LOS ANGELES — The Astros arrived here late Monday night one victory from the franchise’s first World Series title.
But good luck finding anyone associated with the club — which took a three-games-to-two lead over the favored Dodgers with a 13-12, 10-inning Game 5 victory that ended at 1:38 a.m. ET Monday — ready to make parade plans.
The American League Championship Series showed the Astros that, though in reverse. In that series, they were down 3-2 but won the last two games at home to advance.
“We just played the Yankees, we were down 3-2, so we know we have to be ready for Game 6,” catcher Brian McCann said. “We haven’t won anything yet.”
This is the closest the Astros have ever been to a World Series title; Houston, then a member of the National League, was swept by the White Sox in 2005 in its only other World Series appearance. This is the 56th season for the franchise, which began play in 1962 as the Houston Colt .45s.
Though they downplayed their situation, the Astros could not be happier with the Game 6 matchup. Justin Verlander, their postseason horse, will take the mound against Rich Hill. It is a rematch of Game 2, a 7-6, 11-inning Astros victory that was considered a World Series all-timer before the Game 5 all-timer surpassed it.
“It’s a good feeling,” Astros centerfielder and leadoff man George Springer said of giving Verlander the ball with the team one win from a championship. “But that’s a good team over there and they showed that they can score runs with the best of them, too. But to be heading back to LA and to be handing the ball to Verlander is . . . I love it.”
Verlander enters the game 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA in five games this postseason, four of them starts. The 34-year-old righthander, acquired minutes before the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason eligibility, went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five starts to end the regular season.
“These are what it’s all about,” said Verlander, who pitched in two World Series with the Tigers but never won a title. “These are the moments that you want to be a part of as a baseball player. It’s everything you could ask for. And like you said, Game 6, it’s either win it to stay alive or win it to win it all. Either way, it’s going to be pretty intense.”
That his teammates have the utmost faith in him, and aren’t shy about expressing it, is important to Verlander.
“That does mean a lot,” he said. “As a baseball player, you always appreciate the respect of your teammates in the clubhouse, on the field, in all aspects. We’re like a family. We spend so much time together. For them to say that about me, that means a lot, because I take a lot of pride in going out there.”
Rookie third baseman Alex Bregman, whose walk-off single beat the Dodgers in Game 5, referenced the Astros’ two-game rally at home to beat the Yankees, but in a different context. Trailing Clayton Kershaw by four runs didn’t faze the Astros, nor did any of the other deficits they faced in the 5-hour, 17-minute marathon.
“You saw that we go down 4-0 early, but we were still smiling and having a good time, because we were going to play our game,” Bregman said. “If we were going to lose today, we were going to play our game. We were going to fight to the end.”
“I think that one thing that has helped this team is going down 3-2 to the Yankees,” he said. “Because when we got back home, as soon as we got off the plane, I think our team really decided that we’re going to play to win — and play to win, and not play not to lose. And ever since then, we’ve been playing to win every single pitch, and it’s been fun.”
It could get a lot more fun Tuesday night.
A numerical look at a memorable Game 5, the World Series and the entire postseason to date:
417: Total pitches in Game 5
169: Height in feet of Carlos Correa’s seventh-inning HR in Game 5
101: 2017 postseason HRs, a record
42: Extra-base hits in World Series
39: Singles in World Series
25: Total runs in Game 5, the second-most in World Series history.
22: HRs in World Series, a record
8: HRs allowed by Clayton Kershaw in 2017 postseason, a record
4: Swings-and-misses against Kershaw in Game 5, in 94 pitches
3: Three-run HRs in Game 5, a World Series first