Home Is Where Heart Is For Astros

Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

Friday night was the third World Series game ever at Minute Maid Park.

Unlike the last two World Series games at that stadium in 2005, Astros fans are not happy just to be there rooting for the home team. They sense their team is good enough to win the World Series, and they want to see their team get that championship.

The Houston Astros are two wins away from winning its first championship in franchise history after they celebrated a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series. They are now 7-0 at home in the postseason.

With the way the Astros are going at Minute Maid Park, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they go undefeated in the postseason at home. They are a different team at home than they are on the road. Their role players play well, and their stars feed off from the home crowd. They make defensive plays such as George Springer’s catch at center field in Game 3, Plus, their pitchers find a way to get huge out in the postseason.

Here’s how good the Astros are at Minute Maid Park in the postseason: They’ve hit .285 and averaged 5.1 runs at Minute Maid this month, compared to .219 with 3.0 runs per game on the road. The Astros pitching staff has an 1.43 ERA with 72 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 63 innings.

Houston has been known to be more of a laid-back baseball town. It will never be confused with New York, Detroit, Boston or Chicago when it comes to passionate baseball cities, but there was a different sense of buzz in this game. The fans were so into it from start to finish. They did not leave the stadium as the game was over. It was a night of celebration for this franchise that has never been in this position before, as in taking a 2-1 World Series lead. It was like baseball was born in Houston.

Sometimes we make too much out of home-field advantage or home-court advantage or home-ice advantage. At the end of the day, it’s who finds a way to win that matters. The Astros are making a theory how important home-field advantage is. If not for Games 6 and 7 in the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park, there’s a good chance the Yankees are playing the Dodgers instead of the Astros.

Dodgers Game 3 starter Yu Darvish did not know what hit him when he was on the mound. He had a hard time concentrating with the fans being so loud. He had to be taken aback considering he has been used to pitching at Minute Maid Park when no one cared over the years.

Darvish had nothing. He could not find the strike zone, and he almost plunked couple of batters in the second inning. Yuli Gurriel homered in the second inning, giving the Astros an 1-0 lead. The Astros scored four runs off him in the second inning, ending his forgettable night. He ended his night by giving up four runs on six hits in 1 ⅔ innings.

The Dodgers were cooking up a big inning in the third inning with the bases loaded. This was where the Minute Maid Park crowd stepped up their own game to offer Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. encouragement by standing up and rallying around him. It helped as Corey Seager grounded into a double play that got him and Chris Taylor out. Joc Pederson scored to give the Dodgers’ first run of the game, but McCullers and the Astros would take it since they got two outs. The inning ended when Justin Turner grounded out.

That inning could have been a game-changer right there.

The crowd never let up. They were louder as the game went on.

Maybe Friday night was the night Houston grew up as a baseball town. It’s always beautiful when a community rallies around a team in big games no matter the level of sport. There is always this tight-knit connection with players and fans.

The Astros certainly don’t take it for granted. They have been used to playing in empty crowds in recent years as a result of some bad awful teams.

After years of bad baseball as a result of the Astros rebuilding that helped them be in this position now, the fans could finally get a payoff by Sunday night.

A first World Series championship ever is always a beautiful thing. It’s a moment fans never forget. It’s been something Houston has waited forever.

Think New York has gone through a championship drought? Their championship drought is nothing compare to Houston’s 22-year championship drought. Houston is only two wins away from tasting this experience.

If anyone thought Minute Maid Park was loud last night, it’s only going to get better.

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