LOS ANGELES -- They'll remember this game forever, and they'll be honored they were part of it. They'll remember its swerving emotions and epic moments. This was an instant classic, a four-hour, 19-minute joy ride of postseason baseball.The Astros defeated the Dodgers, 7-6, in 11 innings on Wednesday to knot
LOS ANGELES -- They'll remember this game forever, and they'll be honored they were part of it. They'll remember its swerving emotions and epic moments. This was an instant classic, a four-hour, 19-minute joy ride of postseason baseball.
The Astros defeated the Dodgers, 7-6, in 11 innings on Wednesday to knot the World Series at 1-1. But that mere score doesn't begin to tell you how it ended up there.
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Things happened in this game that had never happened before. For instance, five home runs were hit in extra innings, which had never happened in the regular season or postseason, and certainly not the World Series.
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Other stuff happened, too. Houston third baseman Alex Bregman bounced an RBI single off the brim of Los Angeles center fielder Chris Taylor's hat in the third inning. In the 10th, an Astros pickoff throw nailed second-base umpire Laz Diaz, saving a base.
Bat flips? Carlos Correa had a monumental one after homering in the top of the 10th. When Yasiel Puig answered in the bottom of the inning, he laid the bat down on the first-base line.
"That's an incredible game on so many levels, so many ranges of emotion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "If you like October baseball, if you like any kind of baseball, that's one of the most incredible games you'll ever be a part of."
Until Wednesday, the Astros had never won a Fall Classic game in their 56 seasons. Now, they're 1-1 in the World Series, returning to Houston for three games beginning with Game 3 on Friday at Minute Maid Park.
The really odd thing about this game is that it was a perfectly fine little contest until about the eighth. The Dodgers led, 3-1, after smothering baseball's highest scoring offense for a second straight game and scratching out a lead against Justin Verlander, who hadn't lost since being acquired by the Astros on Aug. 31.
And then, something happened that didn't seem all that important at the time. In the top of the eighth, Bregman lofted a double into the right-field corner that Puig dove for and couldn't catch.
Statcast™ had the catch probability at only 32 percent, but had Puig made the catch, Los Angeles probably would have traveled to Houston with a 2-0 Series lead.
Puig leaped up and flung his glove in disgust. No sweat. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts waved in baseball's best closer, Kenley Jansen, for a potential six-out save.
Even when Correa dribbled a single up the middle to cut Los Angeles' lead to 3-2 in the eighth, there was no reason for any of the 54,293 at Dodger Stadium to panic. That broke a 28-inning scoreless streak for the Dodgers' bullpen, but they were 98-0 when taking a lead into the ninth.
That's when the very thing the Astros were convinced eventually would happen did happen: They snapped back to life. They finally resembled the offense that led the Majors in runs during the regular season and was scary deep.
That happened at the moment when left fielder Marwin Gonzalez delivered arguably the biggest hit in Astros history. If it's not No. 1, it's way, way up on the short list.
Gonzalez led off the ninth by hitting a home run off Jansen over the center-field wall to tie the game at 3-3. Jansen allowed just five homers in 65 appearances during the regular season.
"We're not here if Marwin Gonzalez doesn't hit a ball to center field against the best closer in baseball," Hinch said.
That home run changed everything, even though the craziness was just starting. The Astros suddenly had something they hadn't had before -- hope.
And then it got really weird.
Jose Altuve and Correa homered in the top of the 10th to break the tie and give the Astros a 5-3 lead. But Houston closer Ken Giles couldn't hold it, allowing a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning.
At that point, Verlander could be seen in the Astros' dugout screaming at his teammates to keep fighting, to keep believing.
"It's so easy in this game to get down, especially when -- I mean, we have the TV on before the games," Verlander said. "I just wanted to really remind these guys how great they are."
George Springer got the Astros' lead back with a two-run home run in the 11th for a 7-5 lead. The day began with Hinch being asked if he was ready to pull the plug on his slumping center fielder. It ended with Springer getting three hits and a walk.
"I just think when the lights turn on even brighter, you tend to subconsciously press," Springer said, "and you want to succeed so bad that you start to do things that you wouldn't do."
Added Hinch: "He's an incredible player. I believe in players, and I specifically believe in George."
Springer's homer didn't quite tidy things up for the Astros. All-Star reliever Chris Devenski got the first two outs of the bottom of the 11th before giving up a Charlie Culberson home run that made it 7-6.
But Devenski struck out Puig to end it, sending the Astros scampering back to a happy clubhouse. Roberts will be second-guessed for staying with his starter, Rich Hill, for only four innings.
But Roberts' formula -- the one that won the Dodgers 104 regular-season games -- was to stay with him two times through the lineup. He needed eight relievers after that, with Brandon McCarthy, normally a starter, taking the loss.
Given a chance to replay the game 100 more times, Roberts would take his chances with a two-run lead and the ball in Jansen's hand.
The Astros hope that these final four innings, when they scored six runs and hit four homers, put them back in a comfort zone and to grinding out long at-bats while wearing down pitchers.
But the whole thing was more than that. On the sport's biggest stage, baseball's two best teams participated in a contest that was a mixture of spectacular drama and great theater.
"I mean, honestly, it was an exciting baseball game," Roberts said. "It's two teams that competed for 27 outs. And, yeah, it was an emotional roller coaster. And unfortunately, we came up short."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.