Reason #2: Examining the present
While we are uncovering the now moment, we have to remind ourselves of the past in this regard. The Houston Astros making the 2017 World Series was a big accomplishment, especially for a franchise that went through 12 seasons of going from contenders to MLB’s version of the Bad News Bears. In our one appearance in 2005, the Houston Astros were swept by the Chicago White Sox in four straight.
Now, they were back and about to go toe-to-toe with a team that was better than the ’05 squad in the Los Angeles Dodgers. If getting by the Red Sox and Yankees were tough, then this was going to be a war and it would live up to that. But after falling to the Dodgers 3-1 in Game 1 and down by the same score with six outs to play in Game 2, the Houston Astros were in trouble.
That was because three factors came into play.
Factor #1 – History
Obviously, history is a stat that could be put into the who cares category these days. But the Houston Astros were bound to face that with a loss. In the previous 112 World Series that had been played, 54 teams (48.2 percent) had taken a 2-0 series lead in the first two games of the World Series.
While not exactly the majority of of first two games in World Series play, it’s what happened to those 54 teams afterwards that stands out. 43 of those 54 teams (79.6 percent) went on to win the World Series, including the last 10 teams that encountered the situation. The last team to overcome a 2-0 deficit was the 1996 Yankees over the Atlanta Braves.
I would like to think we could’ve rallied had we lost game two but the momentum would not be in our favor and how the rest of the series played out doesn’t agree with me. So it was crucial the Houston Astros win to even the series like the 51.8 percent of teams that did so before.
Factor #2 – The Invincible Dodgers
Before the 2018 Red Sox did damage, the 2017 Dodgers were looked upon as the best team in history winning 104 games, including a one-point record of 91-36. They cruised through the postseason with one loss and were favorites heading into the series. So many stats stand out for their team that was awe-striking. But the one stat that will be remembered is 98-0. 98 times the Dodgers had a lead going into the ninth inning. And 98 times the Dodgers earned the win.
A key part of the success came from their bullpen, who in the NLCS did not concede a run to the Chicago Cubs. While both teams were seen as mirrors to each other, the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen had the edge. So Houston had to get to the bullpen to win. But that was easier said then done, especially when facing the best closer in the game.
Factor #3 – Kenley Jansen
It’s hard to top the career that Mariano Rivera had as he will no doubt be the best closer to ever play the game. But there was a time when it seemed like Kenley Jansen would be the second coming. A former catcher turned reliever because his offensive numbers were not so good, Jansen took on the challenge and ran with it throughout his career.
The new all-time saves leader in Dodgers’ history, Jansen would breeze through 2017 by striking out 36 batters without giving up a walk en route to 109 Ks, a 1.35 ERA and five wins while being awarded the reliever of the year.
Including Game 1 of the World Series, Jansen pitched nine innings of scoreless ball and picked up four saves to add to his already impressive MLB record of 12 consecutive saves to start his postseason career. When Jansen came into the eighth inning of Game 2, there was a runner on base from the previous pitcher. While Jansen gave up an RBI single, the run would not be charged to him and he kept the score at 3-2 going to the ninth inning.
So the Dodgers stand three outs away from taking a 2-0 series lead where the odds would be in their favor. Destiny was on their side as 98-0 was soon to turn into 99-0 and Jansen would continue his dominance as the closer with he potentially grabbing Save No. 13. Jansen threw two pitches to which Gonzalez looked and fouled off two strikes. In front of a hostile crowd and with all eyes on this matchup between the best closer in the game against the Houston Astros’ unsung hero, it seemed the script was being written, completed and sent to the Editor for the stamp of approval.
And then, it happened:
A home run that joined the ranks of Ed Sprague, Jim Leyritz, Jonny Gomes, and Mitch Moreland as among the best game or series-altering homers that ever happened in the World Series. But for us Houston Astros fans, this moment would forever define Gonzalez.