Astros Strong: Houston's Historic 2017 Championship Season

Astros Strong: Houston's Historic 2017 Championship Season

by Houston Chronicle

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Overview


During three consecutive 100-loss seasons, Houston Astros management asked fans to be patient, promising them there was a plan in place that would result in success. That patience was rewarded with the ultimate prize in 2017, as the Astros knocked off the Los Angeles Dodgers in thrilling fashion to claim the first World Series crown in team history. During the regular season they ran away with the American League West, winning the division by a massive 21 games. Anchored by a dynamic offense and boosted by the late-season acquisition of a resurgent Justin Verlander, this historic team would not be denied on their way to the long-awaited title. 
 
Packed with superb coverage and vivid color photography from the Houston Chronicle, Astros Strong: Houston's Historic 2017 Championship Season guides fans through the Astros' entire amazing journey – from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and resiliency of the Houston community, to the Astros' quick work of the powerful Red Sox in the ALDS; from their hard-fought ALCS win over the young Yankees, all the way through their incredible World Series triumph over the dominant Dodgers. This commemorative edition also includes feature stories on Astros stars Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and other fan favorites, and is a must-have keepsake for Astros fans of all generations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781629374864
Publisher: Triumph Books
Publication date: 11/07/2017
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 773,835
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

One of the largest newspapers in the United States, the Houston Chronicle was founded in 1901 and was acquired by Hearst in 1987. In addition to delivering in-depth coverage of local issues, the Houston Chronicle is committed to covering state, national and international news. In addition to the Chronicle's 825,000 daily readers and 1.4 million readers on Sunday, Chron.com is widely regarded as one of the top newspaper websites and averages nearly 95 million page views and 15 million unique visitors each month.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Kerplunk

Kershaw Throws 11-K Game for Dodgers; Keuchel Takes Fall

By Jake Kaplan

World Series Game 1 October 24, 2017 • Los Angeles, California Dodgers 3, Astros 1

The major league-best offense on which the Astros' 101-win season was built thrived not only because of its power but because of its ability to make contact. Their lineup proved the most difficult to strike out while also leading baseball in slugging percentage.

But none of that seemed to matter with Clayton Kershaw on the mound Tuesday night for the first World Series game at Dodger Stadium since 1988. The lefthander is the greatest pitcher of his generation, and in the biggest start yet in his Hall of Fame- worthy career, he made the Astros his victims.

The Astros managed to put only three runners on base in Game 1 of the Fall Classic, resulting in a 3-1 loss that renders Wednesday night's Game 2 all but a must win for the American League champions. They struck out 12 times, a total they reached or eclipsed only four times during the regular season. The hitting-with-runners-in- scoring-position column didn't even make the visitors' side of the box score.

Kershaw, a former MVP and a three-time Cy Young Award winner, became the first pitcher to strike out 11 in a World Series game since Arizona's Randy Johnson in Game 2 in 2001. Before Kershaw on Tuesday, Don Newcombe had been the only pitcher to record 11 strikeouts without issuing a walk in a World Series game. He accomplished the feat for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.

"Sometimes you have to tip the hat to the other team," Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. "I think that's the case today."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts rode Kershaw for only seven innings and 83 pitches before turning over the game to shutdown relievers Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen. The Astros received a winnable start from Dallas Keuchel, who pitched 6 2/3 innings but was doomed by his offense's failure to hit Los Angeles' pitching.

Dodgers postseason hero Justin Turner was responsible for the biggest swing of the game, which was played in a brisk two hour, 28 minutes, the shortest for a World Series game in a quarter century. The stadium, which hosted 54,253 mostly blue-and- white clad fans, shook after Turner's two-run homer in the sixth inning broke a tie.

"I didn't know if it was going to be a home run or not," Turner said. "I knew I backspun it pretty good. I knew I hit it really high. And I knew it was about 98 degrees. So when it's that hot here, the ball does travel a lot better. ... If it's 10 degrees cooler, that's probably a routine fly ball in left field."

The 103-degree weather at first pitch made for the hottest World Series game in recorded history. In a performance reminiscent of the first five games of their AL Championship Series against the Yankees, the Astros' bats went cold.

"I don't think it has anything to do with the ALCS. That's a completely different pitching staff," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Tonight is about Kershaw."

