For the second time in three years, the Astros made it to the World Series but fell short. Of course, it’s disappointing to come so far and lose, but in two of the last three years, the Astros were the best team in the AL. We shouldn’t overlook that fact.
It’s tempting to say the best team won the World Series. I don’t think it's that simple. What’s clear is that in a short series, the team that was hot won, and the team that wasn’t lost.
It’s very hard even for a team that led MLB in runs and in most offensive categories to overcome slumps like Yordan Alvarez’s 2—20, or Alex Bregman’s 2—21, or just two homers in six games, or a team World Series OPS of around .630. That’s about 150 points below the season average.
And with the team ace Lance McCullers unavailable, (not to mention the $30 million wasted on Justin Verlander), the rest of the rotation had to step up. Instead, they got a 19.29 ERA from Framber Valdez, and 5.90 from Luis Garcia. These meltdowns were more than an unexpectedly good bullpen could overcome.
On the other hand, the Braves had 11 home runs, which wound up accounting for the highest proportion of runs by homer in World Series history.
So why did the Astros freeze up in the World Series? Perhaps that’s just the Astros. They were streaky all year. Maybe they just came into the World Series on the downside.
Maybe they missed the joyous free spirit of George Springer to keep it light and fun.
Or maybe it’s just baseball. It takes 162 games to decide who gets into the playoffs. But in the deciding final round, it only takes seven games to pick the World Champion.
For whatever reason, the Astros were shut out in Game 6, the second shutout the team suffered in the six-game series. Whereas the Braves were hitting homers with runners on base tonight, the Astros were hitting into double plays. Not that there were many runners on base. The Braves pitching, behind six strong innings by Max Fried, held the Astros bats to six singles.
Inevitably, some will second guess Manager Dusty Baker’s decision to pitch Luis Garcia on four days rest, rather than Jose Urquidy in this elimination game. But Garcia looked unhittable in the first two innings. However, in the third inning, he began to waver, allowing an Ozzie Albies single, an Eddie Rosario two-out walk, and then, on the eighth pitch to Jorge Soler, Javier grooved a cutter right into Soler’s home run pathway.
What do you older Astros fans think of whenever you hear the name, Albert Pujols?
That’s what Soler’s homer looked like tonight. Except, with the roof open, it went clean out of the stadium.
Baker kept Garcia in one cutter too many.
Essentially, that was game, set, match, with Astros hitters looking helpless the rest of the game. So, unless Jose Urquidy and the bullpen pitched a shutout, it wouldn’t have mattered who Baker pitched tonight.
But even if the Astros bats were done for this series the Braves’ weren’t.
Dansby Swanson hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning against Cristian Javier followed a little later by a Freddie Freeman double off Blake Taylor that scored Soler.
And then Freddie Freeman added the seventh and final Braves run with a solo-homer to center off Ryne Stanek in the seventh inning.
From then on the Braves bullpen aces, Tyler Matzek, and Will Smith made mincemeat out of the demoralized Astros hitters.
Which brings up another reason why the Astros hitters were cold. Maybe, just maybe, the Braves pitching was that good.
So, next year. What about Correa? How will the Astros spend the $50 million coming off the books with the departures of Verlander and Greinke?
Here at TCB, we’ll have a long winter to think and write about these and many other things and look forward to your input as well.
The Astros have been the best team in the AL for the last five years, and with deft moves and a little luck, they might be next year too.
We’ll be watching developments this winter.