The epic Game 2 of this World Series has nothing on Game 5. In a back-and-forth battle between two heavyweights, the Astros overcame three deficits and countless momentum swings to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 13-12. The final Minute Maid Park crowd of the season was treated to a game that was all sorts of crazy and ultimately left the American League champions merely one win away from their first championship.
Neither ace, the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel nor the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, completed even five innings. Four of the top five in the Astros’ lineup homered. The mess that is the Astros’ bullpen led Astros manager A.J. Hinch to deploy Brad Peacock for 39 pitches after he threw 53 only two nights earlier.
Even after a four-run barrage by the Astros off Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow in the seventh was no lead safe. Los Angeles put the tying run in scoring position with one out in the eighth before the combination of Will Harris and Chris Devenski silenced the threat.
Brian McCann tagged Tony Cingrani for an Astros insurance run in the eighth to make the score 12-9. Devenski failed to hold it. He issued a leadoff walk to Cody Bellinger before serving up a two-run homer to Yasiel Puig. An Austin Barnes double put the tying run in scoring position. With two outs, Chris Taylor plated him on a single up the middle.
After Joe Musgrove logged a scoreless top of the 10th, the Astros mounted a game-winning, two-out rally in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Jansen hit McCann on the wrist with a pitch. George Springer followed by drawing a walk, at which point Hinch pinch ran Derek Fisher for McCann.
Bregman didn’t waste any time in playing hero. He offered at a first-pitch cutter and sent it to left field, scoring the speedy Fisher.
The offense produced in the game was almost too much too track. Jose Altuve, responsible for the second of the Astros’ three game-tying home runs, drove in four runs. Carlos Correa and Gurriel each drove in three, the latter on a blast off Kershaw that tied the game in the fourth inning.
Kershaw, the greatest pitcher on the planet, blew a 4-0 lead for the Dodgers. That alone would have been unpredictable enough to make for an epic game. By the time the final out was recorded, it was a distant memory.
It was fitting the Astros’ core four players fueled the decisive four-run seventh. Springer sparked the barrage when he crushed a first-pitch fastball from Morrow over the train tracks to tie the game at 8.
Alex Bregman ensured the rally didn’t stop there. He, too, offered at the first pitch, a slider, and laced a single to center field. Altuve drove in the go-ahead run with a double to left-center field. Correa followed with a towering fly ball that hung in the air for seemingly forever before landing in one of the first couple of rows of the Crawford Boxes.
Correa’s two-run homer, which traveled only an estimated 328 feet, put the Astros ahead, 11-8. Morrow, who has pitched in every game of the series, threw only six pitches. He allowed four runs.
The Dodgers went ahead in the top of the seventh on a line drive off the bat of Bellinger. Springer, the Astros’ All-Star centerfielder, charged inward as Kike Hernandez hedged between first and second base.
Springer miscalculated. Rather than playing for the single and holding Bellinger to the single, he dived. The ball bounced in front of his glove and hopped over it and toward the wall. Hernandez scored easily to give Los Angeles a one-run lead. Bellinger stopped at third.
The sequence came moments after the Astros cut down a potential Dodgers threat. Peacock, deployed despite logging 3 2/3 innings two nights earlier, cut down Justin Turner at third base on a poor sacrifice bunt attempt by Hernandez. Turner reached second on a leadoff double that fell mere inches shy of clearing the right-center field fence.
Although they made for a pitcher’s duel in Game 1, neither Keuchel nor Kershaw held their end of the bargain in Game 5.
Keuchel completed only 3 2/3 innings and allowed three earned runs. Kershaw finished just 4 2/3 and was charged with six earned runs.
Keuchel put the Astros in an early hole in his final start of the season. The Dodgers chased him after only 3 2/3 innings in which they tagged him for four runs, three of which were earned. They were rewarded for taking a patient approach against Keuchel in their second look at him in six days.
Keuchel threw only 53.5 percent strikes and needed 86 pitches to record his 11 outs. He didn’t generate a single swing and miss on his trademark sinker. The Dodgers had five of their XX hits against Keuchel before Hinch replaced him with Luke Gregerson as the Los Angeles lineup rolled over for a third time.
The game started in just about the worst fashion possible for the Astros. Nothing went right. Keuchel allowed a leadoff single to Taylor and issued back-to-back walks to Turner and Hernandez. He hung a two-out slider to Logan Forsythe that scored Taylor easily. Marwin Gonzalez booted a ball in left to ensure Turner also scored.
With Yasiel Puig at the plate, Keuchel picked off Forsythe, his teammate at the University of Arkansas. As Forsythe ran to second base, Gurriel made a high throw from first base that pulled Altuve off the second base bag. Hernandez took off for home. In a close play at the base, Forsythe was safe. The Dodgers led 3-0 before Kershaw even took the mound.
The Astros’ deficit reached four when Barnes smacked a run-scoring single off Keuchel with two outs in the fourth. In the first of several stunning twists, it proved fleeting.
Kershaw, who had faced the minimum through three, folded in the fourth. Springer led off with a walk. Altuve singled. Correa whacked a run-scoring double. Then came the big blow. The always-aggressive Gurriel capitalized on a first-pitch hanging slider and tied the game with a three-run shot to left field.
Collin McHugh came on at the start of the fifth for his first appearance since Game 3 of the AL Championship Series. It didn’t take more than a few pitches to see he didn’t have it. McHugh walked Seager and Turner before giving up a three-run homer to Bellinger.
The bottom of the fifth proved just as nutty, though. With two outs on the bases empty, Springer drew a walk against Kershaw. Bregman followed suit, grinding out an epic 10-pitch plate appearance that won’t soon be forgotten. It chased Kershaw from the game and set up the biggest swing of the Astros’ season to that point.
The first man out of the Dodgers’ bullpen was Kenta Maeda, who pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless ball in Friday’s Game 3. He was tasked with facing Altuve, the toughest out in the Astros’ lineup and one of the toughest in baseball. The AL MVP candidate worked the count full.
On the first full-count pitch he saw from Maeda, Altuve ripped a foul ball with home run distance down the left field line. On the next, he didn’t miss. It traveled an estimated 415 feet out to center field and tied the game.
The emotional swing was far from the game’s last.
By Jake Kaplan