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Houston Astros shut out lights in Hollywood, bring home first World Series title

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Houston Astros shut out lights in Hollywood, bring home first World Series title

LOS ANGELES -- From laughingstock to lift off.

George Springer and the Houston Astros rocketed to the top of the baseball galaxy Wednesday night, winning the first World Series championship in franchise history by romping past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7.

Playing for a city still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, and wearing an H Strong logo on their jerseys, the Astros brought home the prize that had eluded them since they started out in 1962 as the Colt .45s.

"I always believed that we could make it," All-Star slugger Jose Altuve said. "We did this for them."

For a Series that was shaping up as an October classic, Game 7 quickly became a November clunker as Houston scored five runs in the first two innings off Yu Darvish. Hardly the excitement fans felt during the Cubs' 10-inning thriller in Cleveland last fall.

Well, except for everyone wearing bright orange. Back in Houston, a huge crowd filled Minute Maid Park to cheer as fans watched on the big video board, and the train whistle wailed when it was over.

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"We're coming home a champion, Houston," Springer said after accepting the World Series MVP trophy named this year for Willie Mays.

Star shortstop Carlos Correa turned the party into a proposal. After doing a TV interview, he got down on one knee and asked girlfriend Daniella Rodriguez, a former Miss Texas USA, to marry him.

"Yes?" he said, putting a ring on her finger as she cried.

Altuve, one of four holdovers from a club that lost an embarrassing 111 times in 2013 after switching from the NL to the AL, and this collection of young stars silenced Dodger Stadium from the get-go, taking a 5-0 lead in the second inning.

Altuve was in perfect position for the final out, a grounder by Corey Seager to the 5-foot-6 second baseman.

"I caught the last out for the Houston Astros to become a world champion. It was a groundball to me, I threw to first, and I think it was the happiest moment of my life in baseball," Altuve said.

The Astros streamed from the dugout and bullpen to go wild, tossing their gloves in the air. A thousand or so fans crowded behind the first base dugout, chanting "Hou-ston! Hou-ston!"

Later, some little Astros kids ran around the outfield grass dressed in Halloween outfits. Their dads, meanwhile, were putting on championship hats and shirts.

At last, they had completed the ascent some predicted after a rebuilding club purged payroll and stripped down to bare bones a few years back.

Famously, now, there was the Sports Illustrated cover in 2014 -- after Houston had lost more than 100 games for three straight seasons -- that proclaimed: "Your 2017 World Series Champs" and featured a picture of Springer in a bright Astros jersey.

On the other side, ace Clayton Kershaw and several Dodgers leaned against the dugout railing, watching the Astros celebrate. Los Angeles led the majors with 104 wins and a $240 million payroll, and rallied to win Game 6, yet it didn't pay off for part-owner Magic Johnson and his team.

"Obviously, this one hurts," manager Dave Roberts said. "And like I told the guys, when you put everything, every ounce of your being into something and you come up short, it hurts. And it's supposed to hurt."

Normally a starter, Charlie Morton finished up with four stellar innings of relief for the win.

"We held down a really tough lineup," Morton said. "For my teammates, for the city of Houston, it's just unbelievable."

Springer led off the evening with a double against Darvish, and soon it was 2-0.

Springer hit his fifth homer -- tying the Series mark set by Reggie Jackson (1977) and matched by Chase Utley (2009) -- when he connected for a record fourth game in a row, making it a five-run lead.

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That was plenty for Houston manager A.J. Hinch. He pulled starter Lance McCullers Jr. soon after the curveballer crazily plunked his fourth batter of the game , and began a parade of four relievers that held the lead.

Throughout the postseason, Hinch and the unconventional Astros overcame a shaky bullpen by using starters in relief.

"I knew yesterday I didn't have much," said McCullers, the Game 3 winner. "I knew I didn't have much to give other than to gut it out as long as I could."