Kershaw, a 10-year veteran who's only 29, became the first pitcher all season to strike out 11 Astros in a start. Only two – Cleveland's Corey Kluber and Philadelphia's Aaron Nola – reached double digits against them during the regular season.

The Astros, who fell to 0-5 all-time in World Series games, will have to hit lefthander Rich Hill on Wednesday to muster a split before the series moves to Houston.

"This team is a really good hitting team. They hit a lot of homers and don't strike out. There's little room for error," Kershaw said. "So it's important for me to establish pitches, be able to throw multiple things for strikes, and thankfully, I was able to do that tonight."

A solo home run by Alex Bregman and singles by Altuve and Josh Reddick signified the Astros' output. George Springer went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Brian McCann and Marwin Gonzalez were each 0-for-3. Two of Kershaw's strikeouts came against Keuchel.

"(Kershaw) just did a great job of commanding the plate tonight," said Springer, who is without an extra-base hit since the Division Series. "He was able to throw his slider with depth. He was able to throw it across, in, and then spot up his heater. He threw the ball well. There's really nothing else to say about it."

Keuchel also pitched well but surrendered two costly homers. Chris Taylor, who shared NLCS MVP honors with Turner, got the 113th Fall Classic started by launching Keuchel's first pitch of the game 447 feet to left field. The blast was the fourth leadoff home run in the history of World Series Game 1s. Taylor ambushed an 87 mph fastball thrown down and inside.

Keuchel regrouped immediately. The ground-ball inducer extraordinaire faced only one batter more than the minimum through five innings. He was backed by three double plays turned behind him.

In the sixth, Keuchel extracted consecutive groundouts to Correa at shortstop. But in his third battle with Taylor, he issued the game's first walk. Against Turner, he jumped ahead to a 1-and-2 count. After he had beaten the Dodgers third baseman on cutters in his two previous at-bats, Keuchel decided to go back to the pitch, this one high and inside. Turner, who had switched to a smaller bat, got to it.

"That one was a tough one to swallow," Keuchel said.

All of the game's runs scored via long balls. In the fourth inning, Bregman made Kershaw pay for a 1-and-1 fastball he left over the middle by lining it over the left-field fence. At 23, Bregman became the youngest AL player to homer in the World Series since a 23-year-old Manny Ramirez took Atlanta's Mark Wohlers deep in Game 4 of the 1995 series between the Indians and Braves.

But other than Bregman, the Astros couldn't touch Kershaw. The Dallas native thrived behind a fastball that sat at 93 mph, a slider he ran up to 90 mph, and a curveball in the mid-70s. The performance marked the fifth time in 18 career postseason starts he reached double digits in strikeouts. It was his third career postseason start in which he didn't issue a walk.

"He's a great pitcher. He's going to the Hall of Fame," Bregman said. "He pitched really well. He made some good pitches. He made some good marginal pitches on the way. It's all right. We'll show up ready to go (in Game 2)."

CHAPTER 2

Homer Happy

Springer's Decisive Blow in 11th Follows Blasts by Gonzalez, Altuve, Correa By Jake Kaplan

World Series Game 2 October 25, 2017 • Los Angeles, California Astros 7, Dodgers 6 (11 innings)

George Springer etched his name in Astros lore with the biggest hit in franchise history Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

Springer drove a go-ahead two-run homer to right-center field in the top of the 11th inning to propel the Astros to their first win in a World Series game in 56 seasons of franchise history. The American League champions mashed four home runs from the ninth inning on to fuel a 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and even the Fall Classic at 1-1.

After a day of rest and travel, Game 3 brings the action back home to Minute Maid Park. It will have a difficult time living up to the bedlam that ensued in Game 2.

"(It was) probably as nerve-wracking as it is in the stands for everybody else," Springer said. "You know who's on the other team, you know who's on deck, and you know who's hitting. And when that last out is made, you finally breathe."

Before Springer's heroics, Marwin Gonzalez, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa each took turns playing hero.

With the Astros just three outs from a 2-0 series deficit, Gonzalez belted a game- tying solo shot in the ninth against the usually unhittable Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. In a 10th that at the time appeared to shift the momentum for good, Altuve and Correa homered in back-to-back at-bats against ex-Astro Josh Fields to open a two-run lead.

