October 7, 2015 / 5:58 AM / 3 years ago

Young Astros soar high with first playoff success

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Houston Astros showed off their maturity on the diamond but acted their age in a boisterous celebration at Yankee Stadium after eliminating their hosts 3-0 in their one-and-done Wild Card playoff game.

Oct 6, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick (right) celebrates with teammates in the locker room after defeating the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card playoff baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Houston won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros were Major League Baseball doormats for many years, but their promising young players have developed into prime-time performers and it was time for a champagne party in the visitors’ clubhouse on Tuesday.

“It makes me feel complete. When you see the guys happy, that means we are doing our job right,” said 25-year-old second baseman Jose Altuve of Venezuela in the bubbly-soaked locker room.

Houston suffered three successive seasons of more than 100 losses from 2011, and last year posted a 70-92 record before improving to 86-76 in 2015.

Youngsters like Altuve, 21-year-old Carlos Correa and 26-year-old George Springer have combined with veterans to become winners.

Leading the way on the mound was Dallas Keuchel, Houston’s Cy Young candidate after a 20-8 regular season, who took the mound on three days’ rest for the first time in his career and hurled six scoreless innings giving up just three hits.

“Felt like playoff baseball,” the bearded left-hander said. “It’s hard not to get up for a game like this. I didn’t want to let my teammates down.”

Keuchel said the team was looking forward to continue the party against the top-seeded Royals in the best-of-five Division Series starting on Thursday.

“We’ll have as much fun as we possibly can in Kansas City,” he said. “The taste of the champagne and the beer in your eyes, I want more of it.”

Keuchel was thinking of champagne during a tense moment in the sixth when Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez came up with two on and manager A.J. Hinch came out to visit him on the mound.

“I said, ‘What’s for dinner?’ How ‘bout some champagne?’” Keuchel said about their on-field exchange before retiring Rodriguez on a fly ball to center.

Hinch summed up his feelings about the team just before the big game.

“We have a good vibe about us. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, which is a good thing,” the manager said.

“We are definitely not expected to be here. So I can play the underdog card a little bit with those guys, but those guys don’t want to hear it.

“They want to win. They want to be expected to win. They want the pressure, and that’s because the makeup of this team is very, very special, and they push each other in a way that I can really appreciate.”

Reporting by Gary Crosse; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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