Games 2, 5 made '17 Series truly classic

Wild back-and-forth battles among's best stories of year

December 29th, 2017

The phrases "Game 2" and "Game 5" don't have the same cognitive charisma as "Game 7." They don't wield the same weight or haul the same history.
But 2017 -- the year in which the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers for their franchise's first World Series title -- will go down as the rare year in which Games 2 and 5 actually outshined Game 7. And in so doing, they stood not only as the peak points of a typically wild MLB postseason but also as representative of a wider trend in which the long ball fundamentally changed the tone and tenor of the sport.
It is mathematically true that the Astros don't win the World Series if they don't come out on top of Games 2 and 5. But it is sentimentally accurate that any team that survives and thrives in two of the most exhausting extra-inning tilts in memory deserves the crown, even if these were both non-elimination games.
Arguably, Games 2 and 5 were two of the greatest non-elimination games in the long history of the Fall Classic. Objectively, they each ranked in the top 20 among all World Series games in terms of average win probability added per play, or the degree to which each play contributed to victory. Game 5 ranked second all-time, trailing only the extravaganza that was Game 6 between the Cardinals and Rangers in 2011. In these two games, there were 15 home runs and nine lead changes.
"Just when I thought I could describe Game 2 as my favorite game of all time, I think Game 5 exceeded that and more," Astros Manager A.J. Hinch said in the midst of it all. "It's hard to put into words all the twists and turns."

Yes, the game swings -- and the ensuing mood swings among Astros and Dodgers fans -- were real, and they were spectacular. Some of the best moments of the year in baseball were wedged into the nights of Oct. 25 and 29.
In case you, understandably, are still having trouble processing and remembering it all, here's a rundown of all that went down.
Game 2
The first sign that Game 2 would be special arrived when Vin Scully emceed his own ceremonial first pitch, working the Dodger Stadium crowd -- already encouraged by the home nine's Game 1 win -- with a wonderful schtick in which he wound up reassigning his ball-tossing duty to Fernando Valenzuela.

Scully deserved a tip of the cap, but it was a real tip of a real cap that had an early impact in Game 2. When singled to center with runners on the corners in the third, he drove in a run, yet likely would have driven in two had the ball not bounced and hit Chris Taylor's brim and deflected directly to .

That lost run would loom large when Pederson tied it up with a solo homer off in the fifth. And in the sixth, for the second night in a row, a Taylor walk with two outs set up a two-run home run -- this one off the bat of -- to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.

In an alternate universe, that lead holds up in the hands of , and we're giving our end-of-year accolades to a Dodgers team that won it all for the first time since 1988. But the Astros changed the scope of the Series by getting to one of the greatest closers in the game, first with 's RBI single in the eighth (the first run allowed by the Dodger bullpen in 28 innings) and then -- most stunningly -- with 's line-drive solo shot to deep center on an 0-2 pitch to lead off the ninth. It was just the 10th game-tying homer in the ninth inning in World Series history.

On we went to extras, and they opened with a bang. Two of them, in fact. With their consecutive solo shots off Josh Fields to open the 10th, and Correa became the first teammates to go back-to-back in extra innings in Series history.

If it ended there, cool. But of course it didn't. In the bottom of the 10th, hit a solo shot off to make it 5-4, and then scored from second on an single to right with a textbook-perfect head-first slide home to avoid the tag after 's perfect throw to .

Tied up at 5, the game progressed into its fifth hour and 11th inning. There, eventual Series MVP had his first magic moment, smacking a pitch over the wall in right-center field for the go-ahead two-run homer.
That would prove to be enough -- but barely. In the bottom of the 11th, Charlie Culberson hit a solo homer to pull the Dodgers within one. Appropriately, in a year in which Major Leaguers set a new record for homers hit, that shot set a new World Series record for most home runs in a single game, at eight (there were five in extra innings alone). But it was not enough to overtake the Astros, who somehow got the final outs necessary to preserve their first World Series game victory in franchise history and send it to Houston knotted up at 1-1
Who knew that, in Houston, the Astros' 7-6 victory in Game 2 would prove only to be an appetizer?
Game 5
The 1-1 Series tie became a 2-2 tie going into Game 5 -- a swing game that, it turned out, would have some truly huge swings.
The Dodgers appeared to have the edge with coming off a brilliant Game 1 outing on regular rest. And they really did have the edge when they handed Kershaw an early 4-0 lead that knocked out of the game.
But Game 5 would feed a lot of narratives -- about the Astros' resilience in the year in which Hurricane Harvey hit their home city and about Kershaw's struggles on the October stage. The Astros erupted in a four-run fourth, capped by Yuli Gurriel's three-run gift to the orange-clad crowd in the Crawford Boxes.

When the 4-0 lead didn't work out, the Dodgers provided Kershaw with a 7-4 advantage, thanks to rookie sensation 's three-run blast off in the fifth.

Kershaw got two quick outs in the bottom of the inning, but then he surrendered consecutive walks. That ended his night, but the game was really just beginning. came in to face Altuve, and the result from the eventual American League MVP was a high, arching fly ball that drifted over the left-center-field wall and sent Minute Maid Park into a tizzy yet again.

It remained 7-7 until the seventh, when Bellinger struck again -- this time on an RBI triple (yes, non-home-run production was allowed in this game). The inning might have been bigger for L.A., had Roberts not made the still-puzzling decision to have Hernandez put down a sacrifice bunt in the middle of a Home Run Derby (it resulted in getting thrown out at third). And in the bottom of the inning, the Astros tied it up -- again -- on a Springer swat that, thanks to its impeccable placement on those Minute Maid train tracks, had the visual effect of appearing as if it set off a small explosion.

The big hits would keep coming off that inning. A Bregman single, an Altuve RBI double and Correa's two-run homer made it 11-8. Corey Seager's two-run double made it 11-9, but McCann's solo homer in the ninth pushed the Astros' lead to 12-9.
That's where it stood going into the Dodgers' supposed last at-bat. Down to their last two outs with a runner aboard, they got new life when Puig took Devenski deep to cut the deficit down to one. Devenski got Pederson to ground out after an double and was just one strike away from ending this erratic affair. But Taylor got bat to ball, scooted a ground ball up the middle and, once again, nine innings proved not to be enough. It was 12-12.

Miraculously, nine entire outs were recorded before another run crossed the plate. But that final run did finally arrive in the 10th. With two outs, Jansen plunked McCann with a pitch and then walked Springer. Pinch-runner came in for McCann at second, an aggressive move by A.J. Hinch that would be validated when Bregman lined a single to shallow left-center, and Fisher made it home in just 6.46 seconds, per Statcast™. Thus ended one of the more entertaining Series games in history, five hours and 17 minutes after it began (only the 14-inning affair between the Astros and White Sox in Game 3 in 2005 was longer).

The Astros' coronation wouldn't come for another couple days. But in outlasting the Dodgers in these two memorable tilts, they proved their might and their mettle -- all while keeping the baseball world up blissfully past its bedtime.