A smaller market team in the city that months ago was literally drowning under water got the story-book ending they dreamed of blanking a billion dollar dynasty 4-0 in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to clinch their second ever Fall Classic berth.
August 31th, 2017 is a day that will live in Astros history. Dealt veteran workhorse Justin Verlander from Detroit minutes before the waiver trade deadline expired was the difference between celebrating on the field and languishing on love seats at home.
The hunky right-hander made a great team even greater. Donning Houston duds, he was 5-0 in the regular season and a dominant 2-0 against NY with a 124 pitch complete game.
Throughout the series there was no place like home, as both ball clubs were unbeaten in their own backyard. The Astros were slightly favored coming into Saturday’s showdown, but sometimes being the favorite in the postseason is as accurate as fake news.
Fortunately for Houston manager A.J. Hinch, Astros starter Charlie Morton had better stuff against CC Sabathia the second time around.
Morton, who was chased off the mound in Game 3 surrendering seven runs in 3 2/3 innings, baffled Yankee batters with 96 MPH heat and nasty, pinpoint breaking balls.
After stranding five runners in the first three innings, the ‘Stros struck gold in the fourth with a leadoff home run by designated hitter, Evan Gattis. Sabathia then walked former teammate Brian McCann, and two batters later gave Josh Reddick the gift of a 0-23 slump ending base hit that put the kibosh on the 37-year olds short-lived outing.
The trusty Tommy Kahnle replaced the veteran inducing an inning ending double play with one pitch, holding Houston to a precarious one run lead.
In the top of the fifth, Greg Bird greeted Morton with a double to deep right, Starlin Castro struck out swinging on a vintage slider, Bird took third on a wild pitch to Aaron Hicks, who then got a free pass on four pitches. With runners on the corners, the Astros put on a clinic of defensive head’s up play, which could very well be the reason they’ll be playing the Dodgers on Tuesday.
With Bird breaking for home on Todd Frazier’s bouncer to third, Andrew Bregman fired a perfect bullet to McCann who made a brilliant tag at the plate. How ironic that the former Yankee catcher who could actually hold onto the ball was the traded for their current catcher that can’t.
Houston broke it open in the home half when Kahnle lost control of his change-up. Jose Altuve hit a solo home run, and a pair of singles from Carlos Correa and Yuri Gurriel opened the door for McCann’s two RBI double to the right field corner.
Starting pitcher Lance McCuller’s, Jr., playing the role of reliever, replaced his partner in Yankee killing crime, tossing 24 consecutive curveballs for the final six outs, matching pitch counts at 54 a piece, for a combined three hit shutout including eleven strikeouts and a pair of walks.
The MLB ball club with the best offense finally broke the Yankees brutal bullpen, and how poetic that Justin Verlander, the guy who barely made it onto the team was named ALCS MVP sharing his new gift with his Kate Upton girl.