In a raucous Game 5 of the World Series, a walk in the park was good for a run. Seven batters given free passes crossed the plate in Houston’s dramatic 10th inning walk off win against the Dodgers to go up 3-2 heading back to Los Angeles.
For the better part of five hours and 17 minutes, the camera captured a cavalcade of dejected opposing pitchers sitting in the dugout after squandering seemingly safe leads.
Both teams traded back and forth celebratory high fives and helmet removals until the final hero, 23-year-old Alex Bregman, belted a game-winning single to center field off the suddenly stoppable Dodger closer Kenley Jansen.
Keuchel lost Chris Taylor to a lead off single, got Corey Seager looking, then surrendered back-to-back walks on a bevvy of low four-seam fastballs to Justin Turner and Enrique Hernandez. After fanning Cody Bellinger on one of his few successful sliders, Logan Forsythe drove in two runs on a line drive to left. With Yasiel Puig in the batter’s box, Forsythe stole second, moving Hernandez to third, who scored on Yuli Gurriel’s wild throw to the plate.
The Houston southpaw settled down over the next two innings, retiring both sides in order. His lefty counterpart cruised through the first six batters not allowing a base runner until the third when Evan Gattis got a hold of an 89 mph slider for a lead off line drive single to center. The ‘Stros attempt of a rally was quickly squandered on Marwin Gonzalez’s double play ball and Brian McCann’s weak grounder to second.
In the top of the fourth, just when Houston manager A.J. Hinch hoped Keuchel could keep the Dodger damage in check, Forsythe delivered a double up the middle and was driven home by an Austin Barnes base hit to left. The long bearded ace was lifted for Luke Gregerson after Charlie Culberson’s sharp single eluded Jose Altuve’s glove, recording the shortest home game start of his career.
In the hole 4-0 going into the home half, Kershaw, perhaps sitting on the bench too long, started to lose his command of the situation. He walked George Springer on five pitches, but after Bregman flied out to left, Altuve singled on a 2-2 slider and Carlos Correa smacked a four-seam fastball for an RBI double.
With runners on second and third, Gurriel, the 33-year-old rookie who was ripped a new one for his insensitive racial gesture earlier in the series, crushed Kershaw’s first pitch slider into the left field seats for a game tying three-run homer. The suspension handed down by Commissioner Rob Manfred for Gurriel’s bad behavior coming too late for the Dodgers as the five games he will be denied playing in won’t occur until the beginning of next season.
In the top of the fifth Hinch took a gamble by replacing Gregerson with Collin McHugh, a reliever rarely used in the postseason. The plan backfired big time when the righty gave up consecutive walks to Seager and Turner. A pitching coach visit to the mound induced a strikeout to Hernandez, but nothing could silence Cody Bellinger’s awoken bat as the 23-year old rookie regained LA’s lead 7-4 with a rocket to the right center field seats. With Houston’s bullpen running on fumes, McHugh remained on the mound getting Forsythe to fly out to right, and striking out Puig on a 92 mph fastball.
Given a second life by his prolific line-up, Kershaw retired Gonzalez on a fly ball to left then McCann on a called strike three. After gifting back-to-back walks to Springer and Bregman, Dave Roberts went to the Kenta Maeda well, a move that was as certain as the sun rising. But Altuve was also a proven commodity, and the diminutive man that Houston fans chant MVP every time he steps into the batter’s box, hammered a 3-2 pitch into center to even the score.
The sixth inning came and went without a whimper, then in the seventh, Brad Peacock in lieu of McHugh, gave up a lead off double to Turner. Hernandez’s sac bunt had too much sauce allowing Peacock to nail Turner at third. The utility player reached first on a fielder’s choice and Bellinger, making up for all of his prior miscues at the plate, tripled home Hernandez with the go ahead run. Logan Forsythe was called out on strikes and Puig ended the inning with a fly out to left field.
Brandon Morrow replaced Tony Watson who came on the scene in the sixth, but the third consecutive game was not the charm for the rock solid reliever because George Springer, like Bellinger, had also gotten his mojo back. Springer led off launching Morrow’s first pitch for a solo shot to left and then the hits kept coming. Bregman singled, Altuve doubled, and Correa reached the seats on a two-run homer to left. Tony Cingrani came in to stop the bleeding striking out Gurriel, Reddick, getting Gattis to end the inning on a liner to right.
One would think that a three run advantage heading into the eighth was a pretty sure bet, but a lead in this game was less secure than a Hollywood executive’s employment.
Peacock started the inning with promise, winning an eight-pitch battle striking out Barnes. Joc Pederson, who doesn’t know on a daily basis if he’s even going to play, laced a double off the left field wall. Taylor was hit-by-a pitch, sending Peacock to the showers and Will Harris to the mound. Seager plated Pederson with a double of his own, and Turner’s sharp liner to right was caught by Reddick. Chris Devenski replaced Harris and got the pinch-hitting Andre Ethier to end the inning out on a ground ball to first.
After Gonzalez lined out to left leading off the bottom half, the Astros got some insurance on McCann’s solo shot to right. Ross Stripling replaced Cingrani, surrendering a single to Springer, then got Bregman to ground into an inning ending double play.
An ominous walk to Bellinger set the stage for the top of the ninth. Forsythe followed with a strikeout, then Puig, hitless in four at bats, somehow sailed a one-handed two-run homer into the seats in left. Barnes doubled into the gap, Pederson was put away on a grounder to short, and Taylor hit a, “you gotta be kidding me,” RBI base hit up the middle to tie the score. Seager then left the winning run on first with a liner to center.
“Drama is at an all-time high,” McCann said. “You’re on every pitch, your focus is through the roof. You have to be ready for anything, thinking two, three steps ahead, constant communication. It’s more mentally exhausting than physically.”
It appeared to be advantage Dodgers with ace closer Kenley Jansen on the mound. After retiring Altuve on a fly ball to center and Correa on a pop up in foul territory, Gurriel almost ended it with a walk-off home run that instead bounced off the wall for a double. And that’s where he remained, when Reddick, desperately looking to burn his old team, flied out to left.
Joe Musgrove came on in the 10th and got Turner on a sharp line out to left. Ethier then singled putting the go ahead run on first. With Bellinger at the plate, the crowd breathed a sigh of relief when his fly ball landed into the glove of center fielder Cameron Maybin, and rejoiced even further when Forsythe grounded out on a force to short.
After Gattis grounded out to third and Gonzalez struck out swinging, McCann took one for the team and landed on first. Springer got a free pass and ironically, a guy with an LA Laker name, Derek Fisher, pinch ran for McCann and scored the winning run on Bregman’s clutch single to center field.
“This is not going to be finished on Tuesday,” said Los Angeles outfielder Yasiel Puig. “There is going to be a Game 7.”
Yeah, baseball’s pretty boring, eh?