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Friday, June 21, 2024

Astros win 2022 World Series, solidifying their status as a dynasty


HOUSTON — Yordan Alvarez‘s home run — the swing of the World Series — was the moment Dusty Baker realized the Houston Astros would win the damn thing.

As the ball sailed 450 feet to straight-away center field, first over the head of Phillies reliever Jose Alvarado, then over sprinting center fielder Matt Vierling and was finally deposited to the deepest part of Minute Maid Park over the towering turf-covered batter’s eye, the Astros had time for the euphoria to settle in.

“First time I’ve seen that in this ballpark,” said Jose Altuve of Alvarez’s 450-foot blast.

Yordan Alvarez smashes a three-run homer

Yordan Alvarez smashed a three-run home run to spark the Houston Astros to their second world championship in franchise history.

One of the scariest hitters in baseball devastated the Phillies’ dreams and, in doing so, propelled the Astros to their second World Series championship in six years with a 4-1 victory in Game 6 on Saturday night. Alvarez’s bat is going into the Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball later announced.

Alvarez entered his third at-bat of the night having clubbed 37 home runs in the regular season and just two homers in the postseason. He had gone three-plus weeks, 10 games and 42 at-bats since his most recent home run, a two-run shot that came off Mariners right-hander Luis Castillo in Game 2 of the ALDS on Oct. 13. Alvarez had faced Alvarado three previous times in this World Series, the results of which included two pop flies and one hit by pitch. 

So, Alvarez was overdue. 

All game, it felt like the Juice Box was waiting to erupt. All series, it felt like Alvarez was waiting for that big hit. Both came to fruition in a grandiose and ear-shattering moment during a turning-point sixth inning that brought the Astros just nine outs away from another championship trophy. 

Astros celebrate the title

The Astros rush the field after finishing off the Phillies in six games to win their second championship in the last six seasons.

“The boos and the jeers that we got all over the country, it bothered these guys, but it also motivated them at the same time,” Baker said. “And it wasn’t an ‘us against the world’ thing. It was more of a ‘come together even closer’ type thing.”

As the 42,958 at Minute Maid began dreaming of a World Series parade, Alvarez’s three-run home run was all the more devastating for the Phillies because manager Rob Thomson had just yanked starter Zack Wheeler — who was terrific through 5 ⅓ innings — from the game for his best high-leverage reliever in Alvarado. The lefty-lefty matchup went sideways when Alvarado left a 99-mph sinker right over the heart of the plate for Alvarez to crush to the moon.

Right away, Alvarez knew what he had just done. As he pounded his chest and locked eyes with his brethren in the Astros dugout, the cheating storyline that had attached itself to the Houston organization was on its way to being buried. 

“This means everything”

Jose Altuve speaks with Ken Rosenthal after the Houston Astros secured their second World Series title in the last six seasons.

Because after Alvarez’s three-run home run, after Framber Valdez’s phenomenal Game 6 outing, after all the Astros had been through to get to this point, no one could deny this team’s talent. 

“I’ve been here since 2018, and we’ve been the best team in baseball,” Astros catcher Martin Maldonado said. “I don’t think we have to validate it to anybody. We’re still the best team in baseball.”

Three hours and 13 minutes after the first pitch of Game 6, Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker caught the final out — a pop fly off the bat of Nick Castellanos that came down in foul territory. Then first baseman Trey Mancini engulfed Tucker in a joyous, leaping embrace. Alvarez raised his arms and smiled from left field before charging onto the diamond. 

In the dugout, Astros coaches and staffers formed a huddle around their skipper and chanted, “Dusty! Dusty! Dusty!” The crowd, waving orange towels, roared to its highest decibel yet.

Dusty Baker basks in his first title

Dusty Baker speaks with Tom Verducci, Alex Rodriguez, Frank Thomas and David Ortiz after the Astros’ World Series victory.

Soon after the confetti fell from the sky, rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña was named the World Series MVP. In Game 6, he became the first rookie in World Series history to record a hit in each of the first six games. In Game 5, he became the first rookie shortstop in MLB history to hit a home run in a World Series game. Already the MVP of the ALCS, Peña followed that up winning that same honor, again, on baseball’s biggest stage. Carlos Correa who?

It’s difficult to believe Peña accomplished it all as a rookie, particularly after he was tasked with the responsibility of stepping into Correa’s spotlight. But, this postseason, Peña created his own legacy. And it mirrored the Astros’ approach to winning. 

So what if they lost a few All Stars from their previous AL pennant teams? With hard work came, eventually, glory.

Jeremy Peña is named MVP

Jeremy Peña became the first rookie position player to ever win the World Series MVP award.

“I’d say the hardest part was just blocking everything that’s not part of the game,” Peña said. “There’s a saying that you can’t sink a ship with water around. It sinks if water gets inside. So, I just try to stay strong and keep the water outside my head.”

Similarly, the Astros tried to block out the vitriol that came their way once the sign-stealing scandal that helped them win the 2017 championship was revealed. Now, the Astros have finally won a championship that is unmarred by cheating. The trash cans and illegal video cameras of 2017 will always be remembered, but for now, they’re going in the rearview mirror. 

This 2022 trophy can be remembered for Alvarez’s swing, for Peña’s historic rookie postseason, for the club’s unbeatable pitching staff, and finally, for Baker’s first World Series ring after a quarter-century of managing major-league teams. 

Before Saturday night, Baker was the winningest manager in MLB history without a World Series ring. As he said on the stage several minutes after the final out, “Not anymore. Now they can quit talking about it.”

Are the Astros a dynasty?

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry analyze the Astros past six years and discuss whether Houston is a dynasty.

There is no doubt about it now: these Houston Astros are a baseball dynasty. 

“Getting drafted in 2017, I thought maybe by the time I got to the big leagues, the window would’ve closed,” center fielder Chas McCormick said. “This team’s a dynasty. This window isn’t closing anytime soon.”

Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who was a part of the tainted 2017 championship team, doesn’t like to throw the word “dynasty” around because, he said, it’s measured by championships. For example, McCullers said, the 1998-2000 world championship Yankees are “true, true dynasties because no one could touch those guys.” McCullers would like to see the Astros win a couple of more times — in a row — before he declares the franchise a baseball dynasty. 

For now, though, McCullers said this 2022 ring solidified the Astros as: “One of the most dominant franchises in recent memory.” On this Saturday night in Houston, McCullers was grateful for winning with respect.

“We won, and we did it the right way,” McCullers said. “There’s only a few of us from that 2017 team that are still here, and I think for those guys, we’ve been fighting for a little bit of our place, I would say. A little bit of our respect and our pride. For the guys that weren’t here, they earned every bit of this. It’s truly special. It’s hard to believe we accomplished this again, and we’ve been on this run”

Count Astros closer Ryan Pressly as one of the Astros players who has been thinking about clawing out of the hole the team dug itself in five years ago. 

“It’s definitely a weight off everybody’s shoulders. Nobody can say s— now,” Pressly said. “We won. We’re the best. Ain’t nothin’ they can say about it now.”

Read more:

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets for the New York Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

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