The Astros beat the Yankees to reach their 4th World Series in 6 years | Catch My Job


NEW YORK — The Houston Astros made going to the World Series look easy.

After all, this is October, the time of year when it’s easy to knock the Astros down for a deep postseason run — and 2022 marked their sixth straight trip to the American League Championship Series. And somehow, this year’s Astros team made things look even easier, going through the regular season to the tune of an AL-best 106 wins and dropping all three games against the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS and all four games against the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

The Astros won Game 4 of the ALCS 6-5 on Sunday night to punch their fourth World Series ticket since 2017.

Of course, the Astros are in the World Series with a roster that includes a Hall of Fame ace in Justin Verlander and established superstars like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Jordan Alvarez.

But beneath the facade of inevitability lies an organizational culture that takes nothing for granted, that never assumes a deep trip into October, whose hunger for another World Series trophy never ends.

“It’s been a long road to get here,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “A lot happens in the months we get here from spring training.” That means we persevered and stuck together, and made the necessary trades when we had to try to strengthen certain parts of our team.”

The Yankees struggled on Sunday night in an attempt to keep their season alive for another day. New York started tonight’s scoring in the bottom of the first when designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton reached Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker on a sharp line drive, scoring Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader. By the bottom of the second inning, the Yankees took a 3-0 lead on a Gleiber Torres RBI single and an Anthony Rizzo RBI double.

The early lead didn’t faze Houston.

“The thing about this team is they don’t panic,” Baker said. “They never panic. They try to find a way. It was early in the game and you’d rather have that happen early in the game because you have time to come back and rebound.”

Yankees starter Nestor Cortes cruised through the first two innings of the game, striking out two and facing just eight batters without allowing a run. But when Cortes started the third inning, the warning signs started flashing. The crafty New York lefty started the night between 91 and 92 mph, but when Cortes started the third, his velocity dropped to 87-88 mph.

And then the Astros came back. Cortes walked Martin Maldonado and Jose Altuve to start the inning, before rookie Jeremy Peña — en route to being named ALCS MVP — tied the game with a three-run homer. A few batters later, first baseman Yuli Gurriel knocked in an RBI single to give Houston a 4-3 lead in the fourth inning. The home run was the nail in the coffin for Cortes, as Yankees manager Aaron Boone and the team’s trainer came out of the dugout and removed the lefty from the game with what was later announced as a strained left groin.

But the Yankees answered right back in the fourth inning with an RBI single from Ritz to tie the game. The score remained tied until the sixth inning, when Bader hit his fifth homer of the postseason to give New York a 5-4 lead.

But just half an inning later, the Astros regained the lead one last time. Alvarez’s single tied the score at 5 apiece before Bregman entered the game for a 6-5 lead, ultimately securing a matchup with the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

“These guys here, we’ve never been afraid of the brightest light,” Verlander said. “Obviously New York brings the brightest lights, the most attention. More than anything, it’s about not being afraid. I think we’re embracing that and bringing our A-game and playing our best baseball.”

The Astros’ roster features an experienced group that understands the pressure of playing in October, but the team credits the clubhouse culture they’ve developed over the years with helping them make a run deep into the postseason.

“I don’t say this lightly, but this team, I feel it, man,” said Astros starter Lance McCullers, who went five innings and allowed four runs, three earned, and struck out six in Game 4. “We want it. Like, we really, really want it. Deep down, we want this.”

Astros shortstop Trey Mancini arrived from the Baltimore Orioles at the trade deadline, and the established culture of success made for a smooth transition to a winning atmosphere in Houston.

“It’s just contagious,” Mancini said. “You just want to get better every day. These guys prepare better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Baker said this iteration of the Astros is better equipped to win the World Series than last year’s group because of the presence of a healthy Verlander and McCuller — who missed the 2021 Fall Classic — and the improvement of young players like Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier.

The red-hot Phillies, who played like a team of destiny, will pose a formidable challenge to the Astros.

“Phyllis, they can hit,” Baker said. “They’ve got a couple of top-of-the-rotation pitchers. They’ve got their bullpen together. They play good defense. As you’ve seen, they don’t quit. … You get here, they have the same belief there that we have here.”

The Yankees, meanwhile, end their season on a disappointing note, with Aaron Judge ending the game in what is likely to be his last at-bat as a member of his current team.

Boone acknowledged that the Astros are the standard for the rest of the American League.

“Right now we got beat by a better team and that’s the reality,” Boone said. “They are clearly setting a mark in this league that we are aiming for.”

That team the rest of the AL aspires to be is now one step away from winning its first World Series title since 2017.

“We show up every day,” said Peña, who earned ALCS MVP honors after hitting .353 with two home runs and four RBIs in the series. “We stayed true to ourselves all year. We are one step away from the ultimate goal.”

Houston hosts the Phillies in Game 1 of the World Series on Friday at Minute Maid Park. The Astros opened at -180 to win the Fall Classic at Caesars.


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