It was in 2014 when Sports Illustrated proclaimed that the Houston Astros would be the 2017 World Series champions after Ben Reiter did a piece on Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow’s plan on building the Astros into a championship contender. George Springer was on the cover for being the guy that would lead the way.
The weekly publication has been known to curse athletes or teams with the dreaded SI cover jinx since it was in business. For one night, the magazine can take a bow.
The magazine’s prediction turned into reality on Wednesday night at 11:58 p.m. after the Astros won the World Series by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7. What’s even neat was Springer (the player in the cover) was the World Series MVP after hitting .379 (11-for-29) with five home runs (tying Chase Utley and Reggie Jackson for most home runs hit in the World Series) and seven RBIs, including being the first player to homer in four straight games within a single World Series.
It was fitting Springer did the honors of getting the Astros started with a leadoff double to start the game and scoring the first run of the game when Alex Bregman went to second on a throwing error by Cody Bellinger in the first inning.
With the Astros taking a 3-0 lead in the second inning, it was Springer again that put the finishing touch by hitting a two-run home run in that inning, extending the Astros’ lead to 5-0.
From there, Brad Peacock, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski and Charlie Morton finished the Dodgers off in relief.
The Astros earned their night to shine. They have been the best team in baseball all season, and they have played like it in the playoffs. They survived the long season, and they survived adversity against the Yankees by coming back from a 3-2 series deficit to win the American League Championship Series.
It couldn’t have been surprising they were ready to go in Game 7 after blowing a lead and losing in Game 6. They were good enough to bounce back and move forward. Remember this team took so many blows against the Dodgers in the World Series and still won their games. That experience helped them for Wednesday night.
The Astros showed their trademark of what makes them successful. They had great at-bats. They were aggressive on the bases, and they were able to drive runners home. They also got the timely home runs. In other words, they played Astros baseball on a night they had to do it.
They even got the most out of their relievers, who didn’t exactly do well in the playoffs.
The moment was not too big for the Astros while it was big for the Dodgers, especially Yu Darvish, who had nothing from the start.
It took 55 seasons for the Astros to get that first championship, but it makes it much more sweeter that they finally got it done. Especially when they have to start from the ground up in the 2011 offseason when they hired Jeff Luhnow as their general manager and Jim Crane brought the franchise. They absorbed 218 losses (two 100-loss seasons in a row) combined from 2012 and 2013 while sticking to the rebuilding process instead of taking shortcuts.
For a city that was devastated by Hurricane Harvey recently, it was a much-needed lift as people are trying to pick up the pieces after their properties were destroyed.
For Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Justin Verlander, the championship validated what has been a productive career for them after putting in the work.
For Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Springer, the championship was a reward for them enduring many losses as the Astros were building to be in this position they are in now.
For Luhnow and Crane, Thursday night was the sweet joy of what patience was all about by sticking to the plan.
Wednesday night meant something for this Astros organization in so many ways.
It wasn’t just the long wait, but it was decades of hard work that was put into it after disappointments of falling short in the playoffs.
Wednesday night will last a lifetime. That’s what winning the first World Series championship can do to a team and the city.