HOUSTON — The game that decided the 2022 World Series will long be remembered for the 450-foot home run Yordan Alvarez launched over the batter’s eye in center field in the sixth inning.
It was an Ortizian blast, the three-run shot landing among fans who surely didn’t expect they would be scrambling for a precious souvenir in Game 6.
Alvarez made plenty of history with one swing. He gave the Astros the lead and eventually a 4-1 victory against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The homer also finally made a champion of Dusty Baker in his 25th season as a manager, the third with Houston. Baker, 73, won a title as a player with the Dodgers in 1981 then waited four decades to win again.
“It’s not relief. It’s just sheer joy and thankfulness. It’s not relief at all,” Baker said. “Everybody was talking about it more than I was even thinking about it.”
It’s not quite a dynasty yet, but the Astros now have two championships in four trips to the World Series over the last six seasons and a deep and talented pitching staff that should make them competitive for years to come.
The Astros had a 2.29 earned run average in 13 postseason games with 160 strikeouts over 126 innings. The bullpen allowed only five earned runs over 54 ⅓ innings.
Though tainted by the 2017 cheating scandal, Houston is now the standard for success in baseball.
It also was a championship with some roots in New England.
Rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña was named Most Valuable Player. A native of the Dominican Republic who grew up in Providence before playing at the University of Maine, Peña was 10 of 25 in the Series with three extra-base hits and five runs.
Peña was the first rookie position player to win MVP and only the third rookie overall, the first since Marlins righthander Livan Hernandez in 1997.
“Where do I even start? It has a lot to do with my family, my upbringing,” said Peña, who also was MVP of the American League Championship Series. “Shoutout to my teammates as well. They took me in since Day 1. They gave me the confidence to just go out and play my game.”
Former Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez also played a role. He was in the lineup as the designated hitter and cracked an RBI single later in the sixth inning.
After rounding first base, Vázquez turned and pumped his fist so hard at the Houston dugout it’s a wonder he didn’t separate his shoulder.
Several of the Astros jumped out of the dugout and pointed gleefully at Vázquez as Houston padded its lead.
In 2018, Vázquez caught the final pitch of the World Series for the Sox, the team that drafted him in 2008. He hoped to spend his entire career with Boston but was traded to Houston on Aug. 1.
The move stunned him at the time, but Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom ultimately did Vázquez a favor. Now he has two World Series rings and the honor of having caught Houston’s four-man no-hitter in Game 4.
That will send Vázquez into free agency with better credentials than having finished out the season with a last-place team.
“It means a lot to do this twice,” Vázquez said. “It’s everything you work for in the offseason. Every player dreams to get one and I’m blessed to have two.”
That Vázquez was in the lineup was made possible by a pre-game roster move.
The Astros received permission from Major League Baseball to drop first baseman Yuli Gurriel because of a knee injury and add catcher Korey Lee.
That allowed Baker to play a hunch and use Vázquez as the designated hitter.
“This is something that I had thought about, talked about, especially with my batting coaches, many times, but wasn’t in a position to do so without the third catcher,” Baker said before the game.
Baker hit Vázquez sixth and when he came up in the sixth inning with Alex Bregman on second base, he hammered a sinker from Seranthony Dominguez to give the Astros an insurance run.
“I was ready for anything. Whatever Dusty needs I’m here for him,” Vázquez said. “Every run is big in the playoffs. This team took me in and treated me great.”
That it was former Red Sox slugger Kyle Schwarber who gave the Phillies its 1-0 lead with a home run in the top of the sixth inning was no surprise. That’s what he does. Schwarber hit 46 homers during the regular season for the Phillies and six more in the postseason.
Houston came back in the bottom of the inning. With Jose Altuve on first base with one out, Peña singled. Alvarez was next.
The All-Star left fielder homered in the first two games of the postseason before going 5 for 40 in the next 10. Phillies starter Zack Wheeler was working on a three-hit shutout but manager Rob Thomson wanted lefthander Jose Alvarado.
“I thought the matchup was better with Alvarado on Alvarez at that time,” he said.
But Alvarado left a sinker up just enough for Alvarez to drive and he didn’t miss it.
The Astros were the first team to clinch a championship at home since the 2013 Red Sox.