Relive the close calls that nearly derailed the Astros' run to a World Series title
The 2017 Astros outslugged the Red Sox in the ALDS, outlasted the Yankees in the ALCS and, thanks to a commanding 5-1 win in Game 7 on Wednesday night, toppled the 104-win Dodgers to win their first World Series in franchise history. Combined with their 101-61 regular-season record, it was one of the most impressive runs in baseball history.
It also wasn't without some very close calls. As the last few years have shown, even the greatest teams will have to navigate plenty of bumps in the road to a title -- and Houston was no exception. So, to commemorate the Astros' historic run -- and soak in a truly bananas postseason -- let's look back on all the nail-biting moments they had to overcome to win it all.
Fifth inning, ALDS Game 4
After Boston kept the series alive with a six-run seventh in Game 3, the Astros were determined to avoid a winner-take-all Game 5 back at Minute Maid Park. So, nursing a one-run lead in the fifth inning, manager A.J. Hinch wasted no time going to the big guns: He brought Justin Verlander out of the bullpen on three days' rest for his first career relief appearance.
The very first batter Verlander faced, Andrew Benintendi, greeted him with a go-ahead two-run homer:
All of a sudden, what had looked to be a commanding 2-0 series lead was in danger. But as they would do all October, Houston rallied: Alex Bregman took Chris Sale deep to tie the game in the eighth, and the Astros scratched across two more against Craig Kimbrel to move on to the ALCS.
Fifth inning, ALCS Game 1
With Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka at the top of their game, Game 1 was bound to be a pitchers' duel. The Astros scratched across two in the fourth, and that proved to be all the scoring they would need -- thanks in large part to some stellar Houston defense.
The Yankees had their best chance in the fifth, when a single and an error put two on with two out and Aaron Judge coming to the plate. Judge lined a single into left field, and it looked like New York would cut Houston's lead in half ... until Marwin Gonzalez came up throwing:
If Gonzalez doesn't make the perfect throw, though, who knows how Game 1 ends? With both runners advancing on the throw, New York would have had the tying run on third and the go-ahead run in scoring position with Gary Sanchez up next. Luckily for Houston, that remained a hypothetical: Keuchel was brilliant the rest of the day, and despite a Greg Bird homer in the ninth, the Astros hung on for a 2-1 win.
Ninth inning, ALCS Game 2
Just one night later, Houston again found itself in a pitchers' duel against the Yankees. This time, though, the score was tied at 1 heading to the bottom of the ninth.
Jose Altuve singled off of Aroldis Chapman for his third hit of the day, putting the winning run on first with one out. The next batter, Carlos Correa, lined a ball into the gap in right-center -- and Altuve took off with a walk-off win in his sights:
The throw arrived in plenty of time to tag Altuve out, but Gary Sanchez couldn't hold on, and Houston had a 2-0 lead.
ALCS Game 5
When the series shifted to Yankee Stadium, though, so did the momentum. New York hammered Charlie Morton in a Game 3 win, then put together a late-inning rally for the ages to steal Game 4.
The real blow, though, came the next night: The Yankees got to the previously invincible Keuchel for four runs, while Tanaka struck out eight over seven shutout innings. The Astros went from seemingly having the series under control to facing a 3-2 deficit, needing to win two games in a row back in Houston with one of its best starters unavailable.
Still, they pulled it off, which led to …
9th and 10th inning, World Series Game 2
The Dodgers had things right where they wanted them: a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth, Kenley Jansen on the mound, just three outs away from a 2-0 lead in the Fall Classic. Jansen had been as good as it gets so far in October, not allowing a single earned run in eight postseason appearances -- including a 1-2-3 save in Game 1 the night before.
And then, with one swing, Gonzalez turned the game -- and the series -- on its ear:
Gonzalez's homer sent things to extras, and with L.A. having exhausted most of its bullpen options, the Astros scored two in the 10th to take the lead. Of course, the game was far from over:
Not only did Houston have to rally against arguably the game's best closer, but the Dodgers also had the winning run on second after a heartbreaking two-out rally. And still, Houston found a way to survive, thanks to eventual Series MVP George Springer's dinger in the 11th.
The entirety of World Series Game 5
Game 5 seemed to have an entire series' worth of ups, downs and drama, so take your pick as to which call was the closest. Falling into a 4-0 hole with Clayton Kershaw on the mound? Staging an improbable rally, only to fall into a 7-4 hole with Kershaw on the mound? Staging yet another improbable rally and taking a 12-9 lead into the ninth, only to watch it go up in smoke?
Houston took all those punches, and still came out with a thrilling walk-off win -- and three nights later, its first World Series championship.