We ended five hours and 17 minutes later after witnessing a game that was simultaneously an exhilarating baseball adventure and something Caligula invented. If you had a rooting interest in this game, you’re not even reading this column because you’re probably out of energy.
The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in a 10-inning slugfest of epic proportions, during which the Astros hit five home runs. They became just the fifth team in World Series history to rally from three separate deficits and just the second to rally from two three-run deficits — and after all that, they still had to score the winning run off the best closer in baseball.
“Just when I thought I could describe Game 2 as my favorite game of all time, I think Game 5 exceeded that and more,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said after the game. “It’s hard to put into words all the twists and turns in that game, the emotion, doing it at home, in front of our home crowd. Just exactly what you expect to come to the park with Keuchel and Kershaw pitching.”
Did it really happen? Sweet mother of all that’s pure and good, this insanity most definitely did happen, as the 43,000-something fans in attendance at Minute Maid Park will tell their kids and their grandkids and their neighbors and the woman in line at the grocery store and the co-worker at the office they haven’t talked to in two years. Games like this bring us together. The entire city of Houston will be talking baseball on Monday morning.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, ‘This is the craziest game of my life,'” winning pitcher Joe Musgrove said about this postseason. “This was the craziest game of my life.”
At one point — somewhere in the midst of Yuli Gurriel‘s tying three-run home run off Kershaw in the fourth inning, or Jose Altuve‘s tying three-run home run off Kenta Maeda in the fifth, or George Springer‘s tying home run or Altuve’s go-ahead double in the seventh — Collin McHugh turned to teammate Lance McCullers Jr. and asked, “We’ve seen everything else. What will happen next?”
The 25 combined runs tied for the second most in a World Series game. The teams combined for seven home runs. The offenses were so locked in that the teams combined for 28 hits — and just 28 swings and misses. When the Astros were trailing 4-0 in the fourth, their win probability was 12 percent, but that doesn’t factor in the fact that Kershaw was pitching. When Brian McCann homered to give the Astros a 12-9 lead in the eighth, their win probability was 97 percent. The Dodgers still managed to tie it with three runs in the ninth.
There have been two games in World Series history with 5 plays where win probability changed at least 25%
Game 2, 2017
Game 5, 2017
— Craig Edwards (@craigjedwards) October 30, 2017
Where would you even start when telling this improbable tale? I guess at the end, with the score tied at 12 and Alex Bregman facing Kenley Jansen with two outs in the bottom of the 10th after Jansen had hit McCann and walked Springer.
“That guy lives for stuff like this,” Springer said of Bregman. “He loves it. I noticed he was digging in the box a little harder. He wanted to be the guy to do it.”
Bregman had never had a walk-off hit in his career. There was a short delay as the Dodgers had a meeting at the mound and Derek Fisher pinch ran for McCann.
“Springer had a huge at-bat and walked right before me,” Bregman said. “I took one more swing on the on-deck circle and I looked to [Carlos] Correa. Correa said, ‘It’s your time.’ And then I thought, what’s your approach going to be? I saw [Jansen] last night and he threw more a slider and I was fortunate enough to put a good swing on it and hit it out of the yard. And I basically eliminated the slider.”
Jansen’s first pitch to Bregman was his 33rd of his outing, the 47th in two nights and the 417th pitch in what would be the second-longest game by time in World Series history. It was a 92 mph cutter, low and away, not Jansen’s usual 95 and up in the zone. But Bregman was looking for something down in the zone, knowing Jansen thrives with that high cutter.
He lined a base hit into left field and Fisher — who Bregman said is “probably the fastest guy in baseball,” which even if that’s not quite true, is worth the hyperbole on this night — easily came around to slide home, creating pandemonium as players rushed out from the dugout to celebrate. The train then blared its horn and the hearts of Astros fans started beating once again.
The first four games already set up the potential for a World Series for the ages. Game 1 was Kershaw’s 11-strikeout masterpiece. Game 2 was the wild extra-inning affair that Houston won 7-6 with Marwin Gonzalez‘s tying home run in the ninth and then three more home runs in extra innings. Game 4 was a 1-1 battle into the ninth. And now we can call that Game 2 and raise you Game 5.
“In the midst of it, it’s hard to separate yourself from it, especially when it’s a game you’ve pitched in,” McHugh said. “I have family waiting outside that will probably let me know how exciting it was.”
Yes, Collin, they most certainly will.
“Honestly, it felt like I didn’t even pitch,” Keuchel said. “I’ve never been so nervous in my life. The bubble-gut feeling. The highs, the lows. I’m glad that us pitchers are with the No. 1 offense and they provided a good show.”
There was some criticism on social media about that show. This World Series already has 22 home runs, breaking the previous record of 21 set by the Angels and Giants in 2002. All the home runs shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise in a season when the record for home runs was established. For all the talk before the game about the slippery postseason baseballs, and the difficulty some pitchers claimed in throwing sliders, this hasn’t actually been a high-scoring postseason. Even including this game, the overall postseason batting line is just .226/.306/.406, and teams are averaging 4.39 runs per game, below the 4.65 mark of the regular season.
Plus, while this was certainly one of the nuttier World Series games, there have been others. The highest-scoring game was the Blue Jays’ 15-14 win over the Phillies in 1993, in which the Jays remarkably didn’t hit a home run (they were the other team to rally from two three-run deficits). In that 2002 World Series, there was an 11-10 game, a 10-4 game and a 16-4 game. Nobody called that the end of baseball. The Marlins beat the Indians 14-11 in Game 4 in 1997. Many believe Game 7 in 1960 was the greatest game ever played, and there were 19 runs and five homers in that game, including Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off winner.
So these games happen. We should enjoy that we’ve had two of them in one World Series.
“This whole series has been an emotional roller coaster,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after the loss. “It’s the two best teams playing for a championship. … Guys want to take the baseball. Guys coming up with big hits in big spots. That’s what the World Series is all about.”