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Game 5 an exhilarating, exhausting ride

Expected pitchers' duel turns into absurd, wonderful five-hour, 17-minute classic
October 30, 2017

HOUSTON -- Nobody wants to leave the ballpark. Maybe we are too tired to leave. Too numb. We just saw something. It's hard to explain what we saw, though. The scoreboard down the right-field line reads like so: 12:40 LAD 12 F HOU 13The words of the great Inigo Montoya

HOUSTON -- Nobody wants to leave the ballpark. Maybe we are too tired to leave. Too numb. We just saw something. It's hard to explain what we saw, though. The scoreboard down the right-field line reads like so: 12:40 LAD 12 F HOU 13
The words of the great Inigo Montoya echo in the mind. "Let me explain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up."
* * *
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HOUSTON -- No one ever doubted Clayton Kershaw's greatness. Some wondered, though, when we would see it in full bloom.
That was the opening sentence for this story a hundred years ago, when this game was new, before the walls came tumbling down. The Astros' 13-12, 10-inning win in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night was supposed to be an old-fashioned pitchers' duel, a battle of K's. Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel for control of the World Series. Keuchel could not hold up his end. The Dodgers scored three in the first inning, added another in the fourth. Keuchel was pulled.
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And the stage belonged to Kershaw with a four-run lead. Social media fluttered with statistic after statistic about how invincible Kershaw is with a four-run lead. He was 57-1 with a four-run lead! No, he was 93-0! No, he was 100-1! Nobody could quite lasso the number, and it didn't matter. Vintage Kershaw was pitching brilliantly, and nobody needed to be told that he would not blow this lead.
And then Kershaw blew the lead; Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run home run over the Crawford Boxes in left field and the score was tied.

And that Kershaw lede was banished into the digital netherworld.
* * *
HOUSTON -- When you are just 22 and gifted beyond imagination -- for example, say you are Cody Bellinger -- you have this deep and unshakable belief that things will work out. Well, of course things will work out. Have you seen my beautiful swing?
That was the second story opener, the one that came to mind in the moments after Bellinger mashed a long home run in the fifth inning to give the Dodgers and Kershaw another lead. Bellinger crushed it, a line drive to right-center on a 74-mph Collin McHugh curveball that seemed to stop in mid-air as if it wanted to take a selfie.

Bellinger started this World Series 0-for-13, but he was chill about it -- incredibly chill if you think about him being the age of a college senior while going through all this for the first time.
"I've felt worse at the plate," Bellinger said, and he explained that in the past he'd always hit his way out of it. He felt certain he would hit his way out of it again.
Then, Bellinger promptly hit his way out of it.
The Dodgers gave Kershaw a three-run lead, and there was no chance that the pitcher of his generation would lose it again.
Kershaw's lead -- and my lede -- did not last until the end of the inning.
* * *
HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve swings the bat so hard, it looks like he's trying to enter another dimension. This is one of the many charms of baseball's most charming player. Altuve stands a bit below his 5-foot-6 listed height, and he probably doesn't weigh enough to even barely tip the playground seesaw against the average ballplayer, but he swings with the ferociousness of a man who has been wronged. When he connects, the baseball feels it.
Let's see here, that was the story opener after Altuve hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game again.

Altuve did not hit his home run off Kershaw. By the time Altuve came up, Kershaw had pitched himself out of the game by doing what he never does, walking back-to-back hitters with a big lead. Kershaw walked three batters the entire month of April.
Kershaw's rough outing brings back one of the most depressing narratives in sports, the whole "Clayton Kershaw cannot win in October" theme. Those of us who love the guy fight it, but it is true that Kershaw's postseason ERA is now 4.50 -- almost twice his regular-season ERA -- and it's also true that this game, the biggest game of his career, was his to lose twice.
"Everybody did as much as they could to pick me up," Kershaw said after the game.

Altuve's homer came off Kenta Maeda instead. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Altuve swung so hard at a slider that you would have expected him and the bat to go flying into the stands. That was a miss. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Altuve swung so hard at a four-seam fastball that it looked like the ball might never land.
That was not a miss. The ball landed in the center-field stands.

