NEW YORK -- If one play can signify who the Astros are at this point, it probably occurred in the third inning Saturday afternoon. Actually, it was two plays, minutes apart, and right fielder Josh Reddick made both of them.The Astros are a hot team at the moment. No surprise
NEW YORK -- If one play can signify who the Astros are at this point, it probably occurred in the third inning Saturday afternoon. Actually, it was two plays, minutes apart, and right fielder Josh Reddick made both of them.
The Astros are a hot team at the moment. No surprise there. Teams that win 101 regular-season games do not surprise anyone. So winning five of six postseason games is not a shock.
:: ALCS schedule and coverage ::
• Dress for the ALCS: Get Astros postseason gear
Neither is being two victories from playing in the World Series presented by YouTube TV for the just the second time in franchise history. The Astros were supposed to win because of having two aces at the top of the rotation, and Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel have been tremendous. They were supposed to win because of baseball's highest scoring offense and three-time batting champ Jose Altuve.
But in winning Games 1 and 2 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World in Houston, the Astros have revealed other parts of their game as the series moves to Yankee Stadium for Game 3.
Those victories, both by 2-1 scores, have been clinics on defense, fundamentals and baserunning.
"Defense [and] baserunning, some of the things around the game, I think to baseball enthusiasts, will always be appreciated," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "But we automatically go to OPS, we automatically go to offense, we go to the high-end pitching. But the defense helps all of that.
"To play clean baseball is what I'm the most proud of. It's not perfect baseball, we've made an error [or] two. We've given away 90 feet from time to time. But the cleanliness of our play, being able to make those relay throws …
"Those are small plays that don't get written about a lot, don't get talked about a lot. But they're hugely appreciated in the winning environment. We talked about it since Spring Training. The players embrace it. Playing on the biggest stage has been pretty remarkable this postseason."
Through the years, data-driven teams were thought to discount the importance of the little things. But the Astros have won three one-run postseason games after a regular season in which they had the fifth-best winning percentage in the Majors in one-run games -- .594 (19-13).
"There's a lot of ways to win a game, whether that's take an extra base or keep somebody from taking an extra base," outfielder George Springer said. "A base hit here. A bloop there. A good quality at-bat by somebody. It shows you don't always have to hit the home run to win a game or score eight or nine runs."
Which brings us back to Reddick and the two plays he made in Game 2 on Saturday.
First, Reddick leapt above the right-field wall to take a home run away from Yankees designated hitter Chase Headley in a scoreless game. Even more impressive than the catch was that Reddick had the presence of mind to use his bare hand to cover the baseball as he banged into the wall.
It's the little things, right? Moments later, Reddick made an even more impressive play by sprinting into the right-field corner to retrieve a ball off the bat of Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner.
In one slick movement, Reddick picked up the ball and threw it while spinning back toward the infield. He seemed completely out of control, but he unleashed a laser throw to shortstop Carlos Correa, who then made a picture-perfect relay to third baseman Alex Bregman to nail Gardner.
"I just tried to get it to Correa," Reddick said. "He's got a cannon for an arm, and he usually knows where it's going when he throws it."
The Astros won it in the bottom of the ninth inning when third-base coach Gary Pettis made an aggressive play in waving Altuve home on a ball Correa hit into the gap. When the throw skidded away from Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, the celebration began.
In Game 1 of the ALCS, Altuve made a nice diving stop of a Didi Gregorius grounder. Likewise, Correa made a highlight-reel stop of a Starlin Castro grounder. And there was left fielder Marwin Gonzalez throwing out Yankees first baseman Greg Bird at home.
There have been other instances, from catcher Brian McCann blocking a ball at the plate to third baseman Bregman's ability to get his body positioned to make a tag on a runner.
Reddick said those plays are part of an attitude of joy and aggressive baseball that has gotten the Astros to this point.
"Just a fun team to be a part of," Reddick said. "We've said it over and over again and we'll keep preaching, but this team is never out of it and we're going to go out and grind and give our best."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.