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.