The sound had been brewing and building in the throats of orange-clad Houston Astros fans for years. Five years ago, they had watched their beloved ball club win a World Series from afar.
Then they had seen that title turn from outright triumph to contentious talking point, and they had watched two other teams claim and celebrate Series crowns of their own right here in Minute Maid Park.
But when Yordan Alvarez connected on José Alvarado’s sinker in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday night, the sound was finally unleashed.
It was a mighty roar of celebration, unencumbered by the weight of what has been and in anticipation of what those fans now knew was coming — a 4-1 Game 6 victory over the Phillies, and a World Series clincher under their own roof.
The Astros are World Series champions for the second time in six seasons. And given the attention and condemnation the 2017 club brought upon itself, the sting of having to host the ‘2019 Nationals’ and ‘2021 Braves’ bottle-popping parties.
But this time around the famous Dusty Baker had bypassed the a 25-season pursuit of a ring as a skipper, there was cleansing catharsis as the champagne flowed freely.
It was a surprisingly rare World Series sight, as Houston became the first team to clinch the title in its home park since the 2013 Boston Red Sox.
Alvarez’s mammoth three-run home run over the top of the center-field batter’s eye in the sixth inning turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead for the Houston Astros.
Yet given the sound it produced and the air it sucked out of a hardscrabble Phillies squad, it might as well have been a walk-off.
The 87-win Phillies gave this elite AL team — a team that has been on this stage in four of the last six seasons — everything it had.
But in the biggest moment of the Fall Classic, right when the tension of a tight pitchers’ duel turned into a battle of the bullpens, the Astros got a big swing from a big man.
It had been Alvarez whose walk-off heroics against the Mariners’ Robbie Ray in Game 1 of the American League Division Series got Houston’s postseason party started.
Alvarez went deep again the next game, but then fell into a funk that lasted into Game 6 of the World Series. He worked overtime in the batting cage, tinkering and figuring it out, only to go back to the drawing board after another round of fruitless, frustrating at-bats.
But in the sixth, when the Astros were down 1-0 with two aboard and one out after a single by Jeremy Peña — who became the first rookie position player named World Series MVP — Alvarez’s threat loomed large enough that Phillies manager Rob Thomson pulled starter Zack Wheeler to bring in the lefty Alvarado.
Alvarez, though, proved ready for his close-up. The man who came over from Cuba in 2016 having never hit a home run over the wall has morphed into one of the game’s most feared power hitters, and he showed why with the biggest swing of his life.
The count was 2-1 when Alvarado tried to sneak a 98.9 mph sinker past the 6-foot-5, 225-pound left fielder. And when Alvarez connected, there was no question about the conclusion.
Alvarez stood for a moment and watched as the ball sailed 450 feet to dead center, landing in the standing section atop the batter’s-eye greenery to make it 3-1, a lead which would hold up to clinch the championship.
It was a good thing the roof was closed, because the sound from Minute Maid Park could have woken up sleeping babies anywhere from Aldine to Pearland.
The Astros weren’t done working a rattled Alvarado, who walked Alex Bregman and uncorked a wild pitch that advanced him to second. Thomson went to closer Seranthony Domínguez, who gave up an RBI single to Christian Vázquez to make it 4-1.
Fireworks exploded, orange and silver garland rained down from the upper deck, and mascot Orbit circled the field with a giant flag honoring the 2022 champs.
The Astros, their fans and Baker had taken a lot of heat and endured some awful endings. But this was a moment and a house party they could call their own.
MLB.com / ABC Flash-Point SMI Sports News 2022.