World Series 2017 – So long and thanks

Perhaps it’s some form of Stockholm Syndrome but, while I wanted the Houston Astros to win, I didn’t want the Los Angeles Dodgers to lose. This is the first World Series I’ve watched the entire way (I missed one game), and when I spend that much time with two teams like that I start to relate to both sides.

My heart aches for Yu Darvish. The man showed a great deal of class after the Yuli Gurriel gesture incident in Game 3, and he’s an excellent pitcher. Giving up five runs in two innings was heartbreaking. His teammates tried to make up for it–and in previous games they had proven it could be done–but it just wasn’t happening this time.

Clayton Kershaw was awesome, and fun to watch. Kenley Jansen, who looked like he belonged in shoulder pads more than a baseball cap, was annoyingly good.

I cringed every time Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Logan Forsythe, Chris Taylor, and Yasiel Puig came up in the lineup. They proved time and again that they were capable of blowing a game wide open. Cody Bellinger was hot on defense, and had moments of brilliance at bat. Unfortunately he’ll likely be remembered for his record-setting strikeouts at the plate. He deserves better than that.

The Dodgers were a great team. Fans love to hate them, but they earned everything they got this season. They fought hard. The beat our beloved Cubs. They nearly beat the Astros. The stats in Game 7 showed a much tighter game than the scoreboard did. They out-hit the Astros. They had 11 runners in scoring position during the game. They hit out more often than they struck out.  They weren’t conceding the game. They just ran out of luck.

I had expected a closer Game 7, perhaps even hoped for it. I was half-prepared for the Astros to lose, even though they had a pattern of winning the next game after every loss to the Dodgers. While my blood pressure doesn’t mind it was a less stressful game for Astros fans, I knew we couldn’t declare it over until that last out–the Dodgers are just that good. Even my wife, who had vowed to go to bed, watched all the way through.

I’m glad it didn’t turn into a post-midnight stress-fest like the Cubs-Indians Game 7 last year. I’m glad our team won. Our family is now two-for-two in World Series support–like that means anything. (But you can’t be sure, so next year we can be paid to support the team of your choice.)

The Astros are easy to like. George Springer always made things exciting. Jose Altuve looked like he was having the time of his life–and we short people of the world have found our champion! Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and Marwin Gonzales were solid on both sides of the inning. Brian McCann was almost lovable with his slow, lumbering gait around the bases, and remained sharp behind the plate where his size was an advantage.

While it was the Dodgers’ pitching staff the announcers were most excited by, the Astros pitchers were getting it done, and generally more efficiently. Stars like Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander were fun to watch, as expected, but Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, and Charlie Morton were fantastic when they were in the groove–and they were in the groove at some very key moments. Morton bears most of the credit for Game 7 being as dull as it was, keeping his cool and holding the Dodgers scoreless for the last three innings–the point where the Dodgers were often at their most explosive.

I can’t say enough about A.J. Hinch, the Astros’ manager. It shouldn’t seem all that special to know your players and trust them to come through, but compared to the Dodgers, he was a sea of calm. He left pitchers in when they were doing well, something Dave Roberts seemed less willing to do. It didn’t always pay off for the Astros, but I believe it was one of the keys to the Astros still having enough in the tank to outlast the Dodgers.

At the end of the day–or the series–it was a great series, with lots of everything we love about baseball. Both teams fought hard. Both deserved to win. One came out the winner, and I’m glad it was the team we backed, but there was much to love about the other team who made the winners look so heroic.

Thank you–all of you–for a really fun series! Best of luck for next year.

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