The Astros added another run in the inning when Alex Bregman walked and scored on a single by Christian Vázquez. Houston’s talented bullpen, one of the keys to the team’s success, shut the Phillies down for the remaining three innings, leading to the ultimate celebration on the field.
The victory provided special joy and perhaps some vindication, as well, for Dusty Baker, the Astros’ manager who had never won a World Series, despite leading five teams to the playoffs, a record. At 73, Baker became the oldest manager to win a World Series.
The Astros hired Baker after firing A.J. Hinch, the manager of the 2017 team, for not putting a halt to the cheating operation. With an impeccable reputation and affable persona, Baker not only stabilized the team, but was able to deflect some of the ire aimed at the organization.
Now, as two-time champions, the Astros also avoided the fate of other excellent teams that made repeated visits to the World Series but only managed to win one championship. Smoltz’s Braves won the Series in 1995, which helped soothe the pain from losses in four other Fall Classics. He said it was like having a thousand-pound weight lifted off their shoulders, and said the same held for the Astros because of the circumstances surrounding their only other title.
“You’ve got to give them their due,” Smoltz said. “The only way you make up for something that is a big, huge cloud over you, is to show them that you can win without it.”
In 2019 the Astros lost to the Washington Nationals in seven games. Last year they lost to the Atlanta Braves, both times in Houston, as the home fans were forced to watch the jubilant visitors celebrate on their home turf. In between, Houston lost the American League Championship Series to the Red Sox in 2018 and the Tampa Bay Rays in 2020.
They had five straight trips to the A.L.C.S. since 2017, but previously no untainted title to show for it.