It was over now in Los Angeles, even though you knew the party was just beginning at Minute Maid Park and outside on Texas Ave. and Crawford and all the other streets around that ballpark in Houston. Charlie Morton, who started and won Game 7 of the American League Championship had now finished Game 7 of the World Series. Corey Seager hit a ground ball to the great Jose Altuve, who threw it to Yuli Gurriel and, in that moment, it was so much more than just the Astros winning their first World Series. This was about the connection between a wonderful young team and a city that had been wounded by Hurricane Harvey. This was about a cheer that went up for this team once it returned to Houston after that storm, and finally lasted all the way through October, and to the first night in November.
"Got in a rhythm a little bit," Morton said to FOX's Ken Rosenthal when it was over, after four innings in relief and four strikeouts and two hits and allowing the only run the Dodgers got in Game 7.
"It's just unbelievable," Morton said, at a loss for words after he had pitched the way he pitched and done so much to put this loss on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"Gutsy team," Dallas Keuchel, one of the team's ace pitchers, said when it was over.
"We take great pride in being there for Houston at that time," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, meaning the terrible time during and after Hurricane Harvey.
So it was perfect, then. A gutsy team for a gutsy city. The Astros were the best team when they won 60 of their first 89 games. They finished as the best team, even though the Dodgers won more games this season. Again and again: Watching the Astros play baseball is like watching the Golden State Warriors. And at the very end, at the beginning of Game 7, they jumped the Dodgers and didn't ever let them up. George Springer hit another home run, a two-run shot in the second that felt like a big second-round knockdown, fourth Series home run for him in four games, fifth in all against the Dodgers.
After that, Hinch -- in one of the most masterful managing jobs any Game 7 has ever seen -- went from Lance McCullers Jr. to Brad Peacock to Francisco Liriano to Chris Devenski, and finally to Morton, who took the Astros home. Before they all go home for a parade, which Houston has waited for since 1962.
The Astros were down three games to two to the Yankees in the ALCS. Beat the Yankees in the last two games at Minute Maid Park, and beat them down, outscoring them, 11-1, in those games. They did not close out the Dodgers in Game 6 with Justin Verlander on the mound. So they did that on Wednesday night, with Verlander warming up in the bullpen, just in case Morton needed him. He did not.
"This one's for Houston back there at home and in the region," Astros owner Jim Crane said during the World Series trophy presentation. "They got hit hard."
The Dodgers kept trying to hit the Astros back after the Astros scored two in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, the Dodgers had first and second, one out in the inning. Bellinger struck out. McCullers hit Yasiel Puig with a pitch. Bases loaded, two outs. Only down two runs. Joc Pederson grounded out to second. McCullers, barely, was out of the jam.
The Dodgers had first and second, one out in the bottom of the second. It was 5-0 by now, mostly because of Springer, the last big home run man of a big home run season in baseball. But Chris Taylor lined into a double play. And already the Dodgers had left too many runners on base in Game 7. It would have been too many even if it had been April 7.
In the third, the Dodgers had first and second nobody out. Cody Bellinger struck out, again. A few minutes later, Hinch -- not waiting the way Dave Roberts did taking the ball from his starter, Yu Darvish -- got Peacock in the game, and he kept Game 7 at 5-0. Clayton Kershaw was pitching for the Dodgers by then and already you were wondering why, if Kershaw was able to come into this game in the third inning, why he didn't start this game.
But the real pitching story on this night was with the other team. Hinch used three pitchers in the fifth, Peacock and Liriano and finally Devenski. The Dodgers ended up with runners on first and third. Devenski got Puig to line to Gurriel at first.
Now the Dodgers were a dozen outs away from next season. Or maybe a dozen more runners left on base, whichever came first.
The Dodgers finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, Andre Ethier singled off Morton, driving home Pederson, making it 5-1. This was another inning that began for the Dodgers with two runners on and nobody out. But with two on and one out, Morton struck out Taylor and gets Seager to ground out to Correa. Two more runners left on for the Dodgers in Game 7.
So much had happened in this World Series. We had two 3-1 games. We had 13-12 in a 10-inning game at Minute Maid Park, Sunday night and into Monday morning, that turned that place into a theme park. We saw Kershaw and Verlander start four World Series games between them and come away with one victory, combined. Verlander couldn't close out the Series in Game 6. Kershaw couldn't hold a 4-0 lead or make it through five innings in Game 5. In the same Fall Classic, we had two classic games: Game 2 in Los Angeles, Game 5 in Houston.
Everybody kept saying they didn't want the Series to end. It had felt like six Super Bowls before Wednesday night. But now it was ending. Morton, in the last innings of his season, just kept getting stronger. Houston Strong. In the bottom of the seventh, he went through the heart of the Dodgers order breezing, Justin Turner and Bellinger and Puig. In the immortal words of Yogi, it had gotten late early when the Astros got ahead 5-0. Now it was just late for the Dodgers.
Six outs from next season. Then three outs away because Morton kept pitching like a star in a star town, striking out Pederson in the eighth, getting Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes on fly balls. Now the baseball winter was very much in the house in Southern California. Late as it could be for the Dodgers in Game 7.
In the bottom of the season for the Dodgers, Morton struck out Chase Utley, who once was a World Series home run guy, in 2009, the way Springer has been eight years later. The Astros now two outs away from their first World Series. Taylor grounded out. One minute to midnight in the East. Seager grounded to Altuve. A splendid World Series belonged to Astros. And to Houston.
"You know what, Houston?" Hinch said on TV. "We're a championship city."
One last Hollywood ending for them in their wonderful baseball season, a long way from home. All kinds of Hollywood endings on this night as it turned out. We even saw a wedding proposal after Game 7 was over, Correa proposing to his wife-to-be on the field at Dodger Stadium. Altuve talked about a "dream come true." Yeah, it was. For them. Mostly for their city. Sometimes these stories come out right. And strong. Yeah. Houston Strong.