LOS ANGELES — Game 7 of a World Series A.J. Hinch beforehand called “one of the most epic” in history turned out to be a dud.
Which the Astros manager and his team didn’t mind in the least.
The result, for them, was as epic as it gets.
Jumping to a five-run lead after two innings, the Astros completed an upset of the favored Dodgers with 5-1 victory at Dodger Stadium Wednesday night.
The victory gave the Astros franchise its first World Series title and brought a championship back to a city still battered in many sectors by the damage inflicted in August by Hurricane Harvey, an event that sparked a rallying phrase in the city: Houston Strong.
“We’re just happy for the city,” said Astros owner Jim Crane, who bought the club in 2011. “It gave it something to get its arm around. The city was in bad shape, still a lot of work to do there, but I’m just happy for the fans and the city and the region. We look forward to getting back with the trophy.”
The Astros were plenty strong at the plate throughout, hitting 15 homers, the most by a team in Series history.
George Springer’s two-run second-inning blast off Yu Darvish opened a 5-0 lead and sucked much of the remaining energy from the sellout crowd of 54,124 that hoped to celebrate the Dodgers first title since 1988.
Springer, after going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Game 1, went 11-for-25 the last six games with five homers and seven RBI, earning unanimous Series MVP honors.
“George Springer,” Astros Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell said on the field afterward, “is ridiculous.”
The same could be said of the first six games, which had produced a pair of classics, a 7-6 win by the Astros in Game 2, which Brian McCann called the “craziest” game he’d ever been a part of, and a 13-12 victory by Houston in Game 5, which McCann said surpassed it.
Game 7 brought none of the insanity of those contests.
“I was rooting against the drama,” Hinch said. “The drama came early. They put a lot of fight in the whole series and we need to tip our cap to the Dodgers, that’s going do down as one of the most remarkable series of all-time and that takes two teams to do that. We just outlasted them.”
Still, the game did have its quirks. Notably the game’s starters, Darvish and the Astros Lance McCullers, lasting a combined four innings.
Darvish’s Game 3 disaster proved to be a precursor rather than an aberration. The righthander, a high-profile trade deadline acquisition who allowed four runs in 1 2/3 innings in Game 3, allowed five runs (four earned) in a 1 2/3-inning train wreck Wednesday.
“I know he was prepared,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who before game’s end was already being second-guessed for not starting on short rest Clayton Kershaw, who ended up throwing four scoreless in relief. “I just can’t explain the results. I really can’t.”
McCullers successfully limited mostly self-imposed damaged. With almost no command, he allowed three hits in 2 2/3 scoreless innings in which he hit four batters, a World Series record.
The Dodgers went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10. The Astros weren’t much better – 1-for-10 with five stranded – but capitalized early in a two-run first.
Springer led off the game by lining a hanging 1-and-1 slider to left for a double and scored when Cody Bellinger threw wildly to first on a chopper off the bat of Alex Bregman.
The Astros further quieted the crowd in the second when Brian McCann walked and scored later in the inning from third on an RBI ground out by McCullers, who became the first AL pitcher in World Series Game 7 history to drive in a run.
Springer then hammered a full-count fastball to left-center, the two-run shot emptying the Astros dugout as they led 5-0. Soon enough, the night would be the fulfillment of a destiny predicted one from veteran, Carlos Beltran, to another, McCann, while they lined up before pregame introductions at Yankee Stadium, the former home park of both players, before Game 3 of the ALCS.
“We’re standing next to each other and he’s like, ‘you know we’re going to win a World Series ring,’” McCann said during the on-field celebration Wednesday. “He gave me a hug out here and said, ‘I told you.’ ”