HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros are on the threshold of winning a World Series, and don't those words sound strange? After all the October flameouts across the years, a franchise that won its first World Series game only a few days ago is now tantalizingly close, maddeningly close to this
HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros are on the threshold of winning a World Series, and don't those words sound strange? After all the October flameouts across the years, a franchise that won its first World Series game only a few days ago is now tantalizingly close, maddeningly close to this thing the club -- and its city -- will remember forever.
That's where the Astros are after playing another spectacularly entertaining donnybrook of a baseball game, a captivating 10-inning, 13-12 victory over the Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
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"This is the craziest atmosphere I've ever played in, the craziest results," outfielder George Springer said. "Just big hit after big hit, big pitch after big pitch, big play after big play."
This is as good as sport can get, a game that never allowed anyone in either dugout to so much as catch his breath. Nothing was decided until Houston third baseman Alex Bregman singled in the winning run off Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the 10th inning.
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That's when the Astros unleashed a torrent of emotion, mobbing one another on the field after five hours and 17 minutes of great theater ended with Houston leading the World Series, 3-2, as the Fall Classic heads back to L.A. for Game 6 on Tuesday and, if necessary, Game 7 on Wednesday.
"The first thing we're going to do is get some sleep," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's still a one-game season. We're going to walk in and try to win ... Game 6.
"Our team is pretty good at building off this type of momentum. It's a singular focus on trying to win the next game. For our guys, we know what's at stake. They know what's at stake. This is Game 6 of the World Series coming up. How much prep work do you really need to get yourself ready to play?"
This was another night of punching and counterpunching, a game evolving into a war of attrition, with each side refusing to lose. Both teams appeared to have control at times. In truth, neither ever did.
Both had 14 hits. Both used seven pitchers. The Dodgers had leads of 4-0, 7-4 and 8-7. The Astros took a 12-9 lead into the ninth inning and couldn't hold it. Each manager is dealing with an exhausted bullpen and a stressed rotation.
The Astros won because their core players refused to lose. In the end, it's that simple. Second baseman Jose Altuve reminded baseball fans around the world why he will likely win the American League Most Valuable Player Award by recording a single, a double and a home run. He drove in four runs and scored three times.
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"Five-hour game, but it doesn't matter," Altuve said. "I can play a 10-hour game if we are going to win. That's the most important thing, to win the game.
"We have one more victory, but we're still very humble about that. We also know who we're playing. You have to play for every single inning to beat the Dodgers. We beat them in L.A. We've got to do it again. But like I said, we've got to play our game and try to do the best we can."
There were other heroes. Springer misplayed a ball in the top of the seventh inning, then led off the bottom of the frame with a booming game-tying home run.
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Shortstop Carlos Correa? He doubled, singled and homered. After Los Angeles spotted Clayton Kershaw to a 4-0 lead after the first four innings, it was Yuli Gurriel's three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth that tied the score and changed all kinds of momentum.
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"It's crazy, man," Correa said. "To just be part of it is such a blessing. These games are hard on me. I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack out there every single time. It's high pressure out there. The game is going back and forth. Both teams are great, scoring runs and putting up at-bats together. And there's a lot of pressure on you when you're out there and you want to win a game, and you want to win the World Series. So hopefully, we can win one more game and take a break, because this is hard on me."
Both bullpens are tired, and both managers are figuring out ways to piece things together in ways they never had to during the regular season, when the Dodgers and Astros each ran away with their division.
In the end, both teams did themselves proud on their sport's biggest stage. Just when it seemed nothing would ever top the drama of the Astros' 7-6 comeback victory in 11 innings in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, this one was even better.
It began as a matchup of aces, Houston's Dallas Keuchel versus L.A.'s Kershaw. Neither made it out of the fifth inning, forcing the two managers to run through their relief corps again.
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Finally, in the bottom of the 10th, the Astros won it. They were thrilled and tired and sorting through an assortment of emotions, mostly happiness.
"I'm beat," Springer said. "This is an emotionally draining game, a physically draining game. It's 1:15 [a.m.], and we're just getting done. I'm going to go home and rest and relax and go head out to L.A. and start thinking about Game 6 on Tuesday."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.