Culture / Sporting Life

Chas McCormick Points to His Twin After Homer Shocking Yankee Stadium — How Young Guys and New Additions Are Making a Perfect Postseason Seem Possible For the Astros

Cristian Javier Uses Plane Lessons From Framber Valdez, Trey Mancini Kicks Self Pity to the Curb and Jose Altuve Embraces the Kid Enthusiasm

BY // 10.23.22

NEW YORK — As Chas McCormick rounds second base and heads for third, floating on another unexpected playoff high, he points towards where his family is sitting in the stands. McCormick wants his mom and dad, his twin brother Jason and his girlfriend to feel like part of this too. Because what the Houston Astros are doing in these playoffs is beyond rare.

Something to be treasured. Something to be shared. And because it’s Chas, something to have fun with.

“It means a lot, man” McCormick says when I ask him about having his family in Yankee Stadium, watching this Northeast kid have a big moment. “I know where they’re sitting. When it gets close to home — New York, Philly, Baltimore — a lot of them show up.

“And being able to hit a home run off Gerrit Cole and knowing they’re there. . .”

McCormick stops and grins, just letting the thought hand there. Sometimes there are no words. Even for someone who talks as much as Chas McCormick. Yankees fans have run out of words to describe what is happening in this American League Championship Series too — for a whole different type of reason. They even forget to boo Jose Altuve when he comes up to bat in the top of the ninth inning.

That’s right, there is Altuve, the man cast as the No. 1 villain for so long in New York, swinging in silence in the house that replaced The House That Ruth Built. If that does not encapsulate just how dominant the Astros’ 5-0 Game 3 win and 3-0 series lead are, nothing will.

Yankees fans even lost the will to hate Jose Altuve by the ninth inning of this Saturday night in the Bronx.

That is a new level of Astros high. The team that’s playing to become a dynasty is more than halfway to a perfect postseason now. These Astros are 6-0 in the playoffs and the idea of them becoming the first team to go 11-0 in the postseason doesn’t seem so farfetched anymore. Since Major League Baseball expanded to a third round of the playoffs in 1995, the 1999 Yankees and the 2005 White Sox share the record for the most dominant run ever with matching 11-1 sprints to the title.

The Astros still have some significant work to do to reach those lofty heights, but this is a team that’s come together in every way. Jim Crane’s franchise hasn’t possessed this seemingly perfect mix of young enthusiasm and veteran know how, hungry new players and proven veteran winners, since that 2017 squad that won Houston’s only baseball championship.

Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr. are still around, showing everyone new who comes into this clubhouse the Astros’ way. But in many ways, it’s the younger Astros generation — the next few waves that followed those remaining Core Astros — who are charging this October of dominance.

“We have some young guys who are really starting to thrive a little bit,” McCormick says. “Framber (Valdez), Luis (Garcia), Cristian (Javier), you know (Kyle) Tucker, (Yordan) Alvarez. I think that’s why we’re a really good team.

“It’s a special mix.”

6-0 — and looking for more. Perfect. But not satisfied.

“You don’t make it to the ALCS six years in a row without having a little bit of that fire in you to come in every single day and not take a single day off.” — Justin Verlander

The young Astros are certainly bringing the fun and more outright joy to the winning. McCormick is a firecracker come to life, always eager to bring some sparkle. And sometimes some downright comic relief.

This former Division II college baseball player and 21st round draft pick is the one who jokes to foundational Astros star Jose Altuve, a former American League MVP, that Altuve should keep the baseball for “his first hit.” That would be the double that finally broke Altuve’s 0 for 25 start to this postseason.

Of course, Altuve already has plenty of big playoff hits in his career, including 23 postseason home runs. So yeah, about McCormick’s “first hit” souvenir baseball crack. . .

“He’s kind of funny sometimes,” Altuve deadpans when someone asks about McCormick’s dugout remark.

That’s the thing. These Astros veterans almost seem to get as much from these young Astros as they give them. Guys like Altuve and Verlander are getting a real kick out of seeing this next Astros wave react with such joy to every moment.

Like McCormick drilling a 98 MPH Gerrit Cole fastball into Yankee Stadium’s short right porch, jolting the Astros to an early 2-0 lead that the Yankees will never recover from. And triggering a whole fresh new round of Chas Chomp celebrations in the dugout.

McCormick is one of lowest paid Astros, making right around the MLB minimum of $700,000. Twenty-first round picks don’t get big contracts or signing bonuses. But McCormick’s enthusiasm is priceless.

“He always brings that energy,” Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña tells PaperCity about McCormick. “He brings that good vibe and sense that something is going to happen. You need that.”

These Astros need 25-year-old Cristian Javier’s electric stuff too. Making his very first playoff start, in Yankee Stadium with all those pregamed up Yankees fans just dying to erupt, Javier once again leaves Aaron Judge and Co. absolutely baffled.

“Javy’s been incredible for us,” Justin Verlander, the Astros ageless ace, says. “It’s wonderful for him to go out there and do it on the big stage.

