At a friend's birthday party with the sixth game of the ALCS projected onto a giant screen in the backyard of their home just before midnight, the mood went from good to awful in a matter of seconds. The Astros had led since the first inning three-run homer from Yuli Gurriel, but here we were in the top of the ninth and closer Roberto Osuna gave up a game tying two-run home run.
Then, moments later when Jose Altuve launched a two-run home run into left field, a Latin dance party broke out on the patio. All across Houston, you could feel a palpable combination of sighs of relief mixed with absolute jubilation as the Astros beat the Yankees to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years. Make no mistake, Houston was euphoric on Saturday night and the Astros were the reason.
It was a crazy end to a series that felt a lot different than most expected. There were few offensive explosions and great pitching. There was frustration on both sides and surprising road wins. In the end, the Astros polished off the Yanks four games to two and will return to the World Series on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals. Here are four takeaways.
Yankees fans get what they deserve.
The Yankees players are, for the most part, quality individuals with loads of talent. The fans in NYC, however, can be something altogether different. Multiple stories out of New York this week described deplorable behavior from fans throwing things on the field, yelling awful comments at Astros players and dumping beer on Astros fans. While this certainly doesn't represent the majority of Yankee fans, enough of it happened that the organization put out PSAs on the big screens during game five asking fans to exercise restraint. To be frank, losing to the Astros this way was deserved.
Pitching dominated despite the offensive firepower.
For all the talent in the lineup for these two teams, pitching was spectacular throughout the series. Every game felt tight and players who normally hit for power and average were held well below both. Critical moments and timely hits were far more relevant than big innings. It was unusual for two teams like the Astros and Yankees, but it made for some very tense games.
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Defense was a huge key.
The Astros defense in Game 6 was nothing short of spectacular. There was a Josh Reddick's diving catch in right field, an incredible toe-tap double play from Carlos Correa and probably the defensive play of the playoffs by Michael Brantley, making a diving catch and doubling a Yankees runner off at first base. Any mistakes on those plays could have been the difference in the game and when the 'Stros needed them, the defense didn't falter.
Jose Altuve may now be the second greatest Houston athlete ever.
There is really little argument that Hakeem Olajuwon is the greatest Houston athlete of all time. With all due respect to other remarkable athletes like Carl Lewis, Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Simone Biles (she is perhaps the greatest gymnast of all time), Jose Altuve appears to have climbed the ladder to the spot behind the Dream with that game-winning homer in game six. He has become such a bedrock of Houston sports, it's hard to imagine the Astros without him. We literally love him and for good reason.