Story and photo by Lou Roesch
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
HOUSTON, TEXAS (October 20, 2019) Long before the first pitch was thrown in spring training, the Houston Astros had a mantra “Take It Back.” Those three words came after the presumed 2019 regular season MVP Alex Bregman sat down with Houston president Reid Ryan and the marketing staff. On Saturday night, October 19, 2019, the Astros seized back the American League pennant after being knocked out last season by the Boston Red Sox. The 6-4 defeat of the New York Yankees leaves Houston only four games from seizing back the title of world champions. Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the ALCS MVP, saw to that with a walk-off two run homerun at Minute Maid Park.
Houston jumped on Yankees starter Chad Green in the opening frame. With two on, first baseman Yuli Gurriel launched a sinking liner into the Crawford Boxes in left field and Minute Maid went into a frenzy. The atmosphere began to intensify the closer New York drew. In the second, the Bronx Bombers answered back plating Did Gregorious on a cutting the deficit to two. Two innings later, the deficit was one as Gio Urshela, the Cartagena, Columbia native, took Houston reliever Jose Urquidy deep to centerfield.
The game would stay that way utill Houston got the insurance run back on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Bregman. The chess match between Astros manager AJ Hinch and Yankees skipper Aaron Boone continued unabated as each side squandered scoring opportunities till the ninth. Houston brought in their closer Roberto Osuna to seal the victory instead he allowed New York back in. Leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu dropped one over the outstretched glove of George Springer into the seats in right setting the stage for Altuve.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman appeared to have the Astros number throwing 12 straight strikes in retiring the first two Astros hitters before the wheels fell off. Springer drew a walk on five pitches as Altuve stepped to the plate.
“It’s going out to left,” ace Gerrit Cole, as later recounted to Fox Sports, predicted on the Astros’ bench when Altuve came to the plate in the ninth. “And it’s going deep.”
With what would be the last pitch of the ALCS, Altuve crushed the 324th pitch of the game deep into the night (407ft) sending Houston to its second World Series in three years sending the more then 43,000 in attendance into not just a frenzy but a rabid frenzy.
“This is one of the best places to play,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “To reward [the fans] with that experience of the walk-off homer, give them a chance to just go crazy at close to midnight and know that we’ve got more baseball to be played. We still have home-field for the World Series. It’s why we worked our tail off to get as many wins as we could. It is for them. We want to hang another flag for them, and we’re four wins away.”
In its quest to “take it back,” Houston posted a record 107 win season. They went a perfect 50-0 at home when leading by three in a game. The Houston ‘Boys of Summer” were a league leading 60-21. Only the Washington Nationals stand in the way of completing the quest.