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HOUSTON: Yordan Alvarez hit a big, game-winning home run and the Houston Astros clinched their second World Series title in six seasons and secured Dusty Baker his first crown as manager, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 in Game 6 Saturday night.
Alvarez threw a three-run drive in the sixth inning immediately after Phillies starter Zack Wheeler was retired with a 1-0 lead. As Alvarez’s 450-foot drive disappeared, Astros starter Framber Valdez jumped and screamed wildly in the dugout as fans in the crowd of 42,948 went into a frenzy waving their rally towels orange.
“When I rounded second base, I felt the whole stadium move,” Alvarez said through an interpreter.
Baker finally earned his first title in his 25th season as manager, the last three since being hired by the Astros to help the team regain credibility after the sign-stealing scandal cost manager AJ Hinch their job. and general manager Jeff Luhnow, and made Houston the most reviled team in baseball.
The 73-year-old Baker, who has previously competed in the World Series twice as a skipper, is the longest-serving championship manager in any of North America’s big four sports. It came 20 years after a near miss, when he came five times to win the championship while guiding the San Francisco Giants.
“What next? I said if I win one, I want to win two,” Baker said afterwards.
Houston’s coaching and coaching staff surrounded Baker after Nick Castellanos flew in to end it, jumping up and down and chanting ‘Dusty! Dusty! Dusty!” in the dugout before joining the players on the pitch.
Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña was the World Series MVP after getting another hit, a single to set up Alvarez’s drive.
The 25-year-old Dominican-born star also won a Gold Glove and AL Championship Series MVP award — Peña is the first hitter to win all three of those awards in his career, and he did it all in his first season, per OptaSTATS .
Alvarez’s homer cleared the batter’s eye to center right away, the backdrop stretching 40 feet above the pitch. It was the first time the Cuban slugger had connected since the first two games of this postseason.
“This time, what I did, I just tried to stay a bit calm, pick a good ground to swing on,” he said. “And that’s what I did.”
Christian Vázquez added an RBI single later in the set to make it 4-1.
Valdez earned his second victory of this series. He had only been in the dugout minutes after throwing his 93rd and final pitch while striking out nine in six innings.
But the southpaw had left the mound with the wild-card Phillies leading 1-0 on Kyle Schwarber’s homer in the lead in the sixth.
Schwarber, who has hit his third homer in the past four games, circled the base, waving his raised empty hand in the same motion fans do with their towels.
But by the time Schwarber hit in the eighth, the NL home run point guard was down to a bunting, trying to hit a base hit to stoke a dormant Phillies offense. His bunt became a foul with two strikes, resulting in a strikeout.
In the sixth, Houston got two runners on base against Wheeler for the first time in the game, when Martín Maldonado was hit by a pitch, Jose Altuve forced out and Peña singled.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson went to left-handed reliever José Alvarado to face the left-handed slugger for the fourth time in the series — Alvarez had popped up twice and been hit by a pitch the first three times.
“I thought Wheels still had some really good stuff. It wasn’t about that. It’s just that I thought the match was better with Alvarado over Alvarez at that point,” Thomson said.
And Alvarado had allowed just three home runs to left-handed hitters in his six major league seasons, until his 2-1 pitch, when Alvarez crushed the lead from 99 mph.
“It’s kind of a dirty inning and I thought, I mean, going into the series, it was always kind of Alvarado over Alvarez,” Thomson said. “It was the sixth inning and I felt like the normal guard in the bullpen guys could handle it.”
Alvarez hadn’t homered since Game 2 of the AL Division Series against Seattle, when his sixth-inning two-run shot set them up to stay. It came after his game-ending three-point shot in Game 1 for an 8-7 victory.
Houston has won the American League’s best 106 games and reached its fourth World Series in a stretch that has qualified for the AL Championship Series six straight seasons. The Astros made their only other World Series appearance in 2005, while still in the National League, and were swept in four games by the Chicago White Sox.
It was their third ALCS and second consecutive World Series since former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers revealed after the 2019 season, when he had been away from Houston for two years since being part of their 2017 championship, that the team used a camera in center field to steal signs and signal batters on what pitches to expect when hitting a trash can.
Philadelphia was 22-29 when Joe Girardi was fired in early June and replaced by bench coach Thomson, the 59-year-old lifer got his first shot at becoming a big league manager – he has was on the Yankees’ big league staff for 10 seasons with Girardi, and was part of their last World Series and title shot in 2009.
The Phillies finished the regular season 65-46 under Thomson, their 87 wins good for the sixth and final NL playoff spot en route to their first World Series since 2009.
Valdez became the only left-hander other than Sandy Koufax in 1963 to strike out five consecutive batters in a World Series game. He fanned the side in the third and then Bryce Harper swung and missed a 97mph lead to start the fourth before Castellanos’ 10 pitch at bat that ended with him taking a 96mph pitch into the corner inside — and clearly at odds with plate umpire Lance Barksdale.
When Wheeler was on the mound between that, he broke at least three Houston bats on the bottom of the third and had to make a play while a broken bat flew over his head and around him. The barrel of Chas McCormick’s bat landed short of second base, then slid to the outfield grass.
After a mid-season addition, Trey Mancini picked for his first career playoff success, a pitch after having to switch bats, McCormick’s second bat from the plate appearance was broken at the handle by a 97 mph pellet, the gun eventually landing short of second base and then sliding to the edge of the outfield grass. Wheeler made the play and threw to second baseman Jean Segura for strength with the bat still moving between him and Mancini running to base.
Wheeler conceded three doubles and two runs on his first four pitches in the Game 2 loss. His first four pitches a week later resulted in a strikeout from Altuve, and the right-hander tied a career-best in n needing only seven pitches to get out of the first inning.
Wheeler finished with 70 pitches, allowing two runs on three hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out five and walked one.