Astros outlast Dodgers in an epic thriller of a Game 5 in the World Series


Astros outlast Dodgers in an epic thriller of a Game 5 in the World Series

Astros outlast Dodgers in an epic thriller of a Game 5 in the World Series:- In their darkest nightmares this winter, if not the rest of their lives, the Los Angeles Dodgers will see rockets and hear train whistles. They will feel the walls of Minute Maid Park creeping slowly in on them and catch ghostly glimpses of Houston Astros circling the bases, one after another. They may wake up in a sweat and try to count outs to get back to sleep — 1, 2, 3 . . . 24, 25, 26 — but they will never be able to get to the end. The last out will hang just out of their reach for eternity.

A had-to-see-it-to-believe-it Game 5 of the World Series featured massive and incomprehensible swings of both lumber and momentum. But the last of each belonged to the Astros, giving them an impossibly rich and harrowing 13-12 win, one that tested the hearts and stomachs of everyone in the building until the final, precious out. And it leaves this upstart franchise, born in 1962 as the Colt .45’s, one victory away from its first World Series title.

After a much-needed day off — for the teams’ respective arms, if not their blood pressures — the World Series heads back to Dodger Stadium for Game 6 on Tuesday night, when the Dodgers, behind left-handed starter Rich Hill, must defeat Astros ace Justin Verlander, who is 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA this postseason, just to force a Game 7 the following night.

At some point, on one of those nights, the 2017 baseball season will come to an end, but not before leaving us this classic on the final night of baseball this year in Houston — a game that didn’t end until the bottom of the 10th inning, 5 hours 17 minutes after it started, when Alex Bregman singled off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to score pinch runner Derek Fisher from second with the winning run.

Jansen was in his second inning of work at the end of a long, taxing and gruesome night for the Dodgers’ bullpen. With two outs in the 10th, he hit Brian McCann with a pitch. After George Springer walked, the Astros sent Fisher in to pinch-run for McCann at second, and Bregman delivered a line-drive single to left, with Fisher sliding home ahead of the throw.

It was the most amazing, astounding, incredible — and yes, bonkers — World Series game since . . . oh, four days earlier.

The Astros rallied from deficits of 4-0, 7-4 and 8-7. They squandered leads of 11-8 and 12-9. They blew through the best arms in their bullpen — and a few of the ones they had hoped never to have to use.

This rollicking, entertaining all-timer of a series has had controversies, feats of brilliance, extra-inning slugfests and topsy-turvy outcomes — but mostly what it has featured is home runs, 22 of them to be exact by the end of Sunday’s proceedings, setting a new World Series record. Fifteen of the homers have either tied the game or put one team ahead.

In Sunday night’s thriller, there were three three-run homers in a span of 14 batters, two of which tied the game. There was the greatest pitcher of his generation blowing two big leads and failing to make it out of the fifth inning. There was a go-ahead blast by the probable NL rookie of the year, and an answer by the probable AL most valuable player. There were starters pitching in relief.

And that was just the first five innings.

By the end of the seventh, when the Astros blitzed the dead-armed remnants of the Dodgers’ overtaxed bullpen for four runs, the game had entered a bizarro realm where literally anything might happen — including a man, naked except for some American Flag shorts, sprinting onto the field and heading toward second base, which briefly delayed the otherwise incessant action.

After pulling ahead 11-8 with four runs in the seventh, the Astros still had six outs to get. Good luck with that.

Chris Devenski, the last man standing in an Astros bullpen full of spent arms and wrecked nerves, was trying to cobble together the final outs from some stray nails and rusty scrap metal someone must have found in the stadium’s basement. He walked the leadoff batter in the ninth, then surrendered a two-run homer to Yasiel Puig that drew the Dodgers to within one. Then, with two outs and the tying run at second, Chris Taylor singled up the middle to tie it at 12.

With the score tied at 7 in the seventh, Astros center fielder George Springer had gifted the Dodgers the go-ahead run in the top half, making an ill-advised, charging, diving try on a sinking liner off the bat of Cody Bellinger with one out and a runner on first. Keep the ball in front of him, and the Dodgers probably have runners on first and second. Instead, it got past Springer and almost to the wall, and the Dodgers had an 8-7 lead.