Correa punctuated his homer with an epic bat flip and channeled his inner Yasiel Puig when asked about it after the game.

"Like one friend of mine once said," Correa said, "I don't know why my bats are so slippery."

But after Altuve and Correa put the game back in the Astros' hands in the top of the 10th, Ken Giles blew the lead in the bottom of the frame. On the heels of a perfect ninth, Giles began the 10th by surrendering a home run to Puig. A two-out walk to Logan Forsythe, a wild pitch and a single by Kiké Hernandez tied the game.

Springer, who with Cameron Maybin on second base cranked a 2-and-1 slider from Dodgers righthander Brandon McCarthy, bailed out the Astros closer. Chris Devenski recorded the final four outs but not before allowing a solo homer to Charlie Culberson with two outs in the 11th, the eighth home run of the game, which set a World Series record.

"I just need to go out there and execute better," said Giles, who has allowed a run or more in five of his six postseason outings. "I've just got to do a better job flat out."

The Astros were 0-5 all-time in World Series games before Wednesday's dramatic comeback. Altuve and Correa became the first teammates in World Series history to hit extra-inning homers in the same game, let alone doing it back-to-back. Gonzalez became the first visiting player to tie a World Series game with a ninth-inning homer since the Red Sox's Dwight Evans in Game 3 of the 1975 Series against the Reds.

Altuve, Correa and Springer also made the Astros the first team to hit three homers in extra innings of a postseason game.

"That's got to be one of the best games ever," Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. "Just both teams battling it out. And the 'Stros finished on top."

Springer went 3-for-5 in the game. The All-Star center fielder doubled off Jansen in the ninth, his first extra-base hit since the ALDS. He had gone 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Game 1 of the Series. He came into Game 2 with only three hits in his previous 30 at-bats.

"I just think when the lights turn on even brighter, you tend to subconsciously press, and you want to succeed so bad that you start to do things that you wouldn't do, or you start to come out of an approach that has worked the whole year," he said.

"And this is my first experience at playing this far, playing this long, and in a game of this magnitude. So for me to kind of experience it and to kind of understand, 'Hey, slow yourself down,' I understand now why guys struggle in the postseason and some don't."

Said Correa, grinning: "He's back, man. He gets really scary when he's back."

The Astros improved to 10-0 in games in which Justin Verlander has pitched since they acquired the former MVP and Cy Young Award winner from the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 31. Verlander exited with a two-run deficit despite giving up only two hits. Both left the yard.

So did four long balls off the Astros' bats. Making Gonzalez's ninth-inning blast more impressive was the count in which he hit it. He fell behind 0-2 against Jansen before getting a 94 mph cutter over the plate.

"I told Marwin the inning before, I told him he was going to win the ballgame for us," Verlander said. "I didn't think it was going to be a game-tying home run. I thought it was going to be game-winning. That's what I told him."

The Astros outhit the Dodgers 14-5. Six of their runs came against a Dodgers bullpen that saw its streak of 28 consecutive scoreless innings snapped. The Astros contended with curveballing lefthander Rich Hill for only 60 pitches before Dodgers manager Dave Roberts turned to his vaunted bullpen. Hill went through the Astros' lineup two times and allowed a run on three singles and a walk against seven strikeouts.

Bregman opened the scoring with a single to center field that plated Josh Reddick in the third inning, the Astros' first run before the fourth inning of a game since the ALDS.

For the rest of the game, the Astros faced an ensemble of relief pitchers. Kenta Maeda gave the Dodgers four outs before lefthanded specialist Tony Watson recorded two outs with one pitch, which he used to extract a double-play grounder from Brian McCann to end the top of the sixth. Ross Stripling and Brandon Morrow served as the rest of the bridge to Jansen.

Verlander completed six innings before Astros manager A.J. Hinch pinch-hit for him. In another weird twist, Verlander's outing featured an eerily similar game- changing sequence to the one Dallas Keuchel experienced in the Astros' Game 1 loss.

A night after Justin Turner tagged Keuchel for a two-run homer in the sixth, Corey Seager flipped the game with a two-run homer in the sixth. Both were hit with two outs and in pitcher-friendly 1-and-2 counts. Both were hit after Chris Taylor grinded out a two-out walk. Both exited the field of play in left.

