HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch has had the unenviable and somewhat unusual task of trying to figure out ways to navigate through a postseason without something most World Series managers rely on -- a strong bullpen.
Hinch may have thought Game 5 would give him a bit of a break, given who was on the mound to open the game. But more than five hours after Dallas Keuchel threw the first pitch, Hinch was again reflecting on a gut-wrenching night that required him to piece together inning by inning, pitch by pitch, using a full slate of relievers who provided, at best, mixed results.
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The outcome was favorable this time. The Astros now have a 3-2 lead over the Dodgers in the World Series after winning a 13-12, 10-inning heart-stopper Sunday night at Minute Maid Park. They are one win away from their first World Series championship.
It just doesn't always feel like it.
"If you stuck out the whole four and a half, five hours, however long we've been here, it's tough," Hinch said. "These are hard-fought games. It's nothing against our bullpen, these are just two really good teams, just throwing haymakers ... trying to outlast each other."
The Astros ended up as the last men standing -- barely. Of six relievers that were needed to finish off the win, three -- Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski -- gave up multiple runs.
To the Astros' good fortune, Dodgers relievers weren't much better, matching Houston's bullpen practically run for run. The difference-maker was the 10th, when Joe Musgrove held Los Angeles to one hit, and Alex Bregman singled in a run off Kenley Jansen for the win.
"Our bullpen, their bullpen, we all come in with different reputations and different confidence levels and different success rates," Hinch said. "I don't know that anybody would have expected that. But we're going to keep piecing it together."
So far, they haven't had a choice. The Astros were able to overcome a bullpen effort that allowed eight runs, tied for the second most allowed by a 'pen in World Series history. The amazing thing is Houston did that and still won. Only one team was able to accomplish that feat during the regular season in 2017. The Astros are the first to do it in World Series history.
That it happened on a night that their co-ace didn't make it out of the fourth just added to the intrigue.
Keuchel lasted 3 2/3 innings and allowed four runs. He was lifted after a base hit to Charlie Culberson put runners at first and second. Luke Gregerson finished off the fourth inning with a strikeout of Chris Taylor, but the Dodgers kept chipping away.
The visitors retook the lead behind Cody Bellinger's three-run homer in the fifth, then lost it in the bottom of the frame when the Astros added three more runs.
That set up the back-and-forth exchange that featured either great hitting or poor pitching, depending on perspective, until well after midnight CT. Bregman's 10th-inning heroics put the final touches on a five-hour, 17-minute game that erased a lot of the angst felt by a bullpen that more times than not could not put the Dodgers' offense away.
"It was back and forth and you're trying to calm yourself down, calm your nerves," said Devenski, who blew the save in the ninth. "All the excitement that was going on, all that stuff. Just trying to go out there and slow the game down and do the best that you can."
This time, the best they could was enough.
"I can't tell you how many times I've said this is the craziest game of my life," Musgrove said. "I mean, again, tonight, this is the craziest game of my life. And it's pretty cool to get a World Series win."