But in the bottom half, Springer greeted Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow — pitching for a third straight night, for the fifth time in six days and for the 12th time in 13 Dodger games this postseason — with a towering homer to left on Morrow’s first pitch, tying the game at 8. Before Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts could get another pitcher heated up, Bregman had singled and scored on Jose Altuve’s double to left-center — and Carlos Correa had driven himself and Altuve in with a towering homer to left.

It is an ironclad rule of baseball, not reviewable by replay or open to interpretation, that to win a game in regulation a team must secure 27 outs. At some point, that began to look impossible. Asking either team to secure 30 or more, in extra innings, seemed insane.

At some point, what felt like eons ago, the Dodgers and Astros started this game with Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel on the mound both lefties with Cy Young awards on their mantles and brilliant performances under their belts earlier this postseason, including Kershaw just four nights earlier in Game 1.

But Kershaw managed to secure just 14 outs, and Keuchel just 11. Despite the generous strike zone of home plate umpire Bill Miller, which had hitters protesting called strikes with sharp words and shaking heads all night, this decorated duo would give up a combined nine earned runs, six of them charged to Kershaw. Together, they issued five walks, and all five eventually scored.

Keuchel would be gone by the top of the fourth, a move that both preserved the possibility Keuchel might be available in relief in a potential Game 7 and ensured the Astros’ beleaguered bullpen would have a large say in the outcome of this one.

Few things in baseball are as automatic as Clayton Kershaw with a four-run lead. This season, when the Dodgers have given him four-plus runs of support, they were 19-0. Over his career, 100-1. But here, he coughed up a 4-0 in the fourth, the last three of them coming on a homer by Yuli Gurriel – the Astros first baseman who, when last heard from in this series, was making a racially insensitive gesture in his dugout during Game 3 that earned him a five-game suspension at the start of 2018.

An inning later, the Astros, trailing 7-4, chased Kershaw after a pair of two-out walks, and Kenta Maeda entered and surrendered a three-run homer to Altuve, tying the game again.

The pertinent question at 4-4 was: where in heaven’s creation were either team going to find enough outs to win this game? It was the same question asked at 7-7 and 12-12.

The Astros’ bullpen was no longer merely leaky. It was a fetid, gushing river of muck. Manager A.J. Hinch had little choice but to go to his old trick, piggyback a former starter onto Keuchel’s short start, and the pick Sunday night was right-hander McHugh, who had made only three relief appearances in his career and hadn’t pitched at all in nearly two weeks – since throwing four hitless innings against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS.

McHugh promptly went walk-walk-strikeout-homer. The homer was Bellinger’s, on a hanging curve ball on a 2-2 count. As it settled into the first row in the right-field seats, Bellinger, who had been 0 for 13 with eight strikeouts in the series just a few at-bats ago, raised his fist. When he touched home plate and headed towards his dugout, he gave the index-finger-to-the-lips gesture of “shhhhhh” – and the crowd, suddenly silenced, obliged. He became the sixth-youngest player to homer in a World Series, with Mickey Mantle and Jimmy Foxx among the quintet who were younger.

McHugh would get the game to the seventh, where Hinch turned to Brad Peacock, who put a temporary hold on the hemorrhaging.

But the Dodgers would confront their own bullpen issues, perhaps, as the critics would say, brought on by all the sabermetrics-approved quick hooks of the past few nights. Maeda, coming off a brilliant, 42-pitch outing just two nights earlier and holding a pristine 0.00 ERA over his nine innings of work this postseason, had nothing. He gave up the moon-shot homer to Altuve, which tied the game in the fifth, and managed to retire only two batters.

By that point, it was only the theoretical halftime of a game that would go well beyond midnight Central time and feature more twists and turns than the mind can fathom.

And by the end, the train whistle was blowing, fireworks were going off beyond the fence. The Dodgers were trudging off the field, and the Astros were spilling onto it. The crowd, drunk on baseball and satiated by a year’s worth of drama in one night, stood and roared one last time in 2017 at Minute Maid Park.

When this city sees its baseball team again, it will be for a championship parade a few days from now, or for Opening Day 2018 next spring.