After the Astros had scratched and clawed for five runs in the top of the ninth inning and after they’d closed out their most improbable and probably most important victory of the 2020 season, their clubhouse had a familiar 2017 feel to it.
“Lots of whooping and hollering in there,” manager Dusty Baker said after a stunning 7-5 victory over the Dodgers on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
The Astros rallied to win against the team with the best record in the game (32-14) after trailing 5-1 in the eighth inning and 5-2 in the ninth. They’d come back against one of baseball’s best closers, Kenley Jansen.
Those were important names on the 2017 Astros team that won one of its biggest postseason games with a late rally in Game 2 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium. This latest one comes at a time when their hold on a playoff berth was in danger of slipping away.
“We've obviously had a tough trip,” Springer said. “This is the best team in baseball. It can be huge, but we're going to have to find out. I think we did a heck of a job of staying in the game. Even though we got down early, we stayed in the game and scratched and clawed and was able to pull it out.”
Baker called it “the win of the year,” and he wasn’t overstating things. The Astros arrived in Los Angeles having lost eight of nine on an 11-game West Coast trip. If they’d dropped this one, they would have been just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Mariners in the race for second place -- and a guaranteed playoff spot -- in the American League West.
“Like I told them today, we win these two games [at Dodger Stadium],” Baker said, “and the rest of the road trip will seem like it didn't matter. It starts with one. Tonight was the first of hopefully many down the road. This team knows how to fight.”
For one day, everything clicked. Four relievers combined to pitch four shutout innings in relief of Framber Valdez. Their ninth-inning rally included three two-strike hits against Jansen. Carlos Correa opened with a single, and that’s where it started. Aledmys Diaz followed with a single. Then Reddick’s double. Then, suddenly, the pressure shifted.
“The at-bat by Correa was the whole thing,” Springer said. “He got on base. He got it going. Our team can string together at-bats. For the first time in a long time, we actually did, and it’s exciting.”
Before that, Dodgers lefty Julio Urías had allowed one run in six innings. Meanwhile, Valdez got in a 3-1 hole in the second inning when Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernández homered on back-to-back pitches.
After the first inning, the Astros got just two runners into scoring position until the eighth inning. If his club looked lifeless, Baker said it was because Urías was at his 96 mph best.
“You know I hope we look back on this as a turning point,” Baker said. “This is a team that doesn’t quit. I'm really proud of these guys tonight.”
Whether this one win represented the end of the bad times will be played out over these final 14 games as the Astros attempt to nail down a fourth straight postseason appearance. For one night at least, a bit of the old magic reappeared.
“Hopefully, we can build off this,” Bregman said. “We need to continue to battle it out, grind it out and get back to hitting how we normally do.”