With the New York Yankees down to their last two outs in the American League Championship Series, all of Minute Maid Park could smell a second World Series berth in the last three years and with one swing of the bat, those hopes were dashed.
New York Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu took a pitch from Houston Astros closer Roberto Osuna the other way and just over the right-field wall to tie the game at four runs apiece, zapping the energy produced over the last three innings for a moment.
“Great hitter, that was a battle,” Osuna said of the 10-pitch at-bat. “I don’t really feel bad about the pitch I made because that’s the pitch I got him out on in New York, he just put a good swing on it … I knew that was gone and that was a terrible feeling.”
Those poor feelings were short-lived, however, with two quick outs coming to send the bottom two then the top of the Astros lineup to the plate although the first two were retired quickly by New York closer Aroldis Chapman.
George Springer drew a walk and sent up the face of the franchise, Jose Altuve, who said the calmness of his teammate’s at-bat helped him settle in.
“How confident and quiet he was, we all know Chapman throws a hundred miles an hour, but Georgie was so calm,” said Altuve. “He wasn’t trying to be the hero, that’s the kind of thing where I will just pass the bat to the next guy and I just tried to copy his approach by being quiet to try to get my pitch to hit.”
He indeed found the one he was looking for and sent it over the left-center field wall to send the Houston crowd into a frenzy with the Astros going back to the World Series just two years after hoisting the trophy.
“It’s a special moment, it’s surreal,” said shortstop Carlos Correa. “Two out of three years going to the World Series is special, this will never get old.”
“(This celebration) feels great, we got a sweet smell of champagne in this clubhouse from ’17 that we just made a little bit smellier,” third baseman Alex Bregman elaborated. “We thought we were going to end it last night but I think we wanted to wait a little bit to bring it home in front of our home crowd and get to sleep in our own beds so it’s going to be a fun World Series after an incredible team win here today.”
Game 1 of the World Series against the Washington Nationals will be played back at Minute Maid Park Tuesday, Oct. 22, with first pitch set for 7:08 p.m. where Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer will get the ball to start the game for the respective teams.
“They have a ridiculously talented lineup, they have a ridiculously talented pitching staff and they’ve shown an unbelievable amount of grit throughout the season to get them to the position they’re in,” Cole said. “I know a couple of the guys on their rotation pretty well and I know how much they prepare and how much work they put into their craft and I’m personally excited that they’re in this position and I’m just excited to get after the baseball whenever he gives it to me.”
The “he” Cole referenced was Houston skipper AJ Hinch who expanded on Altuve playing the hero in what ended up being the final game of the ALCS.
“I’ve said things for five years now, I’ve talked about how great this guy is and he continues to exceed expectations, it’s not easy to deliver the way he does,” Hinch said of his second baseman. “The playoff version of him is spectacular. We talk about his Division Series homers and then his attention to detail in every facet of the game. He’s turned himself into a star in his career here and yet he’s remained humble, he’s remained hungry. … It’s the same old quote: ‘Everything that’s right about the Astros is Jose Altuve.’
“He’s been here the longest and seen this organization grow from the ground up,” Hinch continued. “I’m so proud of him. I’m fortunate to be his manager.”