Astros reach World Series with rout of Red Sox in ALCS Game 6

by · New York Post

HOUSTON — Here they go again, on their own.

The Houston Astros, their lone championship tarnished by a historic sign-stealing scandal, will return to the World Series after their 5-0 blanking of the Red Sox on Friday night in American League Championship Series Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. With a 4-2 series victory, the ’Stros secured their third AL pennant in five years and will take on either the Braves or the Dodgers — beginning in Houston if it’s the former and in Los Angeles if it’s the latter — in the Fall Classic, beginning Tuesday night.

“We stuck together, man, and we accomplished all of the goals,” Carlos Correa said. “Now, we’ve got to go out and get a World Series championship.”

Yordan Alvarez and Luis Garcia, both Houston minor leaguers in 2017, teamed to give the Astros their third straight win, completing one wallop of a counterpunch that began Tuesday in the eighth inning of Game 4 as the Bosox were on the verge of grabbing a 3-1 advantage.

Carlos Correa and the Astros are going to the World Series.

Alvarez concluded a sublime series (.522/.538/.870), securing series Most Valuable Player honors, with a triple, two doubles and a single, driving home one run and scoring two more. And Garcia, who lasted just one inning and one batter while allowing five runs in Game 2 here, threw a stellar 5 ²/₃ shutout innings, taking a no-hitter into the sixth before Kiké Hernandez tripled with two outs, ending his shot at history as well as his night.

It was in 2017, of course, that the Astros won it all in their 56th season of existence, elating their sizable and loyal fan base. And it was in 2019, just weeks after they dropped a seven-game Fall Classic to the Nationals, that the Astros’ universe changed forever upon Mike Fiers’ public allegation (to The Athletic) that the ’17 champions, for whom he pitched, utilized an illegal scheme to decipher opponents’ signals.

The revelation shook baseball to its core and, upon Major League Baseball’s verification of Fiers’ accusation, compelled Astros owner Jim Crane to fire both his president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. It also cast doubt on what the ’Stros had just accomplished in ’19, with conspiracy theories swirling over Jose Altuve’s refusal to remove his jersey (was he wearing a buzzer?) after his pennant-winning homer off the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman.

The Astros are going to the World Series.

That no one could confirm that one didn’t stop Altuve from becoming the face of the scandal, nor did the COVID-19 pandemic (which caused the Astros to play in empty ballparks for all of 2020) extinguish the anger that finally emerged this past season when the club visited Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium, among other hostile locales. And now the Astros return to prime time, better villains than the best of MLB’s social-media team could have created.

“Before it happens, you have to believe it,” said Dusty Baker, the Astros’ beloved manager, who will be managing in his first World Series since 2002. “These guys believe it.”

The long-gone Luhnow, meanwhile, created a roster so deep that it could withstand quiet games by its two October studs, Altuve and Correa. Alvarez gave the Astros a quick lead in the first inning when, off Boston ace Nathan Eovaldi, he followed Alex Bregman’s single by blasting a 409-foot shot to center field that Hernandez tracked down, only to fail to secure it in his glove. The official scorer ruled the well-struck shot a double.

After Eovaldi impressively squashed a second-and-third, none-out rally in the bottom of the fourth by striking out three Astros, the former Yankee’s time ran out in the fifth (he had appeared as a reliever in Game 4, taking the loss). The lefty-swinging Alvarez began the sixth, against Bosox southpaw reliever Josh Taylor, by lacing a line drive into the rightfield corner, far away from any fielder thanks to a complex shift, that he legged out for a triple. Alvarez came home with the insurance run two batters later when Red Sox first baseman Kyle Schwarber deftly fielded a Kyle Tucker bullet, tagging the baserunner Correa and then the bag, yet threw home late, failing to complete the triple play.

The Red Sox’s last gasp arrived in the top of the seventh, when they put runners on first and third with one out. A strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play, with pinch-hitter Travis Shaw fanning and Alex Verdugo getting caught stealing second, turned off that spigot in a blink, and when Tucker ripped a three-run homer for the Astros off former Yankee Adam Ottavino in the eighth, it was game, set, match, season for the Sawx. The Astros, on the other hand, hope to serve up a whole new narrative before they shut it down.

“Ever since the news came out, the bad news that we’ve had to deal with about what happened in 2017, I think we’ve all wanted to prove what kind of class of players that we are and team that we are,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “I wasn’t here with the team in 2017, but I’ve gotten booed just as equally as anybody else. So I think we all have the same mentality, that we really want to win a World Series to demonstrate that we are just a great team.”