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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

World Series: Astros-Dodgers provided epic Series, until Game 7

The Astros' Alex Bregman lifts Jose Altuve as

The Astros' Alex Bregman lifts Jose Altuve as they celebrate after Game 7 of the World Series against the Dodgers Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

LOS ANGELES

The Astros, after winning 101 games during the regular season, still plowed through October the hard way. They beat the Red Sox, the Yankees, and then pushed the Dodgers to Wednesday night’s Game 7, to the very start of November, at Chavez Ravine.

Then it looked too easy.

Staked to a quick 5-0 lead, courtesy of yet another home run by World Series MVP George Springer, the Astros rolled to a 5-1 victory that delivered the first title in the franchise’s 56-year history. When the Dodgers’ Corey Seager poked that final ground ball to the right side of the infield, where Jose Altuve scooped it up, the Astros’ dugout emptied.

And Carlos Beltran, after spending two decades dreaming of this moment, wasn’t sure what happened next. Beltran had played in 65 postseason games, but never had this chance, until Wednesday night’s clincher.

“I didn’t even know what to do,” said Beltran, standing on the field afterward, holding his young son. “I didn’t know where to go, who to hug. The fact that we were able to pull this together really means a lot.”

The Astros, with their young core, could have many more titles on the horizon. But for the 40-year-old Beltran, the former Met and Yankee, this could be it. When asked if he planned to retire, to go out on top, Beltran just smiled and replied, “We’ll see.” As for the first ring, well, that was a long time coming.

“I believe in God and I believe God has reasons why we wait as long as we have to wait sometimes to accomplish things in our career,” Beltran said. “So I waited 20 years, but it’s worth it. I’m happy and I’m looking forward to what is ahead.”

The Dodgers tapped franchise royalty Wednesday night for the ceremonial first pitches, sending out Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe to do the honors before Game 7 at Chavez Ravine. What followed, however, was a coronation for the Astros. Springer’s two-run shot in the second inning was his fifth homer, tying Reggie Jackson (1977) and Chase Utley (2009) for the most in a single Fall Classic. Springer also set records with eight extra-base hits and 29 total bases.

Maybe Koufax, the younger of the two at a remarkably fit 81, should have stuck around to give the Dodgers a few innings because L.A.’s starter Yu Darvish didn’t throw many more than he did. Darvish, who allowed four runs and recorded just five outs in Game 3, was actually worse when it mattered most.

This time, he gave up five runs — including a three-run blast by Springer — and again was removed after five outs. The Dodgers didn’t do him any favors when Cody Bellinger’s throwing error in the first inning helped the Astros take a 2-0 lead only three batters into the game.

With everyone at Chavez Ravine anticipating a fantastic finish to this highly entertaining World Series, seeing the Astros quickly sprint ahead had a numbing effect on the crowd. When Springer’s homer landed in the leftfield pavilion to put Houston up, 5-0, the fans sat in stunned silence as the Astros danced in front of the dugout.

This was not what we imagined at all. Through the first six games, five had been decided by two runs or fewer. Two games involved a one-run margin, both of those won in extra innings. Overall, the Dodgers held a 33-29 scoring advantage, but in the span of two innings, the Astros threatened to turn Game 7 into a blowout.

Darvish’s dud left him with a 24.30 ERA in two World Series starts, and a badly blemished resume for his upcoming free agency. The Dodgers also had to stabilize things after his premature exit, so they turned to Clayton Kershaw — not as a savior, but someone to merely stop the bleeding. Ideally, Kershaw was supposed to enter much later, perhaps to hand off a lead to closer Kenley Jansen.

Other than taking some consolation in Kershaw’s four scoreless innings, the night didn’t get any better for the Dodgers. This was the Astros’ show, from start to finish, and it mattered little that their own starter, Lance McCullers, was only able to get seven outs.

“It’s hard to draw it up any better,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I don’t care who we beat, or where we beat them, I just wanted to be the last team standing.”

New York Sports