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Crane: Astros fearless under pressure

MLB.com @Marathoner

HOUSTON -- Jim Crane attended a Play Ball event hosted by Major League Baseball and his team on Saturday morning at the Astros Youth Academy complex, surrounded by 500 kids who were having fun and making a lot of noise.

Come to think of it, that describes pretty much his entire city right now.

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HOUSTON -- Jim Crane attended a Play Ball event hosted by Major League Baseball and his team on Saturday morning at the Astros Youth Academy complex, surrounded by 500 kids who were having fun and making a lot of noise.

Come to think of it, that describes pretty much his entire city right now.

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"We'd love to win all three here," the Astros' owner and chairman said. "We take them one at a time. We've got a big crowd, and they're into it. We've only been in the World Series twice, and that was the first World Series home game we've ever won last night. They're going to come out strong tonight. The fans stand most of the game and just scream and yell."

That's Astros baseball in late October 2017. Crane's team is not only still going, but it is "kind of fearless" and two wins away from a World Series championship and a dream come true. The greater Houston area suffered badly in late August when Hurricane Harvey flooded homes and businesses, and as he participated in the clinic for underserved youth, Crane was pleased with his community's response.

"We had a tough time. The hurricane was very severe, over 500,000 homes and businesses flooded. A lot of people are still rebuilding and recovering," Crane said. "It's just united the community. It's put a little charge into the town, and we needed that.

"Our guys were boxed out of town for about a week, and finally got back and played some baseball against the Mets. They've got a patch on their uniform, 'Houston Strong.' The players are behind it, the fans are behind it, and it's really created a sense of community for Houston."

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Commissioner Rob Manfred attended the Play Ball event, along with other dignitaries including new Roberto Clemente Award winner Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs and Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch, MLB's youth programs ambassador. Manfred noted that both World Series cities have important storylines, and in this case, he said it was easy to understand how much this Fall Classic excitement means to Crane and the community.

"I think that what happened here after Harvey is a great example of what baseball is about," Manfred said. "We made a million-dollar donation to hurricane relief here, but that was small support for what this club did here locally. Jim Crane and the Astros not only donated $4 million but also had very specific programs that the Astros would take responsibility for, in order to move the community forward."

The Astros hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series against the Dodgers heading into Saturday night's Game 4 at Minute Maid Park. Crane expects it to get louder and louder.

"Having been on the road now in L.A., New York and Boston, I think the home-field advantage is significant now," Crane said. "These guys have played tough all year. There's two great teams in the World Series, so we're taking it one game at a time. But they don't give up. L.A. doesn't, either. You saw it the other night [in Game 2] -- it was whoever threw the last punch."

Tweet from @PlayBall: What a great day in Houston! #PlayBall pic.twitter.com/gziZNma91F

Crane said he expected a hard-fought series, considering that it featured two teams with at least 100 wins apiece for the first time in 47 years. Though Crane was not getting too far ahead of himself, mayor Sylvester Turner, who also participated in the Play Ball clinic, would be coordinating parade contingencies just in case.

"This team has matured a lot," Crane said. "There are a lot of young guys, but they've matured, and they've played a little bit a couple of years ago and got beat. I think they're focused, and they're kind of fearless right now. They can play well under pressure. So we're happy with their performance, and we hope we can finish it off.

"We had a tough series with the Yankees and barely got by them, and probably had a tougher time than L.A. Often, you don't get the teams with the best records. We're playing one game at a time. We hope to win, we've never won before, and it would be great for the city."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him on Twitter @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub.

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