As the Dodgers and Astros took turns pummeling each other for more than five hours, teeing off Sunday night as if there would be no tomorrow, the prevailing sentiment as an epic Game 5 went to extra innings at Minute Maid Park was bewilderment.
Would it ever end? And if it did, what could these two combatants possibly have left for the remainder of this World Series?
Five different Astros hit home runs, the first team in history to do so. The Dodgers countered with a pair of their own, and the two clubs now have totaled 22 homers through the first five games of this Fall Classic — surpassing the previous mark of 21, which the Angels and Giants accomplished in 2002 in the full seven games.
With fly balls rocketing off train bridges and bleacher seats, Game 5 felt more like a Home Run Derby than a title bout. The power display was ridiculous, and if commissioner Rob Manfred had any hope of convincing people that this World Series baseball isn’t juiced in some fashion, that was obliterated by the Astros’ 13-12 victory in 10 innings.
“I have my thoughts about it,” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said after witnessing the onslaught. “This is my eighth season in the big leagues, so I have my thoughts. But I’m going to keep them to myself.”
Jansen wasn’t done in by the long ball, however. The end came at 1:38 a.m. ET when Alex Bregman punched a sinking liner into leftfield that allowed pinch runner Derek Fisher to score from second base. In a World Series in which 15 of the 22 home runs have either tied the score or put a team ahead, Bregman’s solid single off Jansen was the hit that nudged the Astros to the brink of the franchise’s first world championship, 5 hours and 17 minutes after Dallas Keuchel threw the first pitch.
“I think it’s crazy, man,” Carlos Correa said. “These games are hard on me. I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack out there every single time. It’s high pressure out there. The game is going back and forth. And there’s a lot of pressure on you when you’re out there and you want to win a game, and you want to win the World Series.”
Crazy is a good word for it. Correa smacked a two-run homer in the seventh, Yasiel Puig hit a two-run homer in the ninth and three others — Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel and Cody Bellinger — added three-run shots. George Springer and Brian McCann added solo homers.
The Dodgers knocked out Keuchel in the fourth inning after taking a 4-0 lead, then the Astros bounced Clayton Kershaw on their way back to tying the score at 4.
Reducing two Cy Young Award winners to an afterthought is not supposed to happen in the World Series, but that’s where we are now, and the two bullpens are in tatters as well. The Dodgers’ Brandon Morrow, who had a 1.46 ERA in 11 appearances this postseason, didn’t record an out in the seventh as Correa and Springer took him deep.
Morrow looked exhausted, and given his standing in the Dodgers’ once-impregnable pen, that had to be one of the more shocking sights for manager Dave Roberts.
The teams now have a travel day to rest up before Tuesday night’s Game 6, but we’re not sure a 36-hour breather is going to fix this. It’s looking like a mad scramble. Last-man-standing type of stuff.
“There’s no stopping now,” Morrow said through a weak smile. “Guys are fatigued, but they’re not tired, if that makes sense.”
Sort of. In the way that zombies are actually dead, but also alive enough to stagger around with some basic motor function.
Sure, technically these guys can still pitch, as in climb the mound and throw baseballs in the direction of home plate. But there’s got to be serious doubts about their effectiveness going forward after Sunday night. And we’re not the only ones with that thought after 14 pitchers were treated like target practice.
“I haven’t seen anything like that, ever,” Keuchel said. “The highs, the lows, the in-betweens. It was all there . . . epic win, and what can you say about our offense? Terrible pitching performances all around and both offenses were just lighting it up.”
And to think most of the conversation before Game 5 had to do with juiced baseballs, a suspicion that has haunted the sport all season but no longer comes off like a conspiracy theory. With pitchers such as Justin Verlander being increasingly vocal about the ball’s seemingly different specs this October — including the slicker feel of the cowhide — Major League Baseball was compelled to come out with a statement Sunday night.
“World Series baseballs are tested at the time of manufacturing and are made from the same materials and to the same specifications as regular-season baseballs,” the statement said. “The only difference is the gold stamping on the baseballs.”
The ones used in Game 5 should have been marked Titleist after the teams turned Minute Maid Park into a driving range Sunday night. The next tee time is 8:20 p.m. ET Tuesday at Dodger Stadium for Game 6.