Forget any previous comparisons to The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and St. Elsewhere. This is Monty Python’s Flying Series. On Sunday night it was as though the Dodgers and Astros agreed before the first pitch, “And now, for something completely different . . . ” As if this World Series wasn’t, already.
This Game Five may not be the greatest World Series game ever played, but it was for damn sure the most entertaining. So much so that you might even find Astro fans who were sorry only that it had to end when young third baseman Alex Bregman walked it off with an RBI single in the bottom of the tenth.
After all, nobody ever really wants a good Marx Brothers film to end. Not even after you learn that, while making A Day at the Races, and despite knowing by the script how the big race was going to turn out, Chico actually bet on the wrong horse.
“Who knows where this one ranks, right up there with that game—back and forth, the two best teams in baseball fighting to the very end and going toe to toe with each other,” said Bregman when it finally ended. “Everybody was used on both teams, pretty much, every single player. It was special for us to come out on top.”
The Astros and the Dodgers played for five hours and seventeen minutes. I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the actual or allegedly swelling length of baseball games this time. “Yeah, five-hour game, but it doesn’t matter,” said breathless Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. “I can play a ten-hour game if we are going to win.”
On Sunday night he had to settle for a ten-inning game. But the 13-12 Astros win just might have one and all hoping for more of the same when the Series moves back to Los Angeles. Even with Justin Verlander scheduled to pitch Game Six.
Maybe the lone dissenter just might be Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. “I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack out there,” Correa said when Game Five finally ended. “It’s high pressure. The game is going back and forth. Both teams are great, scoring runs. Hopefully we can win one more game and take a break, because this is hard on me.”
Let’s get one thing out of the way post haste. Stop the comparisons to Game Four of the 1993 World Series. The only thing that game has in common with Sunday night’s soiree was the high score: Blue Jays 15, Phillies 14.
That game was a slop fest, from the wet conditions to the fourteen walks to the hit batsmen to the terrible pitching by people you can’t and mostly don’t want to remember. The Dodgers didn’t push a Todd Stottlemyre out of the game after three and two thirds; the Astros didn’t tie things at four off a Tommy Greene.
No, the Dodgers jumped to a first-inning 3-0 lead off Dallas Keuchel and added a fourth in the top of the fourth before Keuchel was finally shown mercy by Astros manager A.J. Hinch when it really was clear that Keuchel’s cutter was sunk.
And the Astros hammered back against Clayton Kershaw, to that moment having the best postseason of his life, when it really was clear that, after cruising for three innings, Kershaw’s slider could have been court-martialed for desertion.
Correa started that one with an RBI double. Then Yuli Gurriel—in a vat of hot water a day earlier, over a stupidly racist gesture toward Yu Darvish after going long in Game Three, but avoiding suspension until next season because commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t think his team should be punished for his idiocy—hit a three-run homer to tie things at four.
Death, it is said, comes in threes. In Game Five, comebacks did. Gurriel’s bomb was the first of a trio of three-run homers in the game. Dodger rookie Cody Bellinger put the Dodgers ahead 7-4 with one, and Astros MVP candidate Jose Altuve tied things at seven with one of his own.
The Dodgers forced extra innings in the first place with three runs to tie the game at twelve in the ninth, Yasiel Puig sneaking a two-run homer into the Crawford Boxes and Chris Taylor singling home Austin Barnes, and Taylor’s hit was with the Dodgers down to their final out while they were at it.
There were seven homers in the game and the Astros hit five of them. There’s an argument that none was more important than George Springer’s leadoff bomb off Brandon Morrow, to that point the Dodgers’ second best relief pitcher of the postseason, re-tying things at eight in the seventh. Then came another three: Altuve’s RBI double and Correa’s two-run homer.
This time, the game didn’t end against a Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams who was a heart attack waiting to happen (twice, as it turned out, including the 15-14 slopfest) but against the best closer in the business these days, Kenley Jansen. The same Jansen, alas, who surrendered Marwin Gonzalez’s leadoff bomb in the ninth of Game Two, tying that game at—you guessed it—three all.
And the Dodgers didn’t send Game Five to extras on the dime of poor Ken Giles—who wasn’t even a subject—but on that of Chris Devenski, an Astro lefthander who’d only surrendered one run in three previous Series gigs. Did we mention that Joe Musgrove, who surrendered Bellinger’s insult-to-injury three-run homer in Game Four, worked a tenth marred only by a one-out single and picked up the win while he was at it?
“These,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, “are two teams that play 27 outs.” If necessary, they’ll play thirty outs. Or forty.
How do you define a “greatest World Series game ever played?” Most of us might think of the ones that nail the Series down, but not all Series clinchers are greats, or even mere classics, alas. A lot of Series clinchers turn out turkeys, and some of those only look that way because a couple of games earlier in the set were just so wild, crazy, off the proverbial chart.
Last year’s Game Seven was a no questions asked classic, and those Cubs and Indians threw the kitchen sink and one pregnant rain delay at each other before the Cubs ended 108 years worth of a World Series drought.
Game Six of the 1975 Series qualifies simply because it set up a seventh game at least as dramatically as this year’s Game Five sent the set back to Los Angeles. And, about the same, sort of, Bernie Carbo’s three-run bomb setting the table for Carlton Fisk’s body-English game-ender off the foul pole.
This year has two classics to brag about. Game Five almost made Game Two resemble a coffee klatsch. Forget the kitchen sink. The Dodgers and the Astros threw the whole damn house at each other Sunday night. And we haven’t even gotten to some of the records that got tied or tumbled:
* Gurriel’s bomb put Kershaw in the record books on the wrong side; no other pitcher has surrendered eight bombs in a single postseason.
* Four different players age 23 or younger (Bellinger, Bregman, Correa, Corey Seager) have now hit home runs in this Series, and one of them (Bellinger) is 22. That’s the first such Series performance since three such young sprouts in 1934: Hall of Famers Joe Medwick and Hank Greenberg, plus rookie Cardinals catcher Bill DeLancey.
* Game Five is the highest-scoring extra-innings game in postseason history.
* It was also the first-ever World Series to feature a trio of three-run homers.
* The Astros became baseball’s first to hit three game-tying home runs in a World Series game.
* I’m not sure just yet, but Morrow surrendering four runs while facing four hitters and recording no outs may be a Series record of some kind.
Whether any Astros or Dodgers thought about the record books might not be known until after the Series ends, whichever way it ends. But you might care to note that Altuve is one bomb shy of the record for a single postseason. He has seven. And counting, maybe.
“Guess what? They still have to beat us one more time,” said Jansen, who again acknowledged what happens when he doesn’t get his cutter to go up and in. “This is it. We just can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t hang our heads.”
Another Dodger reliever, Ross Stripling, who got the final two outs of the Houston eighth after Brian McCann’s solo bomb chased fellow pen man Tony Cingrani, was a little more philosophical. “If we can hold them to less than twelve runs,” Stripling said, “we’ll get some wins.”
They’ll have to get two. The Astros need only one. But don’t ask whether they could possibly top the mayhem of Games Two and Five. This World Series is Forrest Gump‘s box of chocolates. You never know what you’ll get, and you’d be a fool to guess.