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In Game 5 thriller, LA's what-ifs loom large

Several missed opportunities in late innings prove costly to Dodgers
October 30, 2017

HOUSTON -- They'll bemoan the "what-ifs" as long as they let themselves. An off-day looms for the Dodgers, and that's either timely tonic or much-too-much time for reflection on an emotionally and physically exhausting 13-12, 10-inning loss in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night at Minute Maid

HOUSTON -- They'll bemoan the "what-ifs" as long as they let themselves. An off-day looms for the Dodgers, and that's either timely tonic or much-too-much time for reflection on an emotionally and physically exhausting 13-12, 10-inning loss in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night at Minute Maid Park. It was a night in which they did so much and yet, ultimately, not enough.
Certainly, Clayton Kershaw will be kicking himself for the wasted 4-0 lead, and Kenley Jansen now has a frustrating loss to go with his Game 2 blown save. But this game was lost in both big moments and small. In the late innings of a late game, the Dodgers had some fickle fate and unrewarded opportunities that ultimately sent them home facing Justin Verlander and the threat of elimination.
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Start with the seventh. Justin Turner began it with a double that came achingly close to clearing the right-center-field wall and sailing into the Astros' bullpen. The fly ball was projected by Statcast™ to go 385 feet at a wall that is 373 feet from home plate. It just nipped the top of the wall and shot back into play.
"I knew I hit it good," said Turner, "but that's a big yard out there to the middle of the field."
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That close call would loom large, because Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts had his next batter, cleanup man Enrique Hernandez, put down a sacrifice bunt. This was a decision that drew scrutiny in an in-game run environment that did not necessarily lend itself to small ball. With Turner ready to run at second, Hernandez did not have much margin for error. His bunt was put in play to a poor spot where pitcher Brad Peacock was able to pick it up and fire it to third to get the advancing Turner with the first out of the inning.
"What happened on the bunt?" an agitated Hernandez said when asked. "I bunted it to the pitcher and he threw J.T. out at third."
Yep, that's what happened, all right. Cody Bellinger, whose two go-ahead extra-base hits in this one would be lost to history, was able to drive in Hernandez with a triple that bounced past a diving George Springer to give the Dodgers an 8-7 lead. But that was the only run L.A. mustered in what could have been a bigger inning. John Forsythe struck out looking and Yasiel Puig flew out to end it.

More runs were required, because, in the bottom of the inning, Houston exploded for four quick ones on Brandon Morrow, who was pitching for the third time in as many days and the fifth time in six days. With that, the Astros grabbed an 11-8 lead.
In the eighth, the Dodgers began to come back again. Joc Pederson doubled with one out, and Chris Taylor was hit by a pitch. Corey Seager's double scored Pederson and sent Taylor to third, where a potential run-scoring play presented itself. Turner lined out to right, and Taylor did not try to tag up and score on a sacrifice fly. On the game broadcast, third-base coach Chris Woodward could be heard yelling, "Gotta go!" and Taylor is heard saying, "I thought you were saying, 'No.'" Woodward then says he thought Taylor would have been out had he tried to advance.
Taylor made right call to stay at third

"[Josh] Reddick, strong, accurate thrower was coming in on the baseball, and you still need to score that guy from second base [Seager], too," Roberts said. "In that situation, you still want to give yourself a chance to get a base hit to score the second run. To have a double play right there and not give yourself a chance there, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And [Reddick] made a good throw."

So that specifically might not have been a missed opportunity, but Los Angeles did strand Taylor and Seager in scoring position when pinch-hitter Andre Ethier grounded out. That impacted Roberts' decision-making for the bottom of the inning, when he stuck with Tony Cingrani in lieu of going to Jansen to try to keep Houston at bay.
"Right then, at that point, we were down," Roberts said. "And so if we had got it within one, I would have brought him in to try to have him go one-plus. When you're down two runs, I just didn't see that that made a whole lot of sense."

Cingrani gave up one of the many key home runs in this game, Brian McCann's solo shot to right. That meant that when the Dodgers scored three runs in the top of the ninth (on a Puig two-run homer and Taylor's RBI single), they tied it, rather than grabbing the go-ahead run. They wouldn't score again, and the Astros won it on Alex Bregman's walk-off RBI single off a spent Jansen in the 10th.
Whichever team lost this game was going to have its heart ripped out and was going to have a multitude of moments it wished it could have back. That's how the game goes. For L.A., this loss wasn't just about the struggles of Kershaw, Morrow and Jansen but some decisions that clearly could have gone another way.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.