HOUSTON -- Forty-three thousand, three hundred people attended Game 5 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park. Every man, woman and child in the building smoked a carton of cigarettes when it was over.
The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in 10 innings Sunday night (box score and ) to take a 3-2 lead in the World Series. At five hours and 17 minutes, it was the second-longest game game in World Series history. With seven more home runs, it broke the all-time record for most long balls in a World Series, at 22. It sent die-hard baseball fans into a tizzy, and won legions of new fans too.
It was, by our favorite stat that measures momentum swings, the second-craziest World Series game ever played, trailing only the David Freese "How Did This Happen?" classic. It was more fun than anyone should be allowed to have, doing anything, ever.
With a game this insane, you could stack the unforgettable moments to the ceiling. We found 10 that made us lose our minds, with joy and shock, frustration and bewilderment, anticipation and elation. But mostly joy.
10. The sixth home run
Brian McCann has had an awful time with left-handed pitching this season. He had been bad, period, in the postseason, batting a mere .181/.257/.309 entering Game 5. At this point he's in the lineup for his defense, and that's about it. So when Dodgers lefty Tony Cingrani fired a 96 mph fastball right at Austin Barnes' glove on the inside corner, you figured McCann would have no shot. But Cingrani's 1-0 offering marked the second straight inside fastball he had thrown, giving McCann a pattern to work with. The Astros catcher made no mistake with the pitch, lofting it into the right-field seats and giving the Astros a 12-9 lead in the eighth.
By this point in the game, everyone seemed almost numb to long balls, and McCann's blow figured to put the game on ice. Oh, how wrong that would prove to be.
9. The seventh home run
Astros reliever Chris Devenski's changeup is an absolutely filthy offering, one so good it paved the way for the right-hander Yasiel Puig, going at him with that trademark change. The pitch was down and away and came with two strikes, and would've resulted in a strikeout in many other cases. Puig just went out and got it, one-handing the ball over the wall in left for a Crawford Box special.this summer. So with a runner on in the ninth and the Astros up by three, Devenski didn't mess around against
Again, credit some hitter intuition here. Puig was out in front of this pitch, meaning he probably expected a fastball. But he had noticed that Devenski had been gunning for the outside corner earlier in the at-bat. That, plus Puig's strength and Minute Maid's homer-friendly dimensions down the lines, set Devenski up for trouble.
Of course even after Puig's homer, the Dodgers still trailed by a run with two outs to go. Surely the Astros could hang onto that lead and salt the game away, right? Right???!??!
8. The fourth home run
Until Game 5, Brandon Morrow had never pitched three days in a row in his entire career. Also, Brandon Morrow allowed zero home runs during the entire 2017 regular season.
Perhaps those two facts are related.
7. The fifth home run
Look, it's not like Dave Roberts had many options here. Clayton Kershaw didn't do what he was supposed to do, thus sadly bringing back into play. Kershaw's early departure taxed the rest of an already overtaxed bullpen. It's tough to trust, say, Ross Stripling in a pivotal spot in a pivotal game of the damn World Series. And Brandon Morrow had sparkled throughout this postseason. Plus, this was Roberts after the game, talking about Morrow:
"He called down and said that he felt good. He was throwing today, he felt good. And he called in the middle of the game, and he said, 'Hey, if we take the lead, I want the ball, my body feels good.' So in the seventh inning, you can't turn him down. He felt good, he wanted to be in the game, and it's a credit to him to be used like he has been and want the baseball."
This wasn't just three games in a row for Morrow. It was the 12th time the Dodgers had used him in their 13 playoff games this fall. As badly as Morrow wanted to pitch, as shaky as some other options might've looked at the time, it's not hard to see why he failed so spectacularly in the seventh inning Sunday night. Morrow faced four batters. The four batters went homer, single, double, homer, with Carlos Correa's pop fly to left likely to have ended up as an out in all but two places: Fenway Park and Minute Maid Park.
6. The Bunt
The result has been an onslaught of runs in this series, and an absolute orgy of scoring in Game 5. The 25 runs scored Sunday night tied for the second-most runs ever scored in a World Series game (Game 3 in 1997 also had 25), trailing only Game 4 in 1993, which had 29. We found actual footage of both teams' offense here:
Somehow, within all that offensive madness, Enrique Hernandez still tried to lay down a bunt with the game potentially in the balance. Given the circumstances, this was one of the single most out-of-place baseball plays any of us has ever seen.
