LOS ANGELES — What did it feel like for the Dodgers to force a Game 7, the winner-take-all finale this World Series absolutely deserved?
For that answer, we present Joc Pederson, whose indescribable romp around the bases on Tuesday night’s seventh-inning home run was the embodiment of the raw emotion spilling everywhere at Chavez Ravine.
Pederson was so electrified by the moment, so engulfed by the roar from 54,128 fans overjoyed to see their Dodgers live another day, he barely remembered to touch the bases. After careening from one side of the diamond to the other, Pederson rounded third and covered the last 90 feet while facing his dugout, alternately pointing and rubbing his fingers together, in a give-me-money type gesture.
As for what the experience was like, after the Dodgers beat the Astros, 3-1, Pederson had trouble finding the words. First, someone had to tell him what happened.
“You kind of black out in a situation like that,” Pederson said. “So I’m going to have to rewatch it to see what I did.”
To heck with the unwritten rules. In this epic World Series, Pederson was only expressing what we’ve all been feeling, the thrill of watching two evenly matched clubs push each other to the limit, so it’s only fitting that this goes the distance. For the second consecutive year, the World Series will get the Game 7 it deserves.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a battle,” said the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor, who was the first to crack Justin Verlander with a sixth-inning RBI double that tied the score. “Two teams that really want it. So it’s going to be just like every other game, I’m sure. It’s going to come down to the end.”
Just like the best Hollywood has to offer — plenty of stars, packed with drama, heroes, villains. This World Series has delivered all of it, and Tuesday night’s Game 6 followed that same script. The Astros, one win away from the franchise’s first title, took a 1-0 lead on George Springer’s third-inning homer, setting him up to be an obvious MVP if Houston held on. And with Verlander on the mound, the pitcher who was undefeated (9-0) in an Astros uniform, it created an early cliffhanger for the restless fans at Chavez Ravine.
But that only served to make the Dodgers’ comeback more exciting. Taylor dinged Verlander for the first run, and Corey Seager followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track that put L.A. ahead, 2-1. Those two loosened Verlander’s grip on the trophy, and the Dodgers, once into the vulnerable Houston bullpen, got the insurance they needed when Pederson belted the opposite-field shot off Joe Musgrove that barely reached the second row of the leftfield pavilion.
“I didn’t think I got it,” Pederson said. “So I think that’s what happened running the bases, it was just a lot of emotions hit me quickly.”
A season’s worth, really, considering that Pederson — the 2015 Rookie of the Year — had been demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City for two weeks in August before returning when rosters expanded shortly after Sept. 1. Pederson may have behaved like it was a walk-off, but the Dodgers still had plenty of work left to protect that two-run lead. And after the Game 5 slugfest in Houston, where 14 pitchers were pummeled for a total of 25 runs, the remaining six outs seemed like a hike for the Dodgers, who pulled starter Rich Hill with two outs in the fifth inning to create another long haul for the tired bullpen.
Instead, it created the perfect redemption story for embattled closer Kenley Jansen, the regular-season superman who has looked all-too-human in this World Series, having contributed to a pair of losses with late-inning stumbles. But Jansen was flawless this time, striking out three in two innings for the save as the Dodgers’ relief corps patched together the final 13 outs.
“The whole year, we talked about winning a championship,” Jansen said. “We all just had to believe. We didn’t hang our heads after Game 5. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. These guys didn’t lose sight of that. They all believed.”
Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. The Dodgers will send out Yu Darvish for Game 7, the Astros Lance McCullers. If the first six are any indication, we’re in for another wild ride.