The Astros failed to make the World Series this year. They failed to win an American League pennant.
They won that pennant the last two years. And they won it four times in the last six years. But this year, they fell one game short.
And even though the Astros lost, keep in mind the players from 25 other teams were watching tonight’s game enviously from the comfort of their home entertainment rooms.
Yes, the Astros lost Game 7 of the ALCS. They will not advance to the World Series. It’s not like they are entitled to do so. Two very good teams battled it out for seven games. At least at this point in time, it seems the better team won.
But this is not the end of the rivalry. The key players from both teams are coming back next year. The Rangers won this battle. The war will continue.
No sugar-coating this. The Astros got pummeled in this game. They mostly laid down and died. Their weaknesses were exposed.
And that weakness: mainly starting pitching consistency. Framber Valdez was bombed in Game 2 and allowed two homers in Game 6.
And just when we thought we could trust Cristian Javier, He was completely ineffectual tonight in Game 7. But so were the rest of the Astros pitchers.
Or maybe the Rangers were just that good?
Cristian Javier plain didn’t have it. Or maybe the invisiball isn’t invisible when you’ve seen it multiple times in one week.
It wasn’t invisible to the second batter of the night, Corey Seager. He crushed Javier’s second four-seamer deep into the right-field second deck. After a walk and a steal, Adolis Garcia hit a four-seamer to the Crawford Box wall to knock in another run. The third run scored on a bloop single by Mitch Garver after another stolen base, this time by Garcia.
I don’t need to go into any more of the excruciating details. Let’s just say the Rangers were relentless. After jumping the Astros in the first inning, the Rangers didn’t let up, scoring another on Hunter Brown in the third, four against J.P. France in the fourth, two against Bryan Abreu in the sixth, and another against Jose Urquidy in the eighth.
The Rangers had 15 hits and four home runs, one each by Seager, Lowe, and ....yes, two by Adolis Garcia. (He watched from the batter’s box as his first-inning single to the left field wall didn’t go out.) Well, his arrogance paid off in the third inning with a dinger to right field and then another to the Crawford Boxes in left in the eighth. I’m sure this performance ledes in the DFW press.
Garcia was awarded series MVP. His 15 ribbies were a post-season series record.
The Rangers amassed 28 total bases. And perhaps most impressively, they were 6-10 with runners in scoring position. They only left nine runners on base.
On the other hand, the Astros were not clutch. Although they managed twelve hits, they were only 2-14 with runners in scoring position. On two occasions double plays ended scoring opportunities.
There was almost no offensive production outside of Alex Bregman, Jose Abreu, Yordan Alvarez, and Jose Altuve. Bregman had two hits and a solo homer. Abreu had two hits and an RBI, and Alvarez was 3-4 with a triple and an RBI. And Altuve gave the Astros a lead-off single and a last hurrah with a ninth-inning bomb over the Crawford Boxes.
The mystifying home jinx remains. The Astros were 7-22 in their last 29 home games. And the Astros are now the only team to have lost four home games in a championship series. And they’ve done it twice now.
Dusty Baker’s winless streak in Game 7’s remains intact. It’s hard to blame Dusty for a rout of this magnitude. Clearly, the Rangers came to Houston with more firepower and better pitching.
Still, he will be criticized for playing favorites at times. It was evident in this game. Baker insisted all year that eventually we would thank him for his choice of Martin Maldonado over slugging rookie Yainer Diaz at catcher. Maldonado’s pitcher-whisperer handling of pitchers was nowhere to be seen tonight, and despite being down immediately in this game, Baker refused to pinch hit for Maldonado twice with runners in scoring position.
I also questioned the decision to remove reliever Phil Maton after he mowed down the two hitters he faced in the first inning. Knowing you had to cover eight innings, and with Maton’s proven ability to cover two innings, Baker ended up giving his most effective pitcher tonight the fewest opportunities. And with limited relief options by that time, this may have contributed to the overly long leash afforded France in the fourth inning.
The Astros come back for 2024 with the main pieces of this team intact. However, next year, the contracts of Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve expire. The next year, Kyle Tucker ( whose slump was a big factor in this series loss) becomes a free agent. The Astros farm system has few prospects that figure to replace these all-stars if need be.
How Dana Brown and the Astros management handle this off-season will have a lot to do with how long the Astros dynasty can continue.
It’s a disappointing night, but in the big picture, a season that includes a seventh straight trip to the ALCS can’t be considered a failure.
Stay tuned to TCB for your off-season and hot stove news. I have no doubt the Astros still have a bright future.