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, and newly acquired star Yu Darvish. Yu hasn’t looked as good for his new team as Berlander has, but the former Ranger is still a big piece. Kenley Jansen is the best reliever in these playoffs. Ross Stripling, Pedro Baez, and Josh Fields are no slouches, but this bullpen revolves around how great Kenley Janesn is. If he’s on, LA has a far superior bullpen. And I expect him to be on for the series. 

This is the most evenly matched series I’ve followed in my life. On paper at least. I know the sport has to be played to be understood, but I think we are in for a classic series this year. These are the best teams. They have awesome stories with Puig and Altuve, Verlander and Darvish, Hurricane Harvey and the Wildfires all surrounding this series. 

Who will win? I have no idea. This will be tightly contested and too close to predict. Who do I want to win? I don’t know. I like both teams and have no ill will towards either. I guess I am an American League guy, so I would like to see Houston win. But I’d be fine with either team winning. If I had to pick a team to win, I’d say it’s the Astros on account of their starting staff being hotter right now. But we have a series to sort out. Let’s go!