Astros rule the baseball world – 11/08/2017Free Access

Astros rule the baseball world

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ

Sports FOCUS

There is something wrong with the Houston Astros these days: they’re not playing anymore.

Now, all we have are memories of a World Series championship that left us drained at the very end.

For many nights the past few months, there was always an Astros game on TV. Even my wife surprised me, as she became interested enough to watch them with me late at night. That’s a tall order, believe me, because my wife never surrenders the TV when her favorite novelas are on. But we both fell in love with the roster of characters who had all the ingredients of a World Series champion.

From the mutt and Jeff combination of shortstop Carlos Correa and second baseman Jose Altuve to the way manager AJ Hinch figured out a lineup that included Cuban star Yuli Gurriel at first base and Marwin Gonzalez in left field. Both those players gave up positions to play elsewhere in the field and gave the team a chance to succeed. It was reported several times that he probably had the best throwing arm on the team. He proved it several times when he threw out runners during the playoffs. When he got hot with the bat early in the season, Hinch had to play him somewhere and inserted him in left field.

Gurriel, an established star third baseman in Cuba, came to the Astros as a rookie and immediately showed he could hit MLB pitching. But with budding young star Alex Bregman at third base, Hinch put him in at first base. As far as I’m concerned, that made the infield solid and Gurriel converted nicely.

Hinch’s handling of the catcher and designated hitter was also successful. He had an established catcher in Brian McCann and also Evan Gattis, a power hitter and capable catcher. Hinch platooned them at first and also DH. But the main DH was Carlos Beltran. He platooned the three players, and somehow everything worked out and the players accepted the lineup.

The pitching was the biggest headache for Hinch down the stretch, but the moves he made worked out. It was no secret analysts said the Dodgers’ pitching was the best in baseball. They proved that during the regular season.

But somehow, Hinch figured out how to use his relievers. And when his closer, Ken Giles, faltered, he used a combined system of relievers and starters to out-manuever Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. For those reasons alone, Hinch should be named Manager of the Year.

And how can anyone deny that Jose Altuve is the league’s MVP? Altuve, all 5-foot-6 of him, showed you don’t have to be a big man to play successful baseball. All he did was win the batting title in the American League and played outstanding defense.

Winning a World Series also means that your personal life can improve greatly. Moments after the Astros won Game 7, Correa knelt in front of his girlfriend, a former Miss Texas, and proposed. She said yes.

A few days later, star pitcher Justin Verlander, who helped the Astros greatly down the stretch, married his girlfriend super model Kate Upton.

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