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Culture / Sporting Life

The Astros’ $500,000 Man Destroys the Moneybag Dodgers, But Yuli Gurriel’s Racist Gesture is Beyond Sorry

BY // 10.28.17

The impromptu chant greets Brad Peacock as soon as he turns the corner, and it’s soon bouncing off the concrete walls of Minute Maid Park’s underbelly, picking up in intensity with every step by the unlikely savior. “Let’s Go Pea-cock! Let’s Go Pea-cock!” This qualifies as one of the most surprising curtain calls in Houston sports history and Peacock almost seems taken aback by the love.

Guys like him don’t usually get serenaded on their way home.

Peacock is the feel-good story of these suddenly World Series favorite Houston Astros though — and Houston’s sports scene has never needed one more. On a night when Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel flashes an inexcusable, ignorant racist gesture in the dugout sullying what should have been his best moment in Major League Baseball, Peacock ensures Houston moves within two wins of a championship with a save for the ages.

When Gurriel makes the slant-eye gesture at Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish from the Astros dugout, he deserves his fate of being surrounded by a media horde only asking about that rather than the home run he hit that kickstarted Houston’s 5-3 Game 3 win. There’s been no excuse for this type of hate long before 2017 and Gurriel is a 33-year-old grown man who needs to know better. With MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred set to meet with Gurriel on Saturday, that gesture could still end up hurting the Astros in all sorts of ways.

With Peacock, there are none of those type of worries. On an Astros team largely full of guys easy to root for, Peacock may be the best story of all. He’s a former 41st round pick, a guy who toiled as fringe player before his breakthrough 2017. In a league in which the average salary clocks in at $4.47 million, Peacock makes $542,000 on a one-year deal.

As a 29-year-old. This is not one of the Astros’ young superstars waiting for an inevitable monster payday.

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“If you look at his salary, and take everything into consideration, he might actually be our MVP,” veteran Astros catcher Brian McCann says.

Peacock certainly is on a Friday night that sees the Astros win their first World Series game in Houston ever. He comes out of the bullpen and dazzles the mighty 104-win Dodgers with an array of fastballs much more overpowering than their 93 MPH radar gun readings would indicate. Peacock throws 3 2/3 hitless innings up, squeezing any comeback hope right out of Los Angeles.

This is as old school a save as you’ll ever see — something Goose Gossage would even appreciate. And no one’s more surprised to complete it than Peacock.

“It was crazy,” Peacock says. “…. I’m shocked. I’m just glad (Astros manager A.J. Hinch) gave me the opportunity to do that.”

Peacock may have been surprised, but no Astros fans wanted to see regular closer Ken Giles out there for the ninth inning. There is only one winning choice. Keep the guy with the $500,000 salary in against the team with the highest payroll in baseball. There are 10 Dodgers who make more than $10 million a year, including Darvish, their Friday night starter.

None of them are as close to as good as Peacock in the pressure cauldron of Game 3.

“He’s always even keel,” McCann says. “He’s just a mellow man, and I think that helps him in these type of situations.”

These pressure cooker situations are swallowing up some of the Dodgers best players. Rookie slugging sensation Clay Bellinger is 0-for-11 in the series with seven strikeouts, four on Friday night alone. Darvish puts up the shortest start of his entire career, getting knocked out after only five outs. The strikeout force does not strike out a single batter for the first time ever — and only induces two swings and misses period over 49 pitches.

Then there’s the Astros Mellow Man, weaving his way to the finish with four big strikeouts, including one in which he mixes in a few sliders among all those dancing fastballs to fan Chris Taylor with the Dodgers threatening in the seventh.

Suddenly, the Dodgers are trailing in a series for the first time this postseason. LA’s dominant 8-1start to the playoffs has smacked head first into Houston’s relentless lineup — and capsized. There are sharks less focused on the kill than these Astros.

“We’ve been this team all season long,” MVP force Jose Altuve says. “Now, we need to be it for two more games.”

The Astros started hitting in the eighth inning of Game 2 in Los Angeles — and they have not stopped yet. Anyone who imagined that late barrage was something of a fluke found themselves in for a huge surprise. The best hitting team in baseball all season was only warming up.

These Dodgers infamously lost 16 of 17 games at one point late in the regular season — and they suddenly look like they could be streaking the wrong way again.

Yu Darvish’s Uncommon Class

Even in defeat, Darvish proves to be a bigger man, showing more class than Gurriel has any right to expect. “No one is perfect,” Darvish tweets later about Gurriel. “That includes both you and I. What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put out effort into learning rather than to accuse him.”

For his part, Gurriel can only offer an apology for his senseless actions.

“I didn’t try to offend anybody,” Gurriel reasons through Astros translator Alex Cintron. “I was commenting to my (teammates) that I hadn’t had any good luck against Japanese pitchers…

“I didn’t think anybody would think about what I meant (in that way). I offer my apologies to baseball and anyone offended.”

It’s hard to wrap your head around this new image of Gurriel. He’s supposed to be the fun-loving, crazy-hair guy who falls out of bed hitting. But people are complicated. And so are baseball teams.

You never know what will get one going — and stop another in its tracks entirely. Sometimes, all it takes is a $500,000 Man to stand up to a $265 Million Blue Juggernaut.

So there’s Brad Peacock coming around the corner in the underbelly of Minute Maid Park, starting his way toward home, when a group of Astros backers spot him and start the impromptu chant. “Let’s Go Pea-cock! Let’s Go Pea-cock!”

On this night, it sounds twice as nice.

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