Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker Jr. watches against the Chicago White Sox in the fifth inning during Game 4 of a baseball American League Division Series Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Astros manager Dusty Baker recalls a few years ago picking the brain of Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell about how they managed to put together so many championship seasons.

Russell, of course, was part of 11 NBA Championships with the Celtics, which included a run of eight straight titles from 1959-1966. 

“I thought he was going to say (Celtics legendary coach) Red Auerbach or a lot of hard work, but he told me that they loved each other,” said Baker. “And these guys (the Astros), they love each other. Love can take you to heights that you never thought you could get to.

“They feed off each other and they pull for each other on the daily basis. One guy falls down and the next guy picks him up.”

The Astros, who remain something of a pariah in baseball due to the sign-stealing scandal, have had to do quite a bit of that this season. But it hasn’t done much to hinder the most successful era of baseball for the Astros as they have made their way to the American League Championship Series for the fifth consecutive year.

Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve (27) celebrates with Kyle Tucker (30), Chas McCormick (20) and Carlos Correa (1) after beating the Chicago White Sox 10-1 in Game 4 of a baseball American League Division Series Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

They will play Boston in a best-of-seven series beginning with Friday night’s Game 1 at Minute Maid Park for the AL pennant and their third appearance in the World Series in the last five seasons.

The Astros were measured in their celebration Tuesday night after defeating the Chicago White Sox, 10-1, to win their American League Division Series matchup in Game 4. But they are excited about the possibilities in front of them.

“You can’t take playing in the postseason for granted,” said third baseman Alex Bregman. “You’ve got to love it and cherish it. To be able to go back to a fifth straight ALCS with the guys is special. We’re definitely going to soak it in with them.”

The Astros enter this ALCS series as the favorites to advance against the Red Sox primarily on the strength of their bats that includes the powerful hitting of AL Batting Champ Yuli Gurriel, second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and Bregman. They led baseball in runs scored this season (863) and are coming off the ALDS where they scored 31 runs in four games.

If there is a concern, it’s how long might the Astros be without their top starter, Lance McCullers, who left Tuesday’s game after four innings with tightness in his elbow. McCullers likely would not start until Game 3 of the ALCS.

But the focus right now is on the journey and the love that got them here. The Astros are the third team to reach the League Championship Series in five consecutive years.

“Five years in a row never gets old,” Correa said. “Just enjoying every second of it. It’s pretty special that we got here, and a pretty special organization.

“I’m very fond of every single guy in this clubhouse. We know what it takes to win, we know how to prepare to win the moment we [show] up to Spring Training. To see the fruits of the labor right there is always great.”

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Terrance HarrisPro | College Sports Editor

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....