Richard Justice: On a wild night with Mattress Mack and hundreds of fans, the Astros reflect on the journey

Richard Justice: On a wild night with Mattress Mack and hundreds of fans, the Astros reflect on the journey

    Inside the joyous journey the Astros just completed were dozens and dozens of individual ones, and that’s one of the sweetest things about your home team winning a World Series.

   We were thrilled to see Dusty Baker fill in the only missing line on his Hall of Fame résumé by winning a championship as a manager. But every player, coach, trainer, scout, groundskeeper, every employee of the Astros, up and down the organization masthead, had his or her personal story of work and talent and sacrifice that bought them to those final outs of Game 6.

   That’s some of what was on display on a wild, happy Sunday evening at Gallery Furniture, where hundreds of Astros fans lined up to continue celebrating a World Series win, to watch Mattress Mack’s arrive with a wheelbarrow full of cash, and to redeem their free furniture promotion—Mattress Mack’s faith in the home team!

   “I have a question for you,” reliever Hector Neris said. “How many teams play in the big leagues?”


   “How many teams play in the World Series?”


   “How many teams win?”


   “To be the one team that did what you saw last week and know 28 teams don’t even make it, it proves you know you can do it,” Neris said.

   He meant that, in some fundamental way, every single member of the Astros will confront every future challenge a bit differently. Because all of them just proved something to the world and to themselves.

   From the moment Yordan Alvarez’s breathtaking three-run homer turned a 7-5 deficit into an 8-7 victory with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in the postseason opener against Seattle, nothing came easy for the Astros.

   All three victories over Seattle were a grind. Alvarez brought them from behind in Games 1 and 2, which was just a warmup act for the 6-hour, 22-minute 1-0 clincher.

   Six of the Astros 11 postseason victories were decided by one run. Two were two-run games. Four times, the Astros had to come from behind, including Game 6, when another gargantuan Alvarez home run pretty much sealed the deal.

   “The process you have for being here and for working and the sacrifice you do in this career your whole life, you think about it,” Neris said. “You want to be part of it for yourself. It’s something special.

   “I don’t have time right now to explain to you how important it is for me and for everybody here. I know you enjoyed it, and if you enjoyed it, what about myself?”

    Sitting next to him, teammate Luis Garcia added: “It basically means a dream come true for us. As a baseball player, as a kid, you dream about that. To achieve that goal is something really big.”

   Neris and Garcia were joined by teammates Rafael Montero and Cristian Javier, the author of those six no-hit innings that came 24 hours after a dispiriting 7-0 loss in Game 3 that put the Astros in a 2-1 deficit and facing a near must-win Game 4.

   Javier stopped whatever momentum the Phillies in its tracks as he and three relievers combined on the second no-hitter in World Series history. One of the greatest pitching performances in World Series history allowed the Phillies all of three runs over the final 30 innings.

   “I’ve obviously been enjoying the moment,” Javier said. “A lot of sacrifice, working every day and making a routine to achieve these personal goals and being able to perform.”

   Neris assisted Mattress Mack in wheeling $10 million of his $75-millipn payroll through the doors of the 100,000-foot showroom floor. 

   “He believed in us,” Neris said. “He believed in this group. It’s impressive for myself and, I know, for all 26 guys. He made us more hungry to win. If a guy that has no control believes in us… God bless him.”

   No major league team has repeated as champion since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998 through 2000. That’s the opportunity the Astros will have in 2023.

   When asked about the challenge of winning again, Neris seemed to speak for an entire clubhouse.

    “It’s a really hard question,” he said. “I can say come with the same passion, come with the same routine, stay hungry, be with each other. Come to try and win every day.

   “When a bad day happens, it can’t affect the next day. Try to eliminate the mistakes and come together like family. Nobody knows what’ll happen in the future. You prepare your body, you come to win, but only God knows what will happen next year. The whole team doesn’t want to stop. Dusty doesn’t want to stop. He got the first one, but he doesn’t want to finish there.”

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