But there was more to this play than just the bunt itself. Roberts set up this scenario in the way he constructed his lineup. The Dodgers manager, seeing Hernandez's terrific numbers against left-handed pitchers this year (.270/.367/.579), stuck his super-utility man and recent Dallas Keuchel, whose southpawness would both enable Hernandez's strong split tendencies to come out while also putting Keuchel's significantly weaker performance against right-handed hitters into play.in the cleanup spot, right behind a trio of on-base fiends. At first glance, the move would seem to make sense. The Astros starter was left-hander
The problem is, sticking Hernandez in such a pivotal spot in the order invited trouble as soon as A.J. Hinch elected to pull Keuchel. We saw it first in the fifth inning. After Luke Gregerson's surprise third of an inning in the fourth triggered the funniest and meanest teammate response of all time, the Astros went to right-hander Collin McHugh to pitch the fifth. Sure enough, after Corey Seager and Justin Turner drew back-to-back walks to start the inning, Hernandez found himself in a huge spot, in a 4-4 tie. McHugh twirled a two-strike curveball at Hernandez, ringing him up for strike three. Yes, this was one of several pitches off the plate that notoriously pitcher-generous home-plate umpire Bill Miller called as strikes, with most of those going against the Dodgers.
But the bottom line was that Hernandez had no business coming to the plate in that pivotal a spot against a right-handed pitcher, not when he hit an apocalyptically awful .156/.244/.255 against righties this year (he has shown massive splits his whole career). Yes, Cody Bellinger launched a three-run homer immediately after Hernandez's angry shuffle back to the dugout. But who knows how the inning might've gone if a hitter who offered a bigger threat against right-handers than an inanimate carbon rod had taken Hernandez's place.
That brings us to that hideous, inexplicable bunt. With the score tied 7-7 entering the seventh, Turner led off with a ringing double. Once again, a huge situation had found Hernandez right when the Dodgers least wanted it. Once again, a right-hander was in the game for the Astros (Brad Peacock). And once again, Roberts didn't think to pinch-hit with a left-handed hitter. Instead he ordered a bunt, because when you have a hitter at the plate who hits like a pitcher in a particular set of circumstances, you have to treat him like a pitcher. Hernandez bunted the ball too hard back to Peacock, allowing the pitcher to fire to third to cut down Turner, the lead runner.
Once again, Bellinger came to the rescue, lashing a triple to center after George Springer's do-or-die dive failed. But also once again, the Dodgers were left to wonder if they might've been able to push at least one more run across if someone else were manning the cleanup spot. By game's end, no Dodger hitter had done more to hurt his team's chances than Hernandez had. In a game that would feature so many huge swings, and end with a dramatic one-run victory, The Bunt, and the decision to bat Hernandez cleanup in this game, then fail to replace him in gigantic spots, might end up being the biggest blunder of the series.
5. The first home run
Commissioner Rob Manfred's decision to defer Yuli Gurriel's suspension for Gurriel's Game 3 racist gesture toward Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was nothing short of chicken-shit. One of Manfred's stated reasons for not wanting to suspend Gurriel during the World Series was that the commissioner didn't think it would be fair to Gurriel's teammates if the Astros first baseman had to sit when the stakes were highest. But this is precisely the point of such suspensions: If you do something that warrants suspension when baseball's lights shine brightest, you don't get to sit and reflect about it in f'ing April. If a World Series suspension had lasted one game, Gurriel could've served it in Game 4, or maybe even found a way to drag the situation out for a while via appeal. But in a perfect world in which the MLB players union valued Darvish's ability to play without persecution as much as the due process involved with defending Gurriel, it's tough to imagine Gurriel striding to the plate against Kershaw with two on in the fourth.
Sadly for Kershaw, it's tough to imagine a worse fate than what befell him in Game 5 too. Staked to a 4-0 lead after three innings and coming off an 11-strikeout masterpiece in Game 1, most figured the Dodgers ace would put the game to bed, tidily. Instead, George Springer walked and Jose Altuve followed with a single two batters later. A Correa double to left cashed Houston's first run of the game, setting the stage for Gurriel's heroics.
Even accounting for those three scoreless innings to start the game, Kershaw didn't have anywhere near the bite and command on his pitches in Game 5 that he did in Game 1. He produced a measly four swinging strikes out of 94 pitches Sunday night, with just one whiff out of 39 sliders thrown. The pitch Gurriel crushed for a game-tying, universe-altering three-run jack was nothing more than a meatball, an 89-mph spinner that was begging to be destroyed.