“. . . To be a starter here on the mound at Yankee Stadium and go out and do what he did, he put his name on the map. He’s been there for us all season long. He’s been one of our best arms. That’s saying a lot. We’ve got a lot of good arms. . . He was ready for this stage — and he showed it.”

Cristian Javier Astros
Cristian Javier proved to be more than up for the big Yankee Stadium stage. (@Astros)

Javier easily out pitches $324 million man Gerrit Cole, giving up just one hit and three walks in his five and one third innings. Judge takes such a hesitant swing while striking out on a 81 MPH Javier slider in the fourth inning that you have to half wonder if sorcery is involved.

It turns out there is — a little Framber advice wizardry. Javier and Valdez, the Astros’ 28-year-old second ace, spend the flight to New York talking in Spanish about the Yankees lineup and the best way to attack it.

“Just things that he saw in the hitters and different things like that,” Javier says of the plane powwow.

The Yankees probably wish that flight was much shorter. For even before Judge and friends ran back into Javier, the man who threw that seven inning, 13 strikeout, no hit masterpiece in the Bronx in June, they struggled to score in this ALCS.

Now, they’re up to 41 strikeouts in three games. Even the 40-year-old virgin scored at a higher rate than this.

The Complete and Fun Astros

These 2022 Astros are just keep coming at you in waves, as a complete team, making a perfect postseason seem possible.

“I think that tells you a lot about the team we are,” Altuve says. “Today, was (catcher) Christian (Vazquez), Chas and Trey Mancini. (In Game 2), it was Breggy with the big homer. A couple of nights ago (against Seattle), it was Alvarez with the homer. Yuli.

“It seems like every night it’s a different guy. That tells you how good this lineup can be.”

Cole is driven crazy by the collective discipline of an Astros lineup that just keeps stacking good at-bats on top of good at-bats. After Bregman laces a double into left field to lead off the  sixth inning, it’s a Kyle Tucker walk and a little Yuli Gurriel flare single into right that knocks Cole from the game.

Lou Trivino, the Yankees reliever charged with cleaning up Cole’s bases-loaded mess, is equally small ball frustrated.

Mancini works the count to 2-2 and hits the sixth pitch he sees deep into the outfield for an easy sacrifice fly. Vazquez follows by dumping the first pitch he sees into left field for a two run single. Astros general manager James Click’s two big trade deadline acquisitions will both come through in this 5-0 victory. In a very Astros way.

“We have some young guys who are really starting to thrive a little bit. Framber (Valdez), Luis (Garcia), Cristian (Javier), you know (Kyle) Tucker, (Yordan) Alvarez. I think that’s why we’re a really good team. It’s a special mix.” — Astros center fielder Chas McCormick

Houston’s seven, eight and nine hitters (Mancini, Vazquez, McCormick) account for all five RBI in this 5-0 Game 3 win. New York is a city that celebrates stars like no other. And the Astros come into the Yankees’ home and show them the relentless overwhelming power of a complete team.

“I mean, they’re really good,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone says of the Astros.

6-0 — and looking for more. Perfect. But not satisfied.

“It’s really tough obviously,” Altuve says of being 6-0 in these playoffs. “But that’s our goal. Our whole mentality is to go out there and not think about anything else but to win.”

Mancini’s trained himself to do that. With his team, he really didn’t have a choice. There’s no moping around allowed in this Astros clubhouse. So even as he struggled through a nightmarish September and his own now 0 for 8 playoff start (albeit with that big sac fly), Mancini kept reminding himself to stay in the moment. To enjoy being part of this special team.

“Rather than have any self pity and feeling sorry for myself, every at-bat and game from here on out is going to be the biggest at-bat and game that I’ve played in my life,” Mancini says. “I’d be remiss not to just wash everything in the past and put my best foot forward.

“And try and help this team win a World Series. It felt really good to contribute tonight.”

Chas McCormick and Embracing the Joy of Baseball

That’s what these Astros do, find ways to make everyone feel involved, celebrate everyone’s success not just the stars’, provide a place where the collective comes before any individual.

“It starts at the top,” Verlander says. “It starts with the guys who have been here for a while and know the culture, the established culture of this organization. You don’t make it to the ALCS six years in a row without having a little bit of that fire in you to come in every single day and not take a single day off.

“And that carries down.”

It even hits the lowest-paid guys on the roster. The Chas McCormicks of the world. The guy from Division II Millersville University who really isn’t even supposed to be here.

Astros Yankees ALCS perfection victory
The Astros are all smiles with Jose Altuve loving every minute of it after another big win at Yankees Stadium. (@Astros)

McCormick’s Yankee home run only travels 335 feet, but its damage is immeasurable. Cole and the Yankees are suddenly already reeling in the second inning. Before anyone watching at home even has a chance to be annoyed by one of those TBS promos.

That home run is not just a damage maker though, It’s a magic maker. For McCormick and the entire crew that comes out to see him (Chas estimates he has good 13 family members and super close friends at the game).

“Just to see my dad, my mom, my girlfriend,” McCormick says.

It’s going to be a good night in New York for the McCormicks. Another Astros night in Yankee Stadium. Go ahead and share that moment. It’s better that way.

6-0 — and looking for more. Perfect. But not satisfied.

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