Alvarez blasts Baker, Astros to World Series title vs Phillies

World Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Houston Astros - Game Six
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HOUSTON – Yordan Alvarez hit a towering go-ahead homer and the Houston Astros clinched their second World Series title in six seasons and got Dusty Baker his first crown as a manager with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6.

As Alvarez’s 450-foot blast in the sixth inning disappeared, Astros starter Framber Valdez jumped and wildly screamed in the dugout as fans in the crowd of 42,948 went into a frenzy waving their orange rally towels.

Baker finally got his first title in his 25th season as a manager, the past three since being hired by the Astros to help the team regain credibility after the sign-stealing scandal that cost manger A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs, and made Houston the most reviled team in baseball.

The 73-year-old Baker, who had been to the World Series twice before as a skipper, is the oldest championship manager.

Houston’s coaching and training staffs circled around Baker after Nick Castellanos flied out to end it, jumping up and down, and chanting “Dusty! Dusty! Dusty!” in the dugout before they joined the players on the field.

Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena was the World Series MVP after getting another key hit, a single to set up Alvarez’s drive.

The 25-year-old star from the Dominican Republic also won a Gold Glove award and AL Championship Series MVP – Pena is the first hitter to win those three awards in a career, and he did it all in his first season, per OptaSTATS.

Alvarez’s homer cleared the batter’s eye in straightaway center, the backdrop that extends 40 feet above the field, and made it 3-1. It was the first time the Cuban slugger connected since the first two games this postseason.

Christian Vazquez added an RBI single later in the inning to make it 4-1.

Valdez earned his second win of this Series. He had been in the dugout only a few minutes after throwing his 93rd and final pitch while striking out nine over six innings.

But the lefty had walked off the mound with the wild-card Phillies up 1-0 on Kyle Schwarber‘s solo homer leading off the sixth.

Schwarber, who hit his third homer in the past four games, rounded the bases waving his raised empty hand in the same motion as the fans with their towels.

But by the time Schwarber batted in the eighth, the NL’s home run leader was reduced to bunting, trying for a hit to stir a dormant Phillies offense. His bunt went foul with two strikes, resulting in a strikeout.

In the sixth, Houston got two runners on base against starter Zack Wheeler for the first time in the game, with Jose Altuve reaching on a forceout after a hit batter and Pena singling.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson went to left-handed reliver Jose Alvarado to face the lefty slugger for the fourth time in the series – Alvarez had popped out twice and been hit by a pitch the first three times.

And Alvarado had allowed only three homers to left hitters in his six big league seasons, until his 2-1 pitch, when Alvarez crushed the 99 mph sinker.

Alvarez hadn’t homered since Game 2 of the AL Division Series against Seattle, when his two-run shot in the sixth inning put them up to stay. That came after his game-ending, three-run shot in Game 1 for an 8-7 win.

Houston won an American League-best 106 games and reached its fourth World Series during a span in which it made it to the AL Championship Series six seasons in a row. 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.

This was their third ALCS and second consecutive World Series since former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers revealed after the 2019 season, when he had gone from Houston for two years since being part of their 2017 championship, that the team had used a camera in center field to steal signs and signal hitters on which pitches to expect by banging on a garbage can.

Philadelphia was 22-29 when Joe Girardi was fired in early June and replaced by bench coach Thomson, the 59-year-old baseball lifer getting his first chance a big league manager – he was on the Yankees big league staff for 10 seasons with Girardi, and was part of their last World Series and title in 2009.

The Phillies finished the regular season 65-46 under Thomson, their 87 wins good for the sixth and final spot in the NL playoffs, on way to their first World Series since 2009.

Valdez became the only left-hander other than Sandy Koufax in 1963 to strike five consecutive batters in a World Series game. He fanned the side in the third, then Bryce Harper swung and missed a 97 mph sinker to start the fourth before Castellanos’ 10-pitch at-bat that ended with him taking a 96 mph pitch on the inside corner – and clearly disagreeing with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale.

When Wheeler was on the mound in between that, he broke at least three Houston bats in the bottom of the third, and had to make one play while a shattered bat flew over his head and around him. The barrel of Chas McCormick‘s bat landed short of second base and then slid all the way to the outfield grass.

After midseason addition Trey Mancini singled for his first career postseason hit, a pitch after having to change bats, McCormick’s second bat of the pate appearance shattered at the handle by a 97 mph sinker, with the barrel finally 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 the force with the bat still moving between him and Mancini running toward the base.

Wheeler gave up three doubles and two runs in his first four pitches in losing Game 2. His first four pitches a week later resulted in a strikeout of Altuve, and the right-hander matched a career best needing only seven pitches to get out of the first inning.

Wheeler finished with 70 pitches, allowing two runs on three hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out five and walked one.

The Phillies had two runners on in the second, around two called third strikes, when No. 9 batter Edmundo Sosa hit a drive to deep left. The ball was caught more than 360 feet away from the plate by Alvarez, in the cutout beyond the Crawford boxes. That ball that would have been a home run in at least two MLB parks.

SCHWABER’S SHOTS

Schwarber homed on a 2-2 sinker, going down on the 96 mph pitch to pull it 395 feet into the right-field seats – well away from the pole, and well over the fence. He hit back-to-back pitches a total of 756 feet in Game 2, the first initially called fair before a crew chief review determined the 403-foot drive curled just foul and then a flyball caught at the wall 353 feet away from the plate.

It was the 15th career postseason homer for Schwarber, who hit .412 in the 2016 World Series for the Chicago Cubs, when he was activated after being out since early April because of a torn ACL.

UP NEXT

Phillies: In less than four months, the Phillies will be back in Texas to begin their 2023 regular season, about 250 miles away for the opener of an interleague series March 30 against the Texas Rangers.

Astros: Whether or not Baker and/or general manager James Click are back – neither is signed past this season – the World Series champs will play their 2023 season opener at home March 30 against the Chicago White Sox.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.