HOUSTON – For 5 hours, 17 minutes, for 417 pitches, for all of the topsy-turvy action baseball could pack into 10 innings, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers traded body blows and haymakers and every type of swing imaginable. Game 5 of the World Series was a baseball lover’s dream. And it left the Astros one win from their first championship.
Alex Bregman singled in pinch runner Derek Fisher in the bottom of the 10th, and the Astros capped a wild 13-12 victory at Minute Maid Park that saw incredible swings of both bats and momentum. The topsy-turvy game looked over early, in the middle and late, only for comebacks to send it to extra innings, where Houston beat Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to take a three-games-to-two lead.
On a night where home-plate umpire Bill Miller’s strike zone at times extended to Galveston, where for the first time in World Series history a trio of three-run homers was hit in one game, where the 22nd home run of the series was hit, breaking a World Series record, the Astros relied upon a mere flare into center field to send the game back to Dodger Stadium, where Justin Verlander will pitch Game 6 in search of a World Series title.
Until that game Halloween night, the Astros will bask in the greatest win in franchise history and the Dodgers will wallow, wondering how they not only blew a Clayton Kershaw start but saw a bullpen that at one point in this postseason had thrown 28 consecutive scoreless innings fold in such spectacular fashion.
This was their game to win, too, after a spirited ninth-inning rally in which they erased a three-run deficit. Yasiel Puig’s two-run home run – the sixth of the game, four of which tied it or changed the lead – brought the Dodgers to within 12-11. Chris Taylor, down to the game’s final strike, poked a Chris Devenski changeup off the end of his bat back up the middle to score Austin Barnes, who had hustled for a double. As the clock struck 12 a.m., the game was tied 12-12.
Getting there was an exercise in insanity. The initial rally started two innings earlier. Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow, throwing for the fifth time in six days, his right arm held together by bubble gum and duct tape, started the seventh inning with the lead. Over the next six minutes, Morrow threw six pitches. The first was hit for a game-tying home run, the second a single, the third a strike looking, the fourth a go-ahead double, the fifth a wild pitch and the sixth a towering, momentous home run that sent the 43,300 at Minute Maid into a tizzy.
Capping it was a moonshot from Carlos Correa that peaked at 169 feet in the air and fell in the Crawford Boxes just 328 feet away. As the ball landed to put Houston ahead 11-8, Correa leapt and threw his hands in the air twice, stopped, pumped his fist, all before touching first base on the biggest trot of his life.
That the home run drew a shirtless fan onto the field was a fitting touch for a wild game in which the Astros titillated fans in their final home game of the year by becoming the second team to come back from multiple three-run-plus deficits in a World Series game and the first since Toronto won a madcap Game 4 in 1993, 15-14. This matched it for pure craziness.
All of the madness started in the first inning. By the end of the first inning, the Dodgers led 3-0 on Astros starter Dallas Keuchel. A pair of hits sandwiched around a pair of walks scored the first two, and when the Astros bungled a pickoff of Logan Forsythe running from first, Enrique Hernandez dashed home from third to stake Kershaw a three-run lead. He held it through the fourth, when they added another run and staked him the sort of advantage he almost never loses.
In games during which he had a four-run lead, Kershaw entered Sunday with a 100-1 career record. Houston sought to ensure he wouldn’t run it to 101-1. After a leadoff walk to George Springer, Jose Altuve singled, Correa stroked an RBI double and Yuli Gurriel took a fat 89-mph slider nearly onto the train tracks over the left-field fence. Correa thrust his hands triumphantly. Altuve stared at the shot. Gurriel touched home, the score 4-4, Kershaw having surrendered a single-season playoff-record eighth home run.
The Dodgers wouldn’t waste time in taking control of the game again. Collin McHugh, in after Keuchel went 3 2/3 innings, the shortest home start of his career, walked the first two batters he faced. After Hernandez struck out, Cody Bellinger, whose RBI double in the ninth gave the Dodgers a Game 4 lead, parked a ball in right-center field to give Kershaw a 7-4 lead.
He would not hold it. All night, the best strikeout pitcher of his generation couldn’t generate swings and misses. And with two outs in the fifth, his control failed him, too. Springer walked. Bregman worked a 10-pitch walk. Out went Kershaw after his 94th pitch, yielding to Kenta Maeda, who had not allowed a run all postseason. Then Altuve, amid “M-V-P” chants, took a righteous rip over a first-pitch changeup. Six pitches later, he connected and took a Maeda fastball out to center field. Gone was another Dodgers’ lead, and cemented was the ugly line of Kershaw: 4 2/3 innings, four hits, six runs, three walks and two strikeouts. The last time he didn’t last at least five innings, allowed at least six runs and walked at least three: Sept. 19, 2010.
Altuve’s home run was the 18th of the series, and 13 of them had tied the game or changed the lead. And the Astros’ bullpen, running on fumes as well, couldn’t hold it. In the seventh, Springer dove for a Bellinger line drive to center field and missed. The ball rolled to the wall. Hernandez scored. The Dodgers were up 8-7.
In came Morrow, and out went the lead. Springer picked himself up with a monster home run over the train tracks in left to tie the game. Bregman singled. Altuve doubled him in. And Correa’s home run left Minute Maid apoplectic and the Dodgers defeated.
They followed with a run in the top of the eighth, which the Astros answered with a Brian McCann home run off Tony Cingrani – his first hit against a left-handed pitcher since Sept. 17. With Astros closer Ken Giles banished to the bench after blowing Game 4 in spectacular fashion, Devenski failed to hold the lead. Reliever Joe Musgrove worked around a single in the 10th to earn the win when Jansen hit McCann, walked Springer and allowed the Bregman game winner.
Now it’s off to Dodger Stadium, where the Astros have the Dodgers reeling – and their ace, Verlander, looking to close it out. If the Astros do, they’ll always remember Game 5, the sort of anomaly that in any other postseason would’ve been too insane to fathom but in this World Series fit perfectly.