Culture / Sporting Life

Astros Mute Trevor Bauer, Show Their Championship Heart Still Beats Strong in Major Bounce Back Win Over Frustrated Dodgers

There's No Burying This Team — Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve Embrace Another Moment With the Chill Luis Garcia

BY // 05.27.21

“Let’s Go Astros! Let’s Go Astros!” The familiar, comforting chant reverberates around Minute Maid Park in the seventh inning, bringing a sense of normalcy back with it. So much for that LA Dodgers ballpark takeover.

Just listen to Minute Maid.

One night after a crazy scene seems to tilt the axis of everything in the Astros’ world, they snap back and leave no doubt. No doubt that this is their home. No doubt that Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Co. are still contenders that will be heard from before any period is put on this 2021 baseball season.

With the Astros the ones doing the annoying — of their buddy Trevor Bauer no less — any thoughts of Dodgers fans taking over Minute Maid are quickly dismissed. This is very much an Astros crowd. An Astros win. An Astros night.

Astros 5, Dodgers 2. Mini series split. Baseball’s ultimate LA whiners are befuddled by the Astros on another high-intensity night.

“It felt great going out there and getting this win,” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa says. “Obviously last night we didn’t play how we wanted to. It’s one of the worst games we played all year.

“We had to come back today and make it right.”

No May game is a must-win in a 162 game baseball season. But this is an important one. It erases the sting of that 9-2 loss the night before, ends a four game losing streak. It shows that these proud Astros can still play with the elite of the elite.

Luis Garcia strikes out seven and makes one of MLB’s most dangerous lineups look about as docile as a fat house cat.

There will be a high-profile rematch in Dodgers Stadium in early August. But for now, the star-studded team that loves to complain about the Astros knows that Houston’s team is still capable of annoying them to no end.

Jose Altuve does it with a leadoff home run that sends Bauer spinning into a 37-pitch first inning, the most he’s thrown in any single inning in four years. Carlos Correa does it by yanking a Bauer cutter into the Crawford Boxes in the sixth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie and setting the Astros’ fiercest critic up for another loss to the team he loves to hate.

Bauer still has never grabbed a big moment against the Astros, adding this loss in a supercharged environment to that 2018 playoff loss to Houston when he could last only four innings for a Cleveland Indians team that needed much more. It’s a super small sample size. Which does not make it any less of a sweet one for the Astros.

As Correa rounds third base, with his gloved hand cuffed to the earhole in his batting helmet, Bauer can only mutter to himself and kick dirt around the mound.

They’re still the Astros. Just listen to Minute Maid.

In his postgame Zoom, Trevor Bauer almost sounds like a guy who is ready to move on from the feud. He calls the Astros’ “good hitters” twice, makes nary a trash can mention.

“It’s going to happen,” Bauer says of the home runs. “Every now and then balls leave the yard. I don’t think I did anything wrong. I’m not upset about the pitches. They’re just good hitters.”

What’s next? Inviting Alex Bregman to his birthday party?

If Bauer sounds declawed, the guy who out pitched the Dodgers’ 102 Million Dollar Man is just as happy and relaxed as ever. Luis Garcia, who has gone from something of an afterthought to Astros’ pitching lifeline, does not seem to do stressed. Garcia shows up at the ballpark smiling and throwing strikes, Always.

On this day, he even works in a selfie with some friends in the stands into his pre-start routine. A routine that seems centered around keeping a no worries attitude.

“There was one friend here,” Garcia says, grinning — as usual. “So I took a selfie. It was good.”

Luis Garcia Beats Trevor Bauer With Chill

If only all of us could learn to adopt Luis Garcia’s philosophy in this stressed out world. With his flowing curly hair coming out of the back of his cap, a thin mustache over his lip and a small patch of hair under his chin, the 24-year-old from Venezuela cuts quite a figure, almost an old school swashbuckling one, on the mound.

Garcia might not even remain a starter when the Astros’ bigger name and more experienced pitchers (Framber Valdez, Jake Odorizzi and Jose Urquidy) all return to the Majors. But on this night, opposing Bauer in what looks like a colossal pitching mismatch to everyone not in the Astros clubhouse, Garcia puts up six innings of no run, two hit baseball.

He strikes out seven and makes one of MLB’s most dangerous lineups look about as docile as a fat house cat.

“I remember watching him for the first time last year when he came up,” Correa says of Garcia. “And I thought he was nasty out of the gate. I was like, ‘This kid’s got really good stuff. He’s throwing three pitches, maybe four. He’s commanding them well. And I think he’s going to help us big time.’

“Last year he helped us in a big way. And then this year he’s been outstanding all year long.”

Houston Astros faced the Los Angeles Dodgers and pitcher Trevor Bauer in game two of a series at Minute Maid Park
Luis Garcia has gone from afterthought to essential Astros arm. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

The Astros farm system and international scouting — built under former GM Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane — continue to pay major dividends. So does having a core that is used to big moments. A core that still understands how to win in supercharged environments like this Dodgers-Astros tilt with full crowds back.

Take Altuve. There the 2017 American League MVP is shaking off an 0-4 against the Dodgers Tuesday night to drive in two runs on Wednesday. One on a 401-foot home run. One just reaching out to send a ball almost gently into the hole between first and second base.

“He’s a big game guy,” Astros manager Dusty Baker says of Altuve. “He’s been doing it for a long time. He expects (to do it) which is the important thing. He’s going to get the job done in some kind of way.”

Correa gets the job down with that home run, his seventh in a walk year that some seem to be preconditioned to be disappointed by anything less than Fernando Tatis level numbers from him in. It’s not always easy to recognize Correa’s full impact on these Astros. But it can be seen in the ninth inning when Bryan Abreu is trying to get the first save of his young career against that frightening Dodgers’ lineup.

Bryan Abreu (No. 66) got the first save of his young career. But not until Carlos Correa calmed him down twice. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Bryan Abreu (No. 66) got the first save of his young career. But not until Carlos Correa calmed him down twice. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Correa saunters over to talk to Abreu and calm him down — twice. Including right before Abreu strikes out longtime Astros destroyer Albert Pujols with two on to finally end the game. If Luis Garcia is chill personified, Bryan Abreu can get more worked up than a Karen itching to argue with a flight attendant on a plane. Correa helps make sure it never gets to that point.

“Great moment for the kid,” says Correa, who is still only 26 and just two years older than Abreu himself. “Obviously, he pitches with a lot of emotion. So I went out there to the mound to make sure he was calm and let him know, you’ve got really good stuff. You’ve just got to throw it on the plate. And we’re going to take care of the ball back here.”

That type of steadying talk does not show up in any boxscore. It isn’t featured in anyone’s analytics study. But it’s part of why these Astros still have the heart of a championship team. Part of why no one will be taking over their ballpark. Or kicking them from the big stage.

They’re still the Astros. Just listen to Minute Maid.

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