Won for the road: Astros celebrate title in LA
Club eager to bring party to Houston with parade on Friday
LOS ANGELES -- The last three outs of a World Series can feel like three years, even with a four-run lead.
That's probably why in those final moments of the Astros' 5-1 win in Game 7 on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, Houston's dugout was tense. Support staff paced. Players shuffled from one foot to the other, trying -- and failing -- to appear relaxed. All eyes were glued to the field, where Charlie Morton was out for his fourth inning of work, tasked with recording the three most stressful outs of the game.
Only one person in the Astros' dugout appeared as he did for all 179 prior games Houston played this season leading up to the Wednesday's winner-take-all finale of the World Series. It was fitting, given it's part of his job description to hold steady when chaos is building around him.
Manager A.J. Hinch stood still at his perch on the left side of the dugout, unmoving, with his arms folded. As the scene played out 20 feet from him, he reacted to nothing.
Hinch briefly clapped when Morton struck out Chase Utley for the first out of the ninth inning. He didn't react much when Chris Taylor grounded to Jose Altuve for the second out, and the same went for Corey Seager's ground ball hit to the same area, fielded again by Altuve.
But as soon as Yuli Gurriel squeezed that last out, the mood changed. Pandemonium took over, and everyone in the dugout and on the field let loose.
"Every out is the biggest out," Astros catcher Brian McCann said. "You're just trying to get to the next one and get to the next one. We hand the ball to Charlie and I saw the stuff he had, we were all very confident he was going to close this thing out."
It was quite a scene on the field, even if it was somewhat subdued in the stands. That's what happens when a team wins a championship on the road -- tiny pockets of cheering can be heard from the fans who traveled to watch their team, but the majority of the noise made is coming from the players and staff.
The Astros in uniform were focused only on each other and the sea of orange-clad fans in the stands. Several hundred fans stood behind Houston's dugout celebrating along with the players. There's more of that to come on Friday, when the city hosts its first World Series parade.
"We wear Astros or Houston or the big 'H' across our chest, our head," Hinch said. "We're one of the better cities in our country that people don't know about. Our fans will show up in Houston this weekend, when we celebrate this together."
The first order of clinching business was the presentation of the Commissioner's Trophy, near the Astros' dugout. George Springer, named World Series MVP, addressed Astros fans, both at Dodger Stadium and at home watching on TV.
"This is a dream come true," Springer said. "It's an honor. But you know what? It's about the Houston Astros tonight and our city and our fans. We're coming home a champion, Houston."
Inside the visitors' clubhouse, music blared and the party continued for well over an hour as Astros players, all wearing goggles that have become standard garb during clinching celebrations, doused each other with bubbly.
"This means more to me for my teammates and my coaches," Dallas Keuchel said. "At the Trade Deadline, when I said great teams can be legendary, I meant that. We already had a great team. We wanted to be legendary. We wanted to be in the record books."
Mission accomplished. This was the first World Series championship in Astros history, in only their second appearance in the Fall Classic. The 2005 National League championship team was swept by the White Sox in four games.
"It was a blast," Alex Bregman said. "Are you kidding me? We're playing in World Series Game 7, it was special. Two great teams playing against each other, and the best team won. We've got many more of these coming."
For now, they'll celebrate the first one, sealed three hours and 37 minutes after the first pitch was thrown, in the most important game the Astros played all year.
"Just running out there, running through right field thinking, 'We did it,' and we did it in different ways," reliever Will Harris said. "Coming into this Series, I don't think anybody really gave us a legitimate chance, and we proved a lot of people wrong with determination and just a brotherhood we have in the clubhouse."