George Springer and the Houston Astros rocketed to the top of the baseball galaxy by romping past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 to win the first World Series title in franchise history.
Playing for a city still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, and wearing an “H Strong” logo on their jerseys, the Astros brought home the prize that had eluded them since they started out in 1962 as the Colt .45s.
American League batting champion Jose Altuve said; “I always believed that we could make it, We did this for them.”
For a series that was tied at 3-3 and shaping up as an October classic, game seven quickly became a November dud as Houston scored five runs in the first two innings off Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish.
Back in Houston, a huge crowd filled Minute Maid Park to cheer as fans watched on the big video board, and the famous train whistle wailed when it was all over.
“We’re coming home a champion, Houston,” Springer said after accepting the World Series MVP trophy, named this year after Willie Mays.
Star shortstop Carlos Correa turned the party into a proposal. After doing a TV interview, he got down on one knee and asked girlfriend Daniella Rodriguez, a former Miss Texas USA, to marry him.
“Yes?” he said, putting a ring on her finger as she cried.
Altuve, one of four players left from the team which lost an embarrassing 111 times in 2013 after switching from the National League to the AL, and his surrounding cast of young stars silenced Dodger Stadium from the start.
And it was Altuve who was in perfect position for the final out, a grounder by Corey Seager to the 5ft 6in second baseman. “It was a groundball to me, I threw to first, and I think it was the happiest moment of my life in baseball,” Altuve said.
The Astros raced from the dugout and bullpen, tossing their gloves in the air. A thousand or so fans crowded behind the dugout, chanting “Hou-ston! Hou-ston!”
At last, they had completed the ascent some predicted after a rebuilding club purged payroll and stripped down to bare bones a few years back.
Famously, now, there was the Sports Illustrated cover in 2014 – after Houston had lost more than 100 games for three straight seasons – that proclaimed: “Your 2017 World Series Champs” and featured a picture of Springer in a bright Astros jersey.
On the other side, ace Clayton Kershaw and several Dodgers leaned on the dugout railing, watching the celebrations. LA led the leagues with 104 wins and a $240 million payroll, and rallied to win Game six, yet it didn’t pay off for part-owner Magic Johnson and his team.
“Obviously, this one hurts,” manager Dave Roberts said. “And like I told the guys, when you put everything, every ounce of your being into something and you come up short, it hurts. And it’s supposed to hurt.”
Normally a starter, Houston’s Charlie Morton finished up with four stellar innings of relief for the win. “We held down a really tough lineup,” Morton said. “For my team-mates, for the city of Houston, it’s just unbelievable.”
Springer led off the evening with a double against Darvish, and soon it was 2-0.
Springer hit a signature “dinger” – his fifth homer of the World Series, tying the record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977 and matched by Chase Utley in 2009 – when he connected for a record fourth game in a row, making it a five-run lead.
That was plenty for Houston manager A J Hinch. He pulled starting pitcher Lance McCullers jnr soon after the curveballer hit his fourth batter of the game, and so began a parade of four relievers who held the Astros’ lead.
Known for their space-age Astrodome, outlandish rainbow jerseys and a handful of heartbreaking play-off losses for superstars like Nolan Ryan, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, these Astros will be remembered as champions, finally, in their 56th season.
The club that wears a star on its hat also filled out the Texas trophy case. Teams from the Lone Star State had won every major crown – the Super Bowl, NBA and NHL titles, championships in college football – except the World Series.