BOTTOM OF THE EIGHTH: ASTROS 7 (3) – 6 YANKEES
Red white and blue uniforms. Fourth of July weekend. Betances on the mound throwing 98mph. Texas and New York. Stars and pinstripes. Baseball, at its very American best.
And those Houston Astros, in full sprint toward the best record in baseball. Their best season since… have they ever been this good before?
— Houston Astros (@astros) July 2, 2017
The Astros. The ‘stros. The stars. On the helmet, stars on the caps, on the jersey, on the socks, stars on every flag. They’ve got this. Late-innings comeback. Fourth of July patriotic magic. Right?
George Springer strikes out to lead off the inning. Swinging on a trailing slider. Down three runs in the 8th, five outs left, Betances dealing, the home crowd readied for an L.
And then, a start. Betances brings Altuve to a 3-1 count and walks him. Altuve steals second with no throw. He snags third base, another no-throw from Austin Romine.
Altuve knows you can basically do whatever the hell you want on the bases when Betances is pitching.
— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) July 2, 2017
“This is the one thing that teams have to do,” John Smoltz says on the broadcast. “Betances is so nasty, you’re not gonna get three hits in a row off him, but he takes so long to get the ball to home plate. You have to steal! You have to take the bags!”
Correa grounds out, Altuve comes home to score from third. A two-run game, with two outs. The big inning chances looking slim. A close-but-no-cigar way to a loss.
And then, Evan Gattis. The lumberjack. Gripping the bat like an axe. Bearded. Giant. Set up in the back of the box with his back hunched over and shoulders twisted behind. Betances throws a fastball. Gattis swings almost the second the ball leaves his hand. He connects, watches it, drops the bat down at his feet. And on the broadcast, the Matt Vasgersian special.
“Gattis, with a bomb to left!! Santa Maria!!!!! Outta here!!!!!”
Destroyed, completely destroyed, up on top of the train tracks in left. And the blaring echo of the Astros train rings the stadium… taking off as an entire fanbase crams in for a seat.
From then on: Dellin Betances in overheated panic on the mound, sweating that humid Texas sweat, seeing stars in his dizzying vision, seeing stars on the batters, stars stitched into their uniforms, seeing Astros stars and American stars and a lineup of Houston All-Stars running a rally in front of a giant starry-eyed crowd. A tune, going through his head, clamping down and not letting go. The stars at night… are big and bright…
Deep in the heart…. he walks Carlos Beltran, he walks Marwin Gonzalez. … of Texas. The stars at night… are big and bright… Joe Girardi comes out from the Yankee dugout. Chapman comes in from the ‘pen. And Betances slinks off toward the dugout, takes a seat, torment invading his head in the form of a folk song. The ‘stros at night… are big and bright… they crushed Dellin Betances….
The Astros should give the pitchers belt to Betances.
— Bill Hooser (@bill_hooser) July 2, 2017
Yuri Gurriel steps in for Houston. Cuban vs. Cuban. Chapman throwing 102. Full count. The crowd up, the crowd loud. Chapman whips a fastball on the inside corner, low. Gurriel pulls it, half-stumbling as he gets the barrel on it.
And he rips a hard ground ball down the line past third.
Reddick scores, Gonzalez scores. Chapman, well, he frowns. Joe Girardi fumes. The entire Minute Maid Park rejoices, like they’ve never done before. A tie, a lead, in one fell swoop. And it’s 7-6, Astros on top.
And then, to finish off one of the all-time Houston, Texas nights. An inning later, top of the ninth. Two outs, full count, long at-bat. Brett Gardner drops a hit into left-center. Runs to first, runs past first. Stutter steps and spazzes and retreats and goes down. TOOTBLANing his way into the end. Game over. Astros win. Astros are for real. Astros are the best team in baseball.
The Astros are, indeed, the best damn team in baseball.
And so, you know the drill. Shoot it, Houston Texas!