LOS ANGELES -- With brushfires ablaze in Chavez Ravine, Dodger Stadium was enveloped in a smoky haze during the late innings of Game 2, creating a surreal atmosphere for what was to become a supernatural night of baseball in this World Series.
There was no explaining it. The Dodgers and Astros combined for eight home runs overall — but five came during the extra innings, a feat that’s never been done before, in any game. Regular season, playoffs, World Series. Ever.
The Astros’ George Springer delivered the deciding blow in the 11th, when he crushed a two-run shot off the Dodgers’ Brandon McCarthy, a starter-turned-reliever who hadn’t pitched in 24 days. It will be remembered for ending this four-hour, 19-minute slugfest, a contest that prompted Justin Verlander — who teed up a pair of homers himself — to immediately proclaim afterward, “You can’t have a better baseball game than that.”
Hard to argue with him. Things got so wacky after the eighth inning that it became difficult to tell who was ahead, behind or if the game was tied. We’re not sure the Dodgers’ Charlie Culberson knew. When he took Chris Devenski deep with two outs in the 11th inning, the scoreboard said the Astros’ still had a 7-6 edge, even if Culberson’s body language told a different story.
Culberson sprinted around the bases, pointing to everywhere in the stadium, whirling like it was a walkoff, waving his arms to pump up the crowd like he had hit the tying homer. It was not. For the first time all night, actually, the last home run was mostly inconsequential. All of the others were critical to heightening the drama.
There was Marwin Gonzalez’s shocking blast off the Dodgers’ super-closer, Kenley Jansen, a leadoff dinger in the ninth that resulted in his first blown save since July 23. Jansen had converted 12 consecutive postseason save chances, the most ever since the stat became official in 1969. He also was 1-0 with four saves in these playoffs and had yet to allow an earned run in nine innings, giving up two hits and striking out 13.
But with the Dodgers up 3-1, Jansen was called on for a six-out save, after Brandon Morrow surrendered a leadoff double in the eighth, and trouble began almost immediately. Jansen was nicked by Carlos Correa for an RBI single, then Gonzalez tagged him for tying homer when the closer missed badly with a cut fastball.
“You’ve got to give credit to him,” Jansen said. “The one pitch that was flat all night, he didn’t miss. I wanted it to be up and in, but it was down the middle. I missed with the pitch and he got me. I’m human.”
If it makes Jansen feel any better, he wasn’t alone. Forced into extras, Roberts opted for Josh Fields to start the 10th, and that was akin to opening the stadium gates to let the ravaging flames inside. Fields instantly served up back-to-back homers to Jose Altuve and Correa, a loud 1-2 whammy that stunned the boisterous crowd of 54,293.
If that wasn’t enough, Correa flipped his bat skyward after making contact, launching it toward the Astros dugout in a flashy display that made Jose Bautista’s infamous flip look modest by comparison. But the Dodgers, to a man, weren’t bothered by it afterward.
“The adrenaline was really high,” Seager said. “Everybody’s really excited. Nobody’s trying to show anybody up. It’s a fun time. You never know what you’re going to do.”
How’s this for unpredictable? When Yasiel Puig led off the 10th inning with his cannon shot, following up Correa’s flip, he calmly placed his bat on the ground, then headed off to first base. It was the anti-flip from the sport’s most electric showman, the guy who dyed his hair Dodger blue before the Series began.
Later, Puig said he had planned to do that. It was not a response to Correa. But what was his expert opinion of Correa’s theatrics?
“I loved it,” Puig said through his translator. “It was a little bit higher than the bat flips I usually do. He was happy.”
Crazy, right? None of this made any sense, and that was the beauty of it. We should have known the second that Vin Scully came out, microphone in hand, to deliver the ceremonial first pitch, that this would be a memorable night. Did we mention Fernando Valenzuela showed up to relieve Vin?
It was all unbelievable. And won’t be forgotten any time soon.