The upcoming World Series matchup between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves will be the subject of the next post from your loyal writer.
Today will be looking back at the heroes of the six-game ALCS victory over the Boston Red Sox. This series win was like a total flip over from the last time these two teams met in the postseason in the 2018 ALCS. That time, the Astros got up 1-0 and then seemed to have every call, odd play, and break work against them in a 4 game run by the Sox. This time around, the Red Sox got up 2-1 and then went down in three straight games as the Astros took close games and put them out of reach late.
- Johnnie B. (Dusty) Baker has taken heat over much of his decision making during the regular season. His lineup changes, his resting of players, his pitching choices and his calm demeanor (hey, at 72 years old most of us are or will be calm or sedentary). But he kept his troops together in their darkest hour, entering Game 4 of the series with a 2-1 deficit on the road and no starting pitching bullets for his gun. He guided them through a brilliant bullpen game of 7.2 innings/ 1 run ball and then, with lots of help from some of the other heroes listed here, took the critical fifth game on the road and finished the Sox off at home in the 6th game.
- Framber Valdez was not the series MVP. Our next hero was that due to his more consistent performance in the playoffs. But Framber had the most critical performance in the ALCS in Game 5. The starting rotation was wracked with injuries and problems, and the bullpen was totally running on fumes. He pulled off one of the finest starts in a desperate moment in Astros’ playoff history, giving up 1 run in 8 innings of low pitch count ball. This game allowed the team to return home on a high and to put the Red Sox away two days later.
- Yordan Alvarez was the series MVP as he became a massive line-drive machine in the Astros lineup. He had at least one hit in every game and scored a run or an RBI in every game. His finest work was in Games 5 and 6 to finish off the Sox. In Game 5, he knocked in the first three runs of the game with a home run and double the other way along with another opposite-field single to give support to Valdez’s fine performance. In Game 6, he was 4 for 4, scoring two, knocking in a run, and spraying lasers around the park, including two doubles and a triple to lead the Astros to the clincher. He hit what may have been the longest foul ball hit before his triple in Minute Maid Park. The deflection off of a roof beam was the only thing keeping it from hitting the Michelob Ultra suite (no, they are not paying me for the advertisement) at the roofline just to the right of the foul pole.
- Luis Garcia (the charming dimples that only showed after the game when Dusty called forward in the awards presentation) was the most unexpected of heroes. Most of us thought that his crash and burn in Game 3, along with removal for a knee injury, was very foreboding. Either he would not appear again, or it would be for a brief injury-shortened appearance if he appeared again. But the team did truthfully correct his mechanic problem, and he was brilliant, going 5.2 innings of hitless ball until being removed after finally giving up a hit. This was just as critical as Framber’s appearance in importance to the team.
- Whoever figured out Luis Garcia’s mechanics problem deserves a big thumbs up.
- If we ignore Jake Odorizzi’s relief outing in Game 2, the only failure in the series by the Astros bullpen was a 6 inning, 6 run meltdown in Game 3. Outside of that, the bullpen was gutty and great, putting up 22.1 innings of scoreless relief besides those two instances. Ryan Pressly, Kendall Graveman, Cristian Javier, Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton, Blake Taylor, Brooks Raley and Yimi Garcia all had their moments in helping the Astros hold the rope. The way they held the Red Sox down in Game 4 after Zack Greinke only went 1.1 innings was huge. The starters only threw 20.1 innings in this series, while the bullpen held up for 42.2 innings. Yikes!
- Considering Jose Altuve slashed .125 BA/.214 OBP/ .589 OPS and Alex Bregman slashed .217 BA/ .308 OBP/ .656 OPS and Carlos Correa’s “time” included no RBIs after his Game 1 blast, the team held up pretty well. The two silent assassins behind Yordan were Yuli Gurriel, who hit .455, with 4 runs scored, a home run and 6 RBIs and Kyle Tucker, who only hit .261 but led the team with 8 RBIs along with tying for the lead with 2 home runs. Altuve did hit two home runs, including the critical game-tying dinger in the eighth inning of Game 4.
- Jason Castro only had 3 ABs, but he had two hits in the series, and he had the biggest hit in the series, putting the Astros ahead for good with a 2 out, ninth inning liner in Game 4.
- The Astros had a few defensive lapses in their losses, but in their wins, they were stellar. Martin Maldonado was almost useless on offense, but his gun down of Alex Verdugo in a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play in Game 6 was critical to stifle a Red Sox rally. Altuve had some problems but made a brilliant stop and throw out in the first inning of Game 6 to stop the Sox from getting on top early.
In the end, the Astros were the better team and got to the World Series for the third time in five years. They want more, but that is a discussion for another post.
There are at least 100 examples of little things that added up to the victories. One is the fact someone saw a flaw in Luis’s delivery. But Garcia was willing to listen and use the new info. No ego with him. Solid outfield work in holding runners one base short, solid infield, etc. No major baserunning mistakes. The Astros beat the Red Sox and did not beat themselves.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The fact remains that the Astros have had the best offense and the best defense all season. Now that they have made their way through the rest of the AL, it is time to present that persona to the NL. In short, being themselves is the best way to win the World Series.
Don’t try to do too much. Be what they have been all season as far as pitching hitting and fielding and beating teams with good records.
LikeLiked by 2 people
They are, and I think they should be, favored in this series. They are the better team. That said every game has its own life – I think Framber and Luis are both just as capable of giving us games 1 and 2 ALCS starts as they are 5 and 6, and if we fall behind early – as good as our offense is, their bullpen is equally talented.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The last 3 innings vs the Dodgers, the bullpen – Matzek gave up no hits with 17 pitches and 15 strikes. Followed by Smith giving up no hits with 14-8. Matzek struck out 4 and Smith 2. That is called “shutting the door.”
Yeah, hopefully our hitters will have a better plan than the Dodgers did.
Astros lose their Senior Director of Player Evaluations:
I thought this was an exceptionally good article….
I think Dusty has been unfairly criticized for his past teams playoff failures; especially the 2002 Giants and 2003 Cubs both with 3-2 series leads that lost the last two games. Maybe this years comeback vs the Red Sox put that jinx to rest.
I think Dusty does a good job of getting his players prepared to win, but at some point the players have to perform.
Astros went to the WS in 2005 and lost
Astros went to the WS in 2017 anD won
Astros went to the WS in 2019 and lost
Astros going to the WS in 2021…we hope they win!
What I was getting to, is everytime we’ve been in the WS are ALL odd years!
I thought that was an interesting stat!
Word is confirmed McCullers won’t pitch in the World Series…..but Click was making noise about Greinke starting a game. GREINKE? An inning?
LikeLiked by 1 person
I love having Framber and Luis both, they will pitch a lot of good games for years for the Astros – but paint me worried. Framber’s pitches rely on that extreme late break at the plate, when he is on hitters are just pounding that thing into the ground, when the break is even a 10th of an inch less hitters lift it. Its tough going into a game 1/game 4 possible game 7 appearance with a pitcher that has that small of a margin.
Garcia is pure adrenaline. We will know on the first fastball. If he is hitting 97 we can buckle in for 4-5 good innings, if he is hitting 95 we will be living pitch by pitch.
Neither is ideal – we are supposed to be Verlander/Greinke/McCullers led at this point, but these two kids have stepped up. I’m confident they can repeat their ALCS second half of the series performance and not the first half of the series performance. Worried though.
The Braves are hot, but they aren’t as talented as Boston. I don’t see their offense having 9 run outbursts, so I think we are in a good position to bring home trophy number 2.