LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers and Astros, all even after six World Series games, weren’t in the mood to reflect Wednesday on the greatness of this Fall Classic. They still had a trophy to win later that night at Chavez Ravine.
No, that’s our job. And despite each team’s reluctance to indulge us, there’s no denying this has been a phenomenal championship final, right on the heels of the Cubs needing seven games, and 10 innings, to outlast the Indians a year ago for their first title since 1908.
This World Series couldn’t boast of a built-in narrative like that. The Dodgers hadn’t earned a ring since 1988, the Astros never have since their birth as the Colt 45s in 1962. Both won 100-plus games during the regular season, but otherwise, there was little to link these two teams — other than shared National League heritage.
But that all changed during the past week, as their October (into November) battle created a baseball masterpiece, a Fall Classic with just about everything — aside from the notable absence of brilliant starting pitching. Heading into Wednesday’s Game 7, the Dodgers had outscored the Astros 33-29 — five of the six games had been decided by two runs or fewer.
The two insanely wild games, Nos. 2 and 5, each featured a one-run margin that had to be settled in extra innings. Game 2 went 11 innings, and featured a record five homers after the ninth. Game 5 lasted 10 innings, had 14 pitchers, and the combined 25 runs were the most scored since Game 3 of the ’97 World Series (Marlins 14, Indians 11).
“I think that our sport is loved for many reasons,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said before Game 7. “This World Series will be one of them.”
Those comments came only 16 hours after the Astros surrendered their 3-2 series lead, giving back whatever momentum they had generated Sunday night (into Monday morning) at Minute Maid Park. They emerged the victor (13-12) from that five-hour, 17-minute marathon, the second-longest game in World Series history, behind Game 3 of the ’05 Series between the White Sox and Houston, a 14-inning affair that took five hours, 41 minutes.
Losing such a grueling contest can be spirit-crushing in a short series, but the Dodgers were unfazed that night as they dressed for the trip back to L.A. Yasiel Puig guaranteed there would be a Game 7 and the Dodgers climbed off the canvas to beat the previously unbeatable Justin Verlander in Game 7.
“I think that’s a very important component to a champion, to be able to sustain success and failure,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I think that our guys kind of come together and stay together for a certain moment or a game. We do a very good job of that. And that’s the reason why we’re here.”
Along with plenty of other memorable snapshots, from both sides. Clayton Kershaw’s first World Series victory in his 10-year career, coming in Game 1, when he struck out 11 without a walk over seven scoreless innings. Carlos Correa’s bat flip after going deep back-to-back with Jose Altuve in the 10th inning of Game 2. Joc Pederson’s wild romp around the bases for his Game 6 homer, when he covered the last 90 feet while pointing to the Dodgers dugout and rubbing his fingers together in some sort of cash-money salute (think Johnny Manziel’s signature on-field celebration).
And then there’s been every time George Springer steps to the plate, as the Astros centerfielder has polished his Series MVP credentials with four homers, trailing only Reggie Jackson (1977) and Chase Utley (2009), who each hit five. Springer also joined Lou Gehrig as the only players to have three of their homers either tie the score or give their team the lead in three consecutive games.
“I can appreciate it more if we win,” Hinch said of the epic Series. “I’ll appreciate the heck out of it. But I think as time will go by and we’ll watch the DVDs that are made of this series and the memories that are built from this series, there will be a great appreciation of where it fits in the context of history of baseball.”
An outstanding Game 7, and we’ll put it among the very best.