2021 World Series: Here’s what to know about the Houston Astros

HOUSTON — World beaters or cheaters: That is how the Houston Astros are perceived by their fans and detractors as they head into Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night.

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The Astros were caught and then disciplined for stealing signs in 2017 en route to winning the World Series. Two years later, accusations of Houston banging on trash cans gave way to allegedly using whistles to signal stolen signs that helped the Astros beat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

Whether it is gaining an edge through gamesmanship or by skirting the rules, there is one constant: the Astros made five straight ALCS appearances and are now playing in their third World Series in five years.

The Astros have reached the postseason 14 times in their history -- seven times in the National League and seven in the American League. They are the only team to win a pennant in both the A.L. and the N.L.

Here is what to know about the Astros.

How they got here: The Astros defeated the Chicago White Sox in the American League Division Series, winning the best-of-five series 3-1. Then they defeated the Boston Red Sox in six games, winning the best-of-seven ALCS 4-2. In World Series play, the Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 and lost to the Washington Nationals in 2019. As a N.L. squad, they lost to the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Head to head: Atlanta holds a 381-325-1 lead against Houston in regular-season play, according to The Sporting News. The two teams did not meet this year in the regular season. They met annually when both teams were in the National League starting from 1962, when the Houston franchise began play as the Colt 45s, until 2012. The Astros moved to the American League beginning in 2013. The last time the two teams met was in July 2017 for a two-game series in Atlanta. The World Series-bound Astros won easily in both games,16-4 and 10-4.

Playoff history: The teams have met five times between 1997 and 2005 when both teams were in the N.L. The Astros beat the Braves in both the 2004 NLDS (3-2) and 2005 NLDS (3-1), while the Braves eliminated the Astros in the 1997 NLDS (3-0), 1999 NLDS (3-1) and 2001 NLDS (3-0). Neither team won the World Series in those years, although Houston played in the 2005 World Series and Atlanta reached the Fall Classic in 1999.

Player(s) to watch: The Astros’ Martín Maldonado is 7-for-13 against Charlie Morton, who is starting for the Braves in Game 1, according to The Athletic. He also has walked four times and was hit by a pitch once. For the entire World Series, the player to watch will be outfielder Yordan Alvarez, who was the MVP of the ALCS. Alvarez batted .522 against the Red Sox, going 12-for-23 with three doubles, a triple, a homer and six RBI. Those extra-base hits came in the final three games of the series, when Alvarez went 9-for-13, according to The Sporting News. During the regular season, Alvarez, who received 29 out of 30 votes when he was named the A.L. Rookie of the Year in 2019, hit 33 home runs and drove in 104 runs.

Good offense: The Astros scored 67 runs in their 10 playoff games, with 45 of them coming with two outs, ESPN reported. Six of their seven wins in the postseason have come by at least five runs.

Ground game: Framber Valdez, who starts Game 1 for the Astros on Tuesday night, was dominant in Game 5 of the ALCS. The left-hander allowed just three hits in eight innings and got 13 groundouts. That is tied for the most induced by a pitcher in the postseason since 2015, according to Sports Illustrated.

Long drought: Astros manager Dusty Baker returns to the World Series for the first time since 2002, when he piloted the San Francisco Giants and lost in seven games to the Angels. It is the longest period between World Series appearances for a manager since Bucky Harris, who was player-manager for the 1925 Washington Senators and led the New York Yankees to a title in the 1947 Fall Classic.

Familiar face: Baker is no stranger to the Braves. He was drafted by Atlanta in the 26th round of the 1967 MLB June amateur draft, according to Baseball-reference.com. He played eight seasons in Atlanta, from 1968 to 1975, where he hit 77 homers and drove in 324 runs. Baker made his major league debut on Sept. 7, 1968, against the Astros. Baker, pinch-hitting for Phil Niekro in the bottom of the seventh, grounded out against Denver Lemaster. Baker was in the on-deck circle when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record with No. 715 on April 8, 1974, at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium, according to Retrosheet. After an 11-minute delay to celebrate Aaron’s achievement, the game resumed. Baker walked.

Rally nuns: The Astros are 2-0 in the postseason when Houston business owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale brings nuns from the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province to the game. McIngvale tweeted Monday that he bought 55 tickets for the nuns to attend Game 1, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Expansion franchise: The Houston Astros became a major league franchise in 1962 when the National League expanded to 10 teams in 1962. From 1962 to 1964 they were known as the Colt .45s but became the Astros in 1965, a nod to NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Station (now called the Johnson Space Center), which was opened in 1961 and is located south of Houston.

Iconic stadiums: The franchise boasted the first domed baseball stadium, the Astrodome, which opened in 1965. Although its official name was originally the Harris County Domed Stadium, the Astrodome nickname stuck. The artificial grass used inside the stadium was called AstroTurf. The Astros played their final regular-season game at what was called “The Eighth Wonder of the World” in 1999 during the NLDS, when they lost to the Braves in four games. The Astros began playing at Minute Maid Park, the venue for Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night, in 2000. The retractable roof ballpark in downtown Houston was called Enron Field in 2000-2001 before being renamed Minute Maid Park in 2002.

Retired numbers: The Astros have nine retired jersey numbers: Jeff Bagwell (No. 5), Craig Biggio (No 7), Jimmy Wynn (No. 24), Jose Cruz (No. 25), Jim Umbright (No 32), Mike Scott (No. 33), Nolan Ryan (No. 34), Don Wilson (No. 40) and Larry Dierker (No. 49). A 10th number, 42, is retired by every major league team to honor Jackie Robinson, who broke the modern-day color line in 1947. Bagwell, Biggio and Ryan are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.