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Astros playing for more than a title in hurricane-ravaged Houston

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Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch says the team is trying to represent the city well in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

A little more than a week after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August, the Houston Astros returned to Minute Maid Park for the first time since the storm, taking the field with “Houston Strong” patches sewn on the left breast of their uniforms and with thousands of people who had been displaced in the stands.

The Astros have a record of 30-14 since then, including an 18-3 record at Minute Maid Park.

Manager A.J. Hinch doesn’t believe his team’s sterling record is a coincidence.

“Any time you’re on the national stage, you play for your city,” he said. “When something like the hurricane happens, there’s even greater responsibility to represent your city and bring awareness to the things that are needed to rebuild …

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”We could feel how important the Astros became to the city of Houston and the residents. What does the World Series do to that city? Obviously, it gives some hope. It gives appreciation. It gives a smile or two for people going through some hard times. And for that we’re happy to be a part of it.”

Flooding from the storm, the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the U.S., killed 89 people, displaced more than 30,000 and caused more than $70 billion in damage.

Part of the destruction occurred in Corpus Christi, where Sunday’s starter, Dallas Keuchel, spent two seasons in the minor leagues.

“When you break it down, we represent all of Texas,” Keuchel said. “It makes you feel like your home had been devastated. And that’s what we talked about playing for after everything.”

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Halo effect

A lesson Astros third baseman Alex Bregman learned the hard way against the Angels has twice benefited him and the Astros during the playoffs.

With runners at first and third during a Sept. 24 game against the Angels at Houston, Bregman fielded a ground ball hit by Justin Upton and tried to turn an inning-ending double play. Upton beat the throw to first, a run scored, and the Angels won the game.

Afterward, Astros coaches told Bregman he should throw home if a similar situation arose during the playoffs, because runs were likely to be at a premium.

Lesson learned.

In the sixth inning Saturday, he charged in to stab a Chris Taylor chopper and threw out Austin Barnes, who was running on contact from third.

A week earlier, in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, he made a similar play on Greg Bird in the fifth inning of a one-run game that the Astros went on to win. On that play, catcher Brian McCann made a great play to make the tag and hang onto the ball.

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The Astros had been praised for their hitting and stellar relief pitching in the Series’ first three games — not so much in Game 4 — but they have played stellar defense throughout.

They have turned five double plays and made only one error.

“We have athletes all over the field. We do execute plays,” Hinch said before Saturday’s game. “To see it on the biggest stage is why we’re having the success that we’re having.”

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11


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