By Rory Carroll
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The Houston Astros won the World Series on Wednesday on the back of a two-run home run by George Springer that busted the game open and lifted the team to a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Seven.
The Astros clinched the best-of-seven series 4-3 for the first franchise title in a 55-year existence, and did so against a Dodgers team that had Major League Baseball’s best regular season record.
The Astros jumped on Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish early, scoring all five runs in the first two innings before riding a long string of relief pitchers to the win at Dodger Stadium.
“I think this is the happiest moment of my life in baseball,” Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said on the field after the final out.
“We did this for them,” he said of the fans in Houston, who are still recovering from the deadly Hurricane Harvey in August.
“There has been a lot going on in Houston the last year (and) they are the biggest reason why we are here.”
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said the team was proud of the part it played in lifting the spirits of the city.
“This team loves playing in Houston and we’re going to love bringing this World Series trophy back to Houston,” he said.
The signs for the Dodgers were ominous early as World Series most valuable player Springer got the Astros off to an excellent start when he laced a leadoff double to left field corner and later scored the game’s first run on a throwing error by Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger.
Alex Bregman scored on a ground ball hit by Altuve that gave the Astros a 2-0 lead before the Dodgers had even came up to bat.
Darvish issued a leadoff walk to Astros catcher Brian McCann to start the second inning and scored on a soft ground ball by pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. to make it 3-0.
Springer stepped to the plate with one on and two out in the inning and blasted his fifth home run of the World Series for a 5-0 advantage, chasing Darvish, who ended an ignominious World Series after a similarly disastrous start in Game Three.
“My approach was to get something out over the plate, get something I could drive,” Springer said of his two-run shot.
“And I just remember swinging and hearing the sound of the bat, and I knew it was a good sound.”
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw took the mound in the third inning and threw four scoreless innings to keep his team in the game but the Los Angeles offense failed to convert hits into runs.
The National League champions were unable to capitalize on their many opportunities, stranding 10 baserunners.
The Dodgers scored their lone run in the sixth inning when pinch hitter Andre Ethier hit a ground ball that found a hole on the right side to score Joc Pederson.
“It hurts, it’s suppose to hurt but there is nothing to regret when you leave all out there,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters.
“It was a long season and we stayed together, fought until the end and we came up a little short but there is nothing for us to hang our heads about,” he said.
“The Astros are a great team and you have to tip your hat because they earned it.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Andrew Both)