In a dramatic Series marked by blown leads and late rallies, when Houston twice outlasted the Dodgers in extra innings, McCullers did enough.

Forever known for their space-age Astrodome, outlandish rainbow jerseys and a handful of heartbreaking playoff losses for stars like Nolan Ryan, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, these Astros will be remembered as champions, finally, in their 56th season.

The club that wears a star on its hat also filled out the Texas trophy case. Teams from the Lone Star State had won most every major crown -- the Super Bowl, NBA and NHL titles, championships in college football, and men's and women's hoops -- except the World Series.

Built on the skills of homegrown All-Stars Dallas Keuchel and more, helped by veteran offseason acquisitions such as Brian McCann and 40-year-old Carlos Beltran, who won his first ring, and boosted by the slick trade for ace Justin Verlander, general manager Jeff Luhnow oversaw the team's resurgence.

Houston won 101 times this year to take the AL West, then won Games 6 and 7 at home in the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees. The Astros joined the 1985 Royals as the only clubs to win a pair of Game 7s in the same year.

When it was over, Bagwell and Biggio posed for pictures together with the World Series trophy.

For the Dodgers, the quest to win a Series for the first time since 1988 fell short.

Kershaw provided four shutout innings of relief for Los Angeles , but it was too late. What the Dodgers really needed was a better starter than Darvish, someone more like the lefty who tossed out a ceremonial first ball: the great Sandy Koufax.

Acquired from Texas on July 31 for these big games, Darvish lasted 1 2/3 innings in both his World Series starts -- the two shortest of his career.

"This pain is going to stay in me for a while," the four-time All-Star said through a translator.

After Springer lined a leadoff double , Alex Bregman hit a bouncer that first baseman Cody Bellinger threw past Darvish for an error, allowing a run to score . Bregman aggressively stole third and scored on Altuve's grounder , and it was 2-0 after eight pitches.

A double by Marwin Gonzalez helped set up perhaps McCullers' biggest contribution, a slow grounder for his first pro RBI. Springer followed with a no-doubt, two-run drive into the left-center field bleachers.

That was the Series-most 25th homer in a Major League Baseball season that set a record for home runs. It was easily enough for the Astros to offset pinch-hitter Andre Ethier's RBI single in the Los Angeles sixth.

Only once have the Dodgers clinched a crown at home, that coming in 1963 when Koufax outpitched Yankees star Whitey Ford to finish a sweep. They've never won Game 7 of the Fall Classic at their own park, dating more than a century ago to their days on the streets of Brooklyn as the Trolley Dodgers.

As pockets of Houston fans got louder and louder in the later innings, the crowd at Dodger Stadium was left to repeat the sad, but hopeful cry that used to echo in Brooklyn: Wait till next year.

Just 106 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

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Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

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USA TODAY Sports

Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Giants right-hander Chris Stratton will seek to duplicate two impressive efforts when he takes the mound for the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night at 10:15 p.m. ET.

The series is the first in San Francisco since Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals star Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, triggering a brawl at the mound that resulted in the ejection of both players.

The Giants got the worst of the altercation, with slugging backup Michael Morse suffering a career-ending concussion in a collision with teammate Jeff Samardzija near the mound.

Stratton wasn't with the Giants at the time, but he contributed one of the best-pitched games of his young career when the clubs met again in Washington in August.

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Making just his third career start, the 27-year-old shut out the Nationals on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win. He struck out 10.

It's the only time he has faced Washington.

Stratton (1-1, 2.22) has won just four times since, and came close to a fifth when he limited Arizona to one run in seven innings in his last start on Wednesday. He did not, however, get a decision in the 4-3 win, during which he recorded eight strikeouts.

The Giants will be opening a 10-game homestand following a 10-game trip on which they went just 4-6. Statton started two of the four wins.

Stratton wasn't the only Giants starter who pitched well on the trip. The club is coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Angels in which both Samardzija and Johnny Cueto took shutouts late into wins.