The score was tied again.
Words were becoming harder to find.
* * *
HOUSTON -- This wonderful postseason has been about so many things, but perhaps most of all, it has been about teams doing everything possible to win today. This is always true in October, certainly, but at its core, baseball has been a game of the long season, a game of turning the page, a game of "we'll get them tomorrow."
As Brandon Morrow came into World Series Game 5 -- and he should know the number because he had pitched in every one of them -- it became clear. For the Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts, "There is no tomorrow."
OK, so this opener came to mind after the Dodgers had taken the lead again in the seventh. This time, though, they only led by one. Roberts had made the -- well, let's call it "quirky" -- decision to sacrifice bunt with his cleanup hitter in a game when runs were flying like confetti. The bunt didn't work, but Bellinger tripled past a diving George Springer to drive in the one run that Roberts so craved.

And then Roberts sent Morrow into the game for the fifth time in six days ... this time against the top of Houston's lethal lineup.
This is the cost of selling out to win. There is attrition. Morrow is a wonderful story, but let's not kid anybody: He has no business pitching in five straight World Series games. Morrow signed a Minor League deal with the Dodgers back in January. He did not make the team out of Spring Training, and he was 0-5 with a 7.20 ERA for Oklahoma City.
And, yes, Morrow pitched beautifully once called up to Los Angeles; it was one of those fairy-tale stories. But even fairy tales have midnights. The Dodgers had no plans to pitch him; Ken Rosenthal even told the national FOX audience that Morrow was unavailable. But when the Dodgers got the lead, something came over him. Morrow pitched and he felt good. He called Roberts to say he felt good and wanted to pitch.
"It was probably selfish on my part," Morrow admitted after the game.

Morrow threw his first pitch -- a 95-mph sinker that did not sink -- and Springer hit it about as hard and as far as a baseball can be hit. He hit it so far to left field that the ball seemed to hit the cannon out there and set off the celebration explosion. Statcast™ projected it at 448 feet. It seemed even longer. The next pitch Morrow threw, Alex Bregman hit on a line to center for a single.
After one strike to Altuve, Morrow threw another sinking fastball up in the zone and Altuve swung violently and ripped a double over everyone's head in left.
Morrow threw two more pitches. The first was a ball too low to Correa. The second was a fastball up high, and Correa launched it high. It wasn't crushed. But the ball sailed into the Crawford Boxes for a three-run home run.

The Astros led by three.
"I felt like the ball was coming out well in the 'pen," Morrow said. "Looking at it on tape, there wasn't quite as much life on the ball."
This would be the final lede, for sure.
* * *
HOUSTON -- Yasiel Puig will infuriate you. Puig will tantalize you. He will amaze you and entertain you and frustrate you and make your jaw drop in wonder. He will often do all these things in the same game. He will sometimes do all these things in the same inning. Then Sunday night, with a World Series game on the line, he will smack a home run that saves the day and makes all the other stuff disappear like fog.
When the Dodgers tied the game again in the top of the ninth inning, it felt a bit like the end of Mel Brooks' classic movie, "Blazing Saddles," where the thought was: "OK, this was a Western and now they're on a closed Hollywood set dancing with Dom Deluise, and I don't even know what's happening in the world anymore."
The Dodgers trailed by three going into the ninth, and even though the Astros' bullpen has struggled this Series, it did not seem possible for Chris Devenski to blow a three-run lead. He did anyway. Devenski gave up the home run to Puig on a changeup, but even then, he still had a one-run lead. He then gave up a double to Austin Barnes, and with two outs, Chris Taylor hit a single up the middle to score the tying run.

At this point, this was already the longest nine-inning game in baseball history. But it won't go down that way because this would end up not being a nine-inning game.
There was one more lede to write.
* * *
HOUSTON -- Nobody wants to leave the ballpark. Maybe we are too tired to leave. Too numb. We just saw something. It's hard to explain what we saw, though. The scoreboard down the right-field line reads like so: 12:40 LAD 12 F HOU 13
The words of the great Inigo Montoya echo in the mind. "Let me explain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up."
The Astros scored in the bottom of the 10th. Bregman got the big hit, a single with two outs that scored Derek Fisher. The Astros have never won a World Series but are now one victory away. The Dodgers have not won a World Series in almost 30 years; they will need to win two straight at Dodger Stadium.

And when the five-hour, 17-minute game ended, people kept asking themselves what happened. They meant it specifically, as in "What happened in the inning where the Dodgers tried to bunt?" But they also meant it in the largest sense, because this game was part dream. Both teams won. Both teams lost. Both teams won again. Absurd and wonderful things just kept happening. We had come expecting the simplest thing, a tight little pitchers' duel between two of the best left-handed pitchers in the game.
We left with this sprawling, overwhelming unicorn of a game ringing in our ears. Baseball is like that. This funny game taught across America by soldiers during the Civil War can still leave us breathless.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for