Relievers Will Harris and Joe Musgrove kept the game close for the Astros with scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, respectively. Giles followed with a perfect ninth.

Then ... madness.

"That's an incredible game on so many levels, so many ranges of emotion," Hinch said. "If you like October baseball, if you like any kind of baseball, that's one of the most incredible games you'll ever be a part of."

CHAPTER 3

Savory Save

Peacock Records Last 11 Outs, Preserves Victory for McCullers By Jake Kaplan

World Series Game 3 October 27, 2017 • Houston, Texas Astros 5, Dodgers 3

Fifty minutes after right fielder Josh Reddick gloved the final out of a victory Friday night that left the Astros two more shy of their first World Series title, Brad Peacock was still in disbelief.

Peacock had just converted a 3 2/3-inning save to cap a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series. He did for Lance McCullers Jr. what McCullers did for Charlie Morton in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. He shut down the game.

"I can't believe what just happened out there," Peacock said on his way out of the Astros' clubhouse at Minute Maid Park just before midnight.

His save, the first of a career that dates to 2011, marked the longest relief outing in the World Series since San Francisco star Madison Bumgarner pitched five legendary innings to close out the 2014 Fall Classic. But this was Brad Peacock, an unassuming 29-year-old righthander so unsure of his status with the Astros that before spring training he warned his wife they might have to move to Japan.

Against the Dodgers on the biggest stage baseball offers, Peacock retired 11 of the 12 batters he faced. He didn't allow a hit on his way to closing the Astros' first win in a World Series game played in Houston, a win that put them ahead in the series two games to one.

A four-run barrage against Dodgers starter Yu Darvish stood as the Astros' primary source of offense. They chased Darvish, the ex-Texas Rangers ace, in their big second inning. McCullers, while far from his sharpest, gave the Astros a solid 5 1/3 innings before Astros manager A.J. Hinch let Peacock fly for the rest of the game.

"This postseason, I've really enjoyed bringing back the three-inning save," Hinch quipped. "That's cool."

The Astros pummeled Darvish, who had been dominant in his previous postseason starts against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs. On Friday, his pitches looked flat. Of the 49 pitches the Japanese righthander threw, only one extracted a swing and miss. Many more were scorched or fouled off.

Darvish lasted only 1 2/3 innings, the first time in 136 starts since he debuted in the majors he didn't complete at least three. It was his first time not registering even one strikeout. He issued only one walk but six hits, four that went for extra bases.

"He just left some balls up over the plate today," said Astros center fielder George Springer, who led off the game with a double. "He lives on getting you to chase his stuff. For us today to come out and capitalize on some mistakes was big."

Yuli Gurriel sparked the Astros' four-run second inning with a home run into the Crawford Boxes that registered an exit velocity of 104.3 mph. Jose Altuve cranked a double at 107.5 mph. Even an out by Springer came off his bat at 104.9 mph, a sacrifice fly by Alex Bregman off his at 103.5.

By the time Dodgers manager Dave Roberts replaced Darvish with Kenta Maeda, the Astros led 4-0.

"The fastball command wasn't there, and the slider was backing up," Roberts said. "So he just really didn't have the feel and couldn't get any type of rhythm going. So right there, you find yourself after five outs down 4-0, you have to go right there – had to go to the pen to give us a chance to stay in that game."

Roberts used five different relievers to get through the night. Maeda gave Los Angeles 2 2/3 dominant innings, which also probably will render him unavailable until at least Sunday.

McCullers overcame an off night to record 16 outs for the Astros. After his offense exploded for four runs in the second, the shutdown third inning eluded him. McCullers lost command of his fastball and his curveball, which resulted in walks to the eight- and nine-hole hitters, Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez, and leadoff man Chris Taylor to begin the frame.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Astros Strong"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Houston Chronicle.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Steve Schaeffer,
World Series,
Road to the Title,
George Springer,
Carlos Correa,
Justin Verlander,
Josh Reddick,
Jose Altuve,
Yuli Gurriel,
American League Division Series,
American League Championship Series,

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Astros Strong: Houston's Historic 2017 Championship Season 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book