Strickland saved Sunday's 4-2 win for Cueto, and afterward was asked about his thoughts of seeing Harper again.

"Win a series," is all he would say.

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In the Nationals, the Giants will be seeing a team coming off a high-profile series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that included a meeting on Sunday Night Baseball.

Washington lost two of three in the rematch of 2017 division winners, scoring a total of just eight runs on 21 hits in the three games, which ended with the Nationals stranding two in the top of the ninth of a 4-3 loss on Sunday.

Harper went 2-for-10 in the series, which the Nationals played without injured regulars Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton. They remain out.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49) will oppose Stratton.

The veteran has made 12 career starts against the Giants, going 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA.

He restored order to the Nationals-Giants series in San Francisco last season the day after the brawl, pitching 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 win. It improved his record at AT&T Park to 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven starts.

Gonzalez threw 97 pitches in beating the New York Mets 5-2 in his last start, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday.

That pitch total wasn't even five times the number Giants first baseman Brandon Belt saw in one historic at-bat Sunday against the Angels' Jaime Barria in the first inning.

Belt fouled off 16 pitches and flied out on the 21st pitch of the at-bat, the most pitches in a Major League Baseball at-bat since 1988.

Afterward, Belt apologized.

"When I'm in the field, I hate it when a batter keeps fouling pitches off," he insisted. "I'm like, 'Dude, just put it in play. It's not that hard. Let's go.' So, I basically had to apologize to everybody after that."

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Bullpen falters as Dodgers rally from 3 runs down to top Nationals

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USA TODAY

Bullpen falters as Dodgers rally from 3 runs down to top Nationals

LOS ANGELES  -- Although Cody Bellinger's fierce line drive drove in the tying run, it hit the center field wall so quickly that the throw back to the infield beat him to second base.

No problem: Bellinger adroitly avoided the tag with a swim move he learned from watching Mike Trout on television, and the Dodgers kept charging toward the latest win in their comeback surge.

Bellinger followed Yasmani Grandal's two-run double with an RBI double in the sixth, and Corey Seager drove in Austin Barnes with the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of Los Angeles' sixth win in seven games, 4-3 over the Washington Nationals on Sunday night.

With smart plays by Bellinger, Barnes and almost everybody else, the Dodgers (10-10) got back to .500 after a rough start for the defending NL champions. They were largely dominated by Jeremy Hellickson until they erased a three-run deficit in the sixth with three big hits from their patchwork lineup.

"There were signs of that old ballclub when we were coming from behind," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "That was good to see."

Los Angeles went ahead shortly after Barnes was hit by a pitch from Trevor Gott (0-1). Barnes wisely advanced to third on Chris Taylor's single and scored on Seager's fly.

"You've got to make something happen in that situation," Barnes said of his dash to third. "We're trying to get runs on the board late in the game. It was worth a shot. Be aggressive and play our kind of baseball, and eventually it'll pay off for us."

Alex Wood pitched six innings of six-hit ball for the Dodgers, and Josh Fields (1-0) survived a rocky seventh inning.

Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for his first save since April 10 and his third of the season -- but not without drama. The Dodgers' vaunted closer began the ninth by yielding two singles, but then struck out Andrew Stevenson and Trea Turner before ending it on Howie Kendrick's fly to the warning track.

Michael Taylor homered, doubled, singled and walked for the Nationals, who have lost seven of 11.

Hellickson retired 14 straight Dodgers before doubles by Chris Taylor and Grandal, with a walk by Seager sandwiched between them. Bellinger followed with his go-ahead line drive against Sammy Solis.

"The one that Taylor got was probably just a tad up," Hellickson said. "(The pitch to) Grandal was down. Probably the only at-bat I'd like to have back is that one to Seager."

Michael Taylor put his first homer of the season into the home bullpen beyond left field in the fourth. He then doubled, advanced on Wood's pickoff throw into center field and scored on Moises Sierra's mid-length fly in the sixth for a 3-0 lead.

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