The Houston Astros doubled their lead against the Yankees in the seventh inning of Game 3 this evening, not with the fancy-pants longballs that initially gave them a 2-0 advantage, but with some gritty, scrappy, heads-up baserunning that was unironically delightful to watch. Through just one hit and a bit of innovation, the Astros scored a pair to jump up 4-0 in the late innings.
It started with a George Springer walk by Adam Ottavino, but it really started when Jose Altuve came to the plate. On the first pitch, the Astros put on the hit and run, and it was goddamn flawless. Springer taking off for second drew Gleyber Torres over to the bag, and then Altuve’s single went right to the spot where the Yanks’ second baseman used to be.
The full-field angle of this play belongs on @Oddly_Pleasing.
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But that wasn’t all. When Michael Brantley came up next, he smashed a ball right to DJ LeMahieu at first, sticking Springer in a rundown as he took off for the plate. However, the Astros’ runner didn’t panic and made the most of a tough situation. Instead of uselessly sprinting back to third, Springer waved for his teammate Altuve to round second base, and he didn’t give himself up until the little guy was safe, Brantley was at second, and there were ducks on the pond with only one out.
That was no empty gesture. The open base led to an intentional walk on Alex Bregman, and then, in the next at-bat, Altuve scored on a Zack Britton wild pitch—something that obviously couldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been standing on third. In that very same AB, Yuli Gurriel hit a sacrifice fly to score Brantley—who couldn’t have scored if he hadn’t been able to advance to second on his fielder’s choice.
At the risk of getting cliche, this combo of chaotic luck and smart decision-making is how teams win in the playoffs. But more importantly, it’s goofy and pleasant in a way that most dingers—for all they’re good for—simply can’t recreate. Long live the smallball.