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Editor’s note: Click here to read an updated version of this column.
HOUSTON — This World Series just keeps getting better.
Here’s what happened just in the early innings of Game 5:
The Dodgers and Astros went into the night tied, 2-2. Both teams had a former Cy Young winner on the hill — Dallas Keuchel for the ’Stros and Clayton Kershaw for Los Angeles.
The Dodgers struck quickly, reaching Keuchel for three in the first and another in the fourth. This seemed like it would be enough for Kershaw, a three-time Cy guy who’s been great in this postseason. Before Sunday night, the Dodgers were 100-1 lifetime in games in which they scored four or more runs with Kershaw starting.
But this is no ordinary time. Everyone says the baseballs are juiced. And like Roger Clemens before him and David Price today, Kershaw has some rough history in October. Despite his greatness, prior to this season he was 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in postseason games.
And so it was not a shock to Dodger watchers to see Kershaw get lit up for four runs in the bottom of the fourth on a single and three hits, including a homer.
The homer, of course, was hit by Yuli Gurriel, the 33-year-old Cuban rookie who insulted humanity in Game 3 with a racial gesture and slur aimed in the direction of Dodger starter Yu Darvish. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told the world that MLB will not tolerate such actions and suspended Gurriel for five games — but said the suspension would not be served until the beginning of next season. The Commish was not interested in a grievance from the Players Association and said he did not want to punish the other 24 Astros during the World Series.
And so, of course, the guy who should not even be playing, ripped a game-tying three run homer in the middle of Game 5. Gurriel’s reception at Dodger Stadium in Game 6 Tuesday should be something to behold.
To their credit, the Dodgers did not fold after the fateful fourth. They responded.
After Houston reliever Collin McHugh issued two walks, Dodgers rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger launched a three-run homer.
Bellinger is important to this saga because he has taken over the job formerly held by Adrian Gonzalez, a.k.a. “The Cooler.’’
This started out as a little joke of mine, when I noted that bad things always seem to happen to teams when Gonzalez is around. Now it’s obvious that the Dodger believe it, too. The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that LA manager Dave Roberts asked Gonzalez to stop hanging around the team. As documented, when Gonzalez was active this season, the Dodger were three games over .500 (47-44). After Game 1 of the World Series, they were 50 games over .500 (65-15) when Gonzalez was inactive.
There was some surprise when stories surfaced that AGon was in Italy during the NLCS, then in a Los Angeles TV studio for Game 1 of the World Series. He is under contract for north of $21 million again next year.
Gonzalez came back for Game 2 and worked out with his teammates before the game. The Dodgers lost. He accompanied the team to Houston and worked out again before Game 3 Friday night. The Dodgers lost again.
According to the Times, before Saturday’s Game 4, “Roberts asked Gonzalez to spend the rest of the postseason as a spectator rather than a participant in pregame workouts and meetings.’’
Voila. It worked. The Dodgers rallied for five in the ninth to win Game 4, then fought back from the crushing Gurriel homer in Game 5.
Game 5 was far from over after the Bellinger homer, however. Kershaw got the hook after walking two batters with two out in the fifth, then Jose Altuve tied the game with a three-run homer on a 3-and-2 pitch from Kenta Maeda. It was 7-7, both Cy Young winners were gone, and we weren’t even done with the fifth inning yet. This was beginning to feel like Game 2 when the teams hit eight homers. No wonder everyone thinks the balls are juiced.
The indomitable Justin Verlander is slated to be on the mound Tuesday for the Astros when the Series returns to Los Angeles. On Sunday, Verlander said, “I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven’t changed, but I think there’s enough information out there to say that’s not true.’’
At this point, it’s hard to imagine this Series not going to a Game 7 on Nov. 1.
You know what Kevin Millar says about Game 7.
Anything can happen.
That’s the theme of this spectacular World Series.
The balls are juiced, the games are ungodly late, and anything can happen.
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