Jose Altuve’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth ends Yankees’ hopes for a comeback and sends the Astros to the Fall Classic
The fans at Minute Maid Park, ready to witness the Astros clinch their second World Series berth in three seasons, went from deathly silent to deafening in the span of about 20 minutes.
Jose Altuve’s walk-off two-run home run off Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth inning made them forget all about DJ LeMahieu’s tying home run in the top half of the inning. It doesn’t matter how they got there—using seven pitchers, Alex Bregman driving in one run over the six games, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez going 1-22—the Astros now have a date with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
Game 6 on Saturday had all the makings of an instant classic. There was Michael Brantley’s diving catch in the seventh inning to start a double play and snuff out a potential Yankees rally. Just when the Astros were preparing to rush onto the field to celebrate the American League pennant, LeMahieu’s home run to right field just out of the reach of George Springer made them wait a little longer.
And then there was the diminutive Altuve with the biggest swing of the season, the first ALCS-clinching homer since Magglio Ordonez in 2006. Chapman, who had surrendered just three home runs all season, left a 2-1 slider over the plate and Altuve hit it 407 feet to left field, bringing an end to the 4:09 marathon.
The Astros now head to the World Series to play the Nationals with a couple of advantages in their favor. The Game 6 victory meant that they didn’t have to use Gerrit Cole for a potential Game 7 on Sunday. Cole is now ready to pitch in Game 1 of the World Series and twice in the first five games. If the Astros had lost on Saturday, Cole wouldn’t have pitched until Game 3 at the earliest and possibly not again after that unless the Fall Classic went seven games.
Houston also has the benefit of having been through this journey before. Nine Astros, including several of their key contributors like Altuve, Springer, Bregman, and Justin Verlander, were on the 2017 world championship team. Among the Nationals top players, only Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and relief pitcher Fernando Rodney have played in the World Series before. None of them has a World Series ring.
And, as a result of their league-leading 107 wins in the regular season, the Astros will begin the World Series at home. As the 43,000-plus at Minute Maid Park showed on Saturday, they can get loud. They had every reason to do so in Game 6, and the party in the heart of Texas is sure to last well into the night.
Hopefully, it ends by Tuesday night. The Astros, for all the celebrating they’ll do tonight, know they still have work to do.