HOUSTON — How best to explain what happened in Houston on Sunday night? In the span of 10 innings played over five hours under the roof at Minute Maid Park, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers crammed a week’s worth of drama into a Game 5 that stretched the bounds of credulity.
Villains morphed into heroes. Heroes turned into goats and then became heroes again. Baseball’s best pitcher looked mortal, its best hitter utterly infallible. Two mini-controversies that disrupted the Series converged in one swing of the bat.
The Astros overcame 4-0, 7-4 and 8-7 deficits. The Dodgers rallied from an 11-8 hole, tying the score in the ninth inning when they were down to their final out. And it ended as only it could, with Alex Bregman punching a single to left field to score pinch runner Derek Fisher and give the Astros a 13-12 victory in the final game played in Houston this season.
It was sheer bedlam everywhere you looked.
Led by their homegrown superstar trio of Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, the Astros head back to Los Angeles, where on Tuesday night they will try to clinch the first world championship in their 55-year-old franchise’s history. And the Dodgers? They will need every bit of the next two days to regroup from as devastating a gut punch as a team can possibly have and still be alive in October.
In addition to the deficits they faced, the Astros overcame a poor start by lefty Dallas Keuchel, who was lights-out at home for much of the past three years until he laid an egg at the worst possible time. After Game 4, Correa joked that the Astros could solve their bullpen problems by scoring 10 runs. They did two better, with six of those runs coming in only 4 2/3 innings against Dodgers ace lefty Clayton Kershaw.
Tied at 7 in the top of the seventh inning, Springer attempted to make a diving catch on Cody Bellinger‘s sinking line drive to center field. But he hesitated for a split second and the ball skipped past him. Bellinger had an RBI triple, driving home Enrique Hernandez from first base with the go-ahead run.
But Springer avenged his mistake in the only way he knows how. He led off the bottom of the seventh by crushing a 95 mph sinker from Dodgers relief ace Brandon Morrow into the Crawford Boxes in left field for a tying homer.
Bregman followed with a single and scored all the way from first base on Altuve’s arcing double to left-center field. Then it was Correa’s turn to tattoo a Morrow sinker — this one 96 mph — for a two-run homer and send “Bobby Dynamite” Vasquez for yet another horn-tooting ride in his choo-choo train. On this night, Vasquez must’ve felt more like a conductor on the Union Pacific than on the 800-foot track that runs on a track high atop the left-field bleachers at Minute Maid.
The craziness began in earnest in the fourth inning. Gurriel, the subject of controversy in Game 3 for his racially insensitive behavior and words after homering against Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, tied it at 4 by hitting a slider off Kershaw for a three-run homer. Before Game 5, several pitchers from both teams alleged that the balls being used in the World Series are slicker than usual, preventing them from getting a good grip on their pitches, especially the slider.
But the Astros are here because of Springer, Altuve and Correa, the millennial Houston baseball fan’s answer to Biggio, Bagwell and Berkman. And now, they have two chances to win the championship that has eluded the team for five decades.
Whatever happens in Los Angeles, it can’t possibly top a Game 5 for the ages. Then again, Game 5 topped an epic Game 2 at Dodger Stadium.