5 moments that defined the Astros' World Series season

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5 moments that defined the Astros' World Series season

I bet you didn't expect that season.

While the Astros were a team waiting to break out heading into this season, Houston didn't exactly pop into the heads of many baseball experts as a major title contender. After all, the league was still shook from an amazing seven-game series the season before thanks to the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, the former of which broke a 108-year nightmare.

The Astros still had a young yet unproven core that could shock the Majors or slip by the wayside as an en vogue preseason pick.

For those experts who invested in this team, they were rewarded with just a 100-win season, six All-Star selections, and a playoff run that entertained even the most casual of fans.

And for all the talent on this team, the Astros also redefined what it takes to be the bearers of a community's grief.

Here are five moments in the Astros' 2017 off and regular seasons that defined the team on their way to Houston's first World Series championship:

Acquiring Beltran and McCann

Here's how old the following Astros were at opening day of the season: Jose Altuve, 27; Carlos Correa, 22; Alex Bregman, 23; George Springer, 27.

They are super talented and super young.

It can be argued that the Astros' 2015 postseason run and the 2016 campaign could have gone better with veteran eyes who have seen the nuances of success in other programs.

Enter Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

McCann, a New York Yankee by the end of the 2016 season, offered valuable knowledge of the game, especially to the young pitchers making up the Astros pitching staff.

In Beltran, the young sluggers of the team had a valuable source in refining their swing while also seeking a mentorship from a 20-year veteran of baseball.

With Beltran, McCann and, to a lesser extent, Josh Reddick, who was also an offseason acquisition, the Astros younger core were able to draw confidence and dissuade panic, even in stretches of bad games.

The 11-run 8th in Minnesota

By the time of the All-Star break in mid-July, the Astros held the best record in the American League at 60-29.

A lot of the wins in the first half of the season came from dominant wins, but one Monday matinee in Minneapolis provided a glimpse into the resiliency of the team that would later be tapped in at key points of the postseason.

On May 29, the Astros, who were down 8-2 heading into the 8th inning, were winding down a routine loss when a little spark happened. The inning started with a pair of walks from Reddick and Altuve. Correa drove in a run. More hits were put in to play. Then, another run. And another run. And the order recycles, and before you know, eight runs were plated.

While this might not be too significant mid season, the Astros have been on record to come back. How else could we know that Games 2 and 5 of the World Series were not a fluke?

Clinching the AL West

Given the lofty expectations and the loads of talented players on the roster, anything short of a division title would have proven the work of general manager Jeff Luhnow as ineffective.

But thanks to the lofty expectations and the loads of talented players on the roster, Houston got to achieve something the team hasn't experienced in 16 years.

The Astros dominated the American League West throughout the season, capping the run on Sept. 17 when they clinched the division.

It was not even close.

The Astros clinched 15 games up on the Los Angeles Angels at that point. They would eventually finish the season 21 games up on the Anaheim residents.

The Astros have clinched playoff spots during the time in between division titles, but this was special. It solidified the team's status as a dominating offense as well as one that can beat the elite of the AL.

What's even more, most of the Astros roster weren't even teenagers the last time the team won a division.

READ MORE: What life was like the last time Astros won their division

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Here are the ages of current Astros the last time Houston won a division

The Justin Verlander trade

The story of how the Astros got their much-needed ace will go down in Houston lore for generations of ballplayers.

But, in short, Verlander had a no-trade clause and the only way his contract could move is if he waived the clause specifically for the Houston Astros. You see, the Astros took flack for going relatively cold at the trade deadline in an attempt to bolster their rotation.

Verlander, a 12-year veteran whose resume includes a Cy Young award and AL MVP honors, had at least half an hour to make his decision before the deadline passed.

Lucky for Houston, Verlander saw the possibilities of contending with the Astros, despite the team's lackluster second half of the season. Verlander OK'd the deal on Aug. 31.

The impact of his acquisition was immediate. The 34-year-old finished 5-0 in the regular season and 4-1 in the postseason, with season defining contests in Games 2 and 6 of the American League Championship Series.

The big news for the Astros is unlike other trades where players are "rented" toward the end of a contract, Verlander will continue to throw flames at opposing batters through 2019.

Verlander's arrival was the respite the team needed amid the final defining moment - one that the Astros had to endure for millions in their community.

RELATED: What you need to know about Justin Verlander

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Hurricane Harvey

The Astros were away on a road trip in Los Angeles when Harvey landed on the Texas Gulf Coast in late August. The team was left in limbo when much of the city was under a deluge. Frankly, the last thing anyone in Houston wanted to do was think about batting averages and ERAs.

Still, the Astros were in play and proved to be the respite the town needed when devastation took over.

Members of the team visited with families at the city's flood shelters before returning to play at Minute Maid Park.

RELATED: Astros return to Houston for 1st game since Harvey

The Astros used the proceeds of their 50/50 raffle on game days toward hurricane relief efforts.

The team showed their solidarity with the city by wearing "Texas Strong" patches on their uniforms.

Amid the devastation and aftermath, the Astros served as the symbol of strength. The Astros were good before Harvey, but for the fans who were digging out or without a home, they needed to be great.

The World Series win was something the team needed to not only solidify the Astros' standing in MLB lore. The championship was the defining piece of overcoming adversity, whether if it's a six-run deficit or flooded roads.

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