HOUSTON — Best World Series game ever?
Best World Series ever?
Or just a demonstration of bad pitching, juiced baseballs, and homer-happy ballparks?
A World Series is not supposed to have a Game For The Ages twice within a span of five days, but the 2017 Fall Classic already ranks as one of the best ever played and we still have one or two games left.
The Houston Astros, trying to win the first championship in the history of a franchise born in 1962, outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers, 13-12, in 10 innings Sunday night/Monday morning to take a three-games-to-two lead in the 113th World Series, which resumes Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
The ’Stros hit five homers in Game 5. They erased two three-run deficits and blew a three-run lead. They won it at 12:39 a.m. (1:39 Boston time) when Alex Bregman singled home pinch runner Derek Fisher from second base with two outs in the bottom of the 10th. The toe-to-toe slugfest featured 14 pitchers, 417 pitches, and lasted five hours and 17 minutes.
So there. The balls are juiced, the games are too long, and baseball is putting on a show unlike any other in an event that started at Boston’s Huntington Grounds back in 1903. That series was a best-of-nine, won, 5-3, by Boston. May I suggest the Dodgers and ’Stros make this a best-of-nine? Or best of 19?
Oh, and pushing the local angle a bit, I can tell you that Houston fans were chanting “Beat LA, Beat LA” when they poured out of Minute Maid Park while you were sleeping Monday morning.
“I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack,’’ said Houston superstar shortstop Carlos Correa, who hit one of the team’s five homers.
“Just when I thought I could describe Game 2 [eight homers, a 7-6 Houston win] as my favorite game of all time, I think Game 5 exceeded that and more,’’ said Houston manager A. J. Hinch. “It’s hard to put into words all the twists and turns in that game, the emotion, doing it here, in front of our home crowd.
“We’re a hard team to beat when we swing the bats like this.’’
Both the Dodgers and ’Stros sent a Cy Young ace to the mound for Game 5, so we were not expecting 25 runs and seven more homers (this homerlicious event already has a record 22 dingers). Neither ace made it out of the fifth.
Houston’s Dallas Keuchel was routed for four runs in less than four innings, and three-time Cy winner Clayton Kershaw could not hold leads of 4-0 in the fourth and 7-4 in the fifth. Kershaw was 49-1 in his last 50 decisions in games in which he had a four-run lead, and the Dodgers did not lose any game in 2017 in which they had a four-run lead.
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. Now this. It will haunt him if the Dodgers do not respond with a pair of wins in Chavez Ravine.
“Obviously, it’s a tough one to lose,’’ said the classy Kershaw, who never hides. “Everybody’s pretty exhausted after that one, emotionally and physically.’’
Across the room, LA’s electric Yasiel Puig, who hit a huge two-run homer in the top of the ninth, guaranteed victory Tuesday in a game that will be started by another Houston ace, Justin Verlander.
“This is not going to be finished Tuesday,’’ said the combustible Cuban. “There is going to be a Game 7.
“I want to say ‘thank you’ to our fans. This is not going to be finished in Game 6.’’
Houston won Game 5 with homers by George Springer, Correa, Jose Altuve, Brian McCann, and Yuli Gurriel, who should not even have been allowed to play in the game. Gurriel insulted humanity in Game 3 with a racial gesture and slur aimed in the direction of Dodgers 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. Weak.
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.
The Dodgers did not fold after the fateful fourth. They responded.
After Houston reliever Collin McHugh issued two walks in the fifth, Dodgers rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger launched a three-run homer to make it 7-4.
Bellinger is important to this saga because he has taken over the job formerly held by Adrian Gonzalez, a.k.a. “The Cooler.’’ The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that LA manager Dave Roberts asked Gonzalez to stop hanging around the team. Gonzalez was in Italy when LA beat the Cubs in the NLCS and he was in a Los Angeles television studio when the Series returned to LA for the first time in 29 years last Tuesday.
The Dodgers won that night, but lost the next two when Gonzo came around to be with the guys. (Gonzalez is under contract for north of $21 million through next season.) 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 pre-game workouts and meetings.’’
It didn’t work. Not even the absence of The Cooler could chill Houston’s potent offense, or make up for the Dodgers’ suddenly sorry bullpen.
And now, in the words of Bill Belichick, we’re on to Los Angeles.
The indomitable Verlander takes the ball for Houston. He says he has no doubt that the balls are juiced.
“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,’’ said the veteran righty.
It’s hard to imagine this homer-happy Series not going to a Game 7 on Nov. 1. And 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.