Watch Correa celebrate the split-second Gurriel makes contact. Everyone in the ballpark knew.
4. The third home run
You can spend a lifetime contemplating what-ifs in baseball. What if Red Sox manager John McNamara had made the obvious defensive substitution in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, rather than trust creaky-kneed first baseman Bill Buckner when a capable glove was needed? When if the Giants hadn't grown so adept at stealing signs during their magical run in '51?
We might look back at the 2017 World Series and wonder something else: What if Clayton Kershaw had managed just one more strike? That was all that Kershaw needed to breeze through a 1-2-3 fifth inning in Game 5. Instead, Springer worked a walk and Bregman followed with another free pass, sending Kershaw to the showers. Roberts summoned Kenta Maeda, the starter-turned-playoff-long-man who had been excellent this October.
Maeda threw mostly cutters and sliders to Altuve, the AL MVP front-runner, before following with his only fastball of the at-bat. It was a two-seamer, aimed for outside corner, then instead drifted right down the middle of the plate. With the sellout crowd of orange-clad crazies chanting "M-V-P! M-V-P!" until they turned hoarse, Altuve turned on Maeda's errant heater, and sent it into orbit.
Ignore the know-nothing doofuses who sling baseball hot takes for a living. Jose Altuve is really, really, really good.
Just three years ago, seven home runs was Jose Altuve’s season total. Now it’s his 2017 playoff total.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) October 30, 2017
Oh and as for Kershaw? We probably won't think of his fifth inning as the great what-if. Because 7-7 was just the tip of the iceberg in this Titanic of a game.
3. The second home run
Bellinger had already snapped a nasty 0-for-13 skid and. In Game 5 he was the Dodgers' most valuable hitter by a wide margin per Win Probability Added, reaching base three times and knocking in four runs.
Three of those steaks came on one swing in the fifth, following The Bunt. Take it away Nick Pollack, our ace pitching correspondent from PitcherList.com:
This is a fun one. Bellinger saw an 1-0 curveball right in the middle of the plate and weakly hit it foul. He then took each of the next two fastballs, as he wanted another crack at hitting the breaking ball, getting his timing so he wouldn't miss the next one. After McHugh pumped in a 2-1 heater, he went back to the curve. Bellinger was ready. He had been wanting another crack at the deuce, sat on it for three pitches and didn't miss this time.
McCann looked like he was in absolute agony as the ball sailed toward the right-field stands. More broadly, the player reactions in this game were just off the charts. Altuve must've hopped 15 feet out of the dugout 900 times during this game, each time anticipating a home run. Considering that approximately 899 home runs were hit, that's a reasonable approach for him to take.
2. Chris Taylor's ninth-inning single
By this point, the game had descended into total madness. Home runs flying. We saw four lead changes and three ties. Every player, coach, trainer, bat boy and pack of sunflower seeds had an out-of-body/shell experience, hanging on every pitch and watching insanity unfold. This game was starting to get uncomfortably close to the premise of The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, a wonderful W.P. Kinsella book in which a baseball gets struck by a stroke of magic and lasts more than 2,000 innings. By the ninth, it seemed we'd already played 1,500.
Still, all Devenski needed was one more strike against Chris Taylor, and the game would've ended in an Astros win. One more strike, and a game beset by madness would've at least had a sane ending.
Friends, that is not how baseball works. Why have sanity when you can have anarchy instead?
1. Alex Bregman's walkoff
On the very last question of the postgame interview sessions, a reporter asked Astros third baseman Alex Bregman who he idolized while growing up playing baseball. Bregman, who had already had several huge moments this postseason heading into Game 5, didn't hesitate.
"I was pretending to be Derek Jeter," he said. "I always grew up loving him. One of the reasons I wear No. 2 is because of him. Yeah, he was the ultimate team guy. He was a winner. And just a good guy for a kid to look up to. And I always pretended to be Jeter."
Somewhere in Midtown or Uptown, in Sunnyside or Montrose, in Alief or Gulfton, there's a Little Leaguer who went to sleep many hours past bedtime, pretending to be Alex Bregman. Some nights, you never forget.
Thanks to CBS Sports Director of Research John Fisher and to Nick Pollack of PitcherList.com for their huge contributions to this article.