LOS ANGELES — Just four years after being the laughingstocks of baseball, there they were Wednesday night, running around like giddy kids, celebrating the greatest night in franchise history.
The Houston Astros are World Series champions for the first time in the 55-year history of the franchise, and they savored every moment of it.
This was a crazy, nutty World Series that expanded the imagination, but in the end, the Astros survived, outlasting the Los Angeles Dodgers by winning Game 7 5-1 in front of a subdued sellout crowd of 54,124 at Dodger Stadium.
Perhaps one day, the Astros will sit down and re-live every wonderful, dramatic moment of this Series, but for now, my gosh, they’re just too emotionally spent.
“I think as time will go by and we'll watch the DVDs that are made of this series,’’ Astros manager A.J. Hinch says, “and the memories that are built from this series. There will be a great appreciation of where it fits in the context of history of baseball.
“There are moments when you can take a step back and smile, and see what you're a part of.’’
For now, well, they’ve got a lot of sleep to catch up on, once they get done with that World Series parade.
This has been a World Series for the ages with all of the craziness, record home runs, blown leads and battered bullpens, but this was the first game of the Series there was little drama.
The Astros had a 1-0 lead just one minute into the game, took a 2-0 lead two minutes into it, and never looked back, with their rested bullpen and starters-turned-relievers choking off any thoughts of a Dodgers comeback.
Yu Darvish, who the Dodgers acquired at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline for moments like this, never gave his teammates a chance. He was knocked out of the game after 1 2/3 innings, departing the World Series with a 21.60 ERA.
Why, he recorded just 10 outs in his two starts, which was one less than Kershaw had in his relief outing in Game 7.
Meanwhile, it was the coming out party for George Springer, who was on that Sports Illustrated cover three years ago when the magazine predicted a World Series title for the Astros, before changing their mind and picking the Dodgers this year.
Now, he's a World Series MVP.
Springer was a one-man wrecking crew, tying a World Series record with five home runs, and producing 29 total bases, eclipsing the record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977 and Willie Stargell in 1979.
He doubled in the first inning, and scored the game’s first run, and broke the game open in the second inning with a monstrous two-run shot to center field, flying off his bat at 110-mph, to make it 5-0.
Just like that, Springer joined Lou Gehrig and Jackson as the only players to ever homer in four consecutive World Series games, but the only one to do it in a single World Series.
He opened the World Series by striking out four times in Game 1, and then haunted the Dodgers the rest of the series, going 11 for 24 with three doubles and five homers.
Now, for the last act, he brings a World Series to Houston, completing this wild ride where the Astros may have been nurtured on analytics, but flourished with their clubhouse culture.
Good luck duplicating it: When you’ve got Jose Altuve, the likely AL MVP, All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Springer playing on the same team, along with Cy Young winners Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander on your staff, it’s tough for anyone to duplicate that kind of talent.
This is a team with so much depth that Verlander and Keuchel didn’t win a single World Series game, but the Astros still prevailed, using three of their five starters this night to close the game out.
The Astros hit a record 27 home runs this series, and 24 were hit by home-grown players.
“There are so many people that have built this team,’’ Hinch says, “and obviously [GM Jeff [Luhnow] and his staff have done a tremendous job. But the scouts, the player development, ticket people, the in-game hosts, just the proud part of being a Houston Astros World Series championship team.
“Our gratitude will go forever.’’
Certainly, Major League Baseball will share the same appreciation, with a compelling World Series that will be remembered for an awfully long time.
“I think what this Series has done with the sport,’’ Hinch said, “is hopefully have people around the country that just appreciated the emotion that's in our game, the youthfulness that's in our game, the drama that's come with this series.
“I think that our sport is loved for many reasons. This World Series will be one of them.’’
The Astros are another.