The Astros are having fun again


CHICAGO – Dusty Baker is 72 years old.

He has managed 3,791 games, played in 2,079 games and has been in Major League Baseball since 1967.

But the team that leads 2-0 in that American League division series makes Baker feel like he’s 15 years old.

Not 60.

Not 50.

Not 30.


Do you remember what it was like when you were 15?

Many of us would give almost anything to re-experience the spirit and openness of this special age.

The fun and contagious Astros set the 57-year-old life clock back by the wise and normally low-key Baker as they beat the Chicago White Sox by a combined 15-5 in Games 1 and 2 at the interior of a vibrant Minute Maid park.

“I told my wife, I said, ‘I hope after each of these games I’m emotionally tired of thinking and exercising energy,” said Baker, who smiled and was soon laughing again while discussing the pounding heart in the center of his baseball team. “It’s like – I don’t know. I feel 15 during these matches. I know I’m not 15, but I’m 15.

Carlos Correa is 45 years younger than his second-year Astros manager. But Correa is a very experienced MLB veteran in terms of playoffs played (65) and has seen it all in the October Fire.

Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker (30) returns to the Astros dugout after hitting a two-run homer giving the Astros a 9-4 lead in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series on Friday, October 10. December 8, 2021 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

Sitting next to an upbeat Kyle Tucker after another convincing win on Friday, Correa beamed, laughed and often looked more like a 2015 playoff rookie than a team manager considering the potential of one more new contract. $ 300 million in a few months.

“I really like the playoffs. As you can see, I am already losing my voice. This is only Game 2, ”Correa said. “I am very excited. I become very focused. I find that inner calm when there is a key situation. So I just like to play in that type of situation, that type of atmosphere. It’s just special. I will never take it for granted.

It’s only been two home games against a White Sox team that sometimes forgets how to play defense, so I don’t want to get carried away too much.

“It’s one thing, it’s not over,” Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson said. “We still have a chance. “

The San Francisco Giants with 107 wins and the Los Angeles Dodgers with 106 wins are fighting for National League supremacy in California. The Tampa Bay Rays ‘100 wins could be the Astros’ next big test inside the spooky amusement park also known as Tropicana Field (as long as they’re not crushed again by the Red Sox of Boston).

There have been playoffs since the Astros started winning again that heavily influenced the Houston MLB team: Kansas City in 2015, New York Yankees in ’17, Boston in ’18, Washington in ’19.

Three of them ended late in the season for the Astros, despite all being winnable and loaded with orange and blue momentum at critical times.

But it was impossible to miss for the first two battles of this ALCS, so you might as well say it now.

The Astros are feeling fun again.

Fun to watch.

Fun to cover and write.

Fun to cheer on and yell at.

Baker’s team must finish off Tony La Russa’s team for the fall magic to really begin to tingle. But I spent part of Games 1 and 2 thinking back to 2015, when everything was still wide open and innocent, and your young and new Astros were overloaded with FUN.

“It’s an accumulation of months of work to get to this point,” Baker said. “This is one of the reasons I came back. I missed it. I aspire to this. As a player, I loved it. As a manager I probably don’t like him as much as when I was a player because I could have a direct impact on the game where now I depend on them to play. So, yeah, it’s fun.

This team, obviously, is nothing without all the names from the daily lineup that we know so well: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel, Correa.

But 24-year-old Yordan Alvarez was a powerful center in Game 2, while new names (Jake Meyers, Chas McCormick) have already made an impact in the series and rookie Luis Garcia is expected to take the ball first on Sunday at Guaranteed. Rate Field. .

Add more recent names like Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, and Tucker, and the 2021 Astros have increasingly become a depressing sign-theft scandal tied to 2017 and 2018.

“It was awesome. It was a dream come true,” said Meyers, describing his first playoff game. “Lots of experience at this clubhouse and I definitely asked questions. The guys came over and gave me a lot of advice, and I think it helped me feel comfortable and play well in the game.

The vicious boos will likely return to Chicago at some point. Or St. Petersburg, Florida, Boston, Atlanta, Milwaukee or the West Coast.

But there was nothing to dislike about the Astros in Games 1 and 2.

They were playing modern baseball the right way. They thrived with super smooth defense, aggressive base stroke, methodical strikes, and full offensive play. They made Minute Maid Park dance and have a blast during the playoffs for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic ruined everything.

Point Blank: It was impossible not to have an old-fashioned good time watching the Astros beat the White Sox in a crowded stadium.

The Astros were a refreshing blast in 2015, and then they were filled with swagger over the three consecutive 100-plus seasons that followed.

Last year they almost turned a 29-31 record into another World Series round. But it was a weird year for the real world and a super weird year for the MLB.

Life, at its best, is fun. Especially when you’re 72 and 15.

For as serious, technical and fat as baseball can be, it is ultimately a cinch that is supposed to put a smile on our face.

If Baker’s club continues to win like this in 2021, the return of fun has only just begun for the Astros.

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