HOUSTON -- If Saturday was one of the most difficult days of Yuli Gurriel's life, Sunday had to be one of the most satisfying.Having dealt with the backlash from his inappropriate gesture in Game 3 and Major League Baseball's ensuing discipline -- not to mention a rough night at the
HOUSTON -- If Saturday was one of the most difficult days of Yuli Gurriel's life, Sunday had to be one of the most satisfying.
Having dealt with the backlash from his inappropriate gesture in Game 3 and Major League Baseball's ensuing discipline -- not to mention a rough night at the plate in the Astros' Game 4 loss -- Gurriel bounced back in Game 5, thumping a three-run home run against Clayton Kershaw in the fourth inning that helped erase Houston's early four-run deficit against the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner.
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Gurriel's home run helped the Astros get back into the game, a task that seemed bleak as they headed to that fateful fourth.
"Bedlam. Crazy," George Springer said, trying to describe the atmosphere in Houston's dugout as Gurriel's home run landed in the left-center-field seats. "That's arguably the game's best pitcher. For us to claw back against him was absolutely huge. He's got great stuff and our team didn't quit. We just kept fighting. Gurriel's homer there was absolutely huge."
Six innings later, Alex Bregman's RBI single gave the Astros a dramatic 13-12 win over the Dodgers, the 10-inning, five-hour, 17-minute affair leaving Houston one victory from the first World Series title in franchise history.
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"Very happy and anxious," Gurriel said in Spanish. "We know we're very close to winning the championship, but we've still got one more step to go. We can't get overconfident, since we're going to their place and they play very well there. The Dodgers are a tremendous team."
The fourth-inning rally started innocently enough as Springer -- who struck out three times against Kershaw in Game 1 -- drew a leadoff walk against the southpaw, who had faced the minimum nine batters and allowed just one hit through the first three innings.
Bregman flied to left field for the first out, then Jose Altuve singled to left, putting runners at first and second. Carlos Correa got the Astros on the board with an RBI double to left, cutting the lead to 4-1 to inject some life into a crowd that had been stunned by Dallas Keuchel's abbreviated 3 2/3-inning, four-run performance.
The fans had barely settled back into their seats when Kershaw delivered a first-pitch slider to Gurriel, who launched it high and far into the left-field seats, stinging the ball for an exit velocity of 101.3 mph and a projected distance of 389 feet.
"I haven't looked at what Gurriel hit," Kershaw said of the pitch. "I know it was a slider, but it must have stayed up because he put a really good swing on it."
Gurriel pointed to the Astros' dugout as he jogged out of the batter's box, circling the bases to a raucous ovation from the sellout crowd of 43,300. It was his second home run of the World Series and third overall this postseason.
"He got the big hit," Brian McCann said. "He opened the floodgates for us and got us going. Yuli came up big tonight."
Those floodgates saw the Astros score nine more runs over the next six innings, taking part in a back-and-forth battle with the Dodgers that seemed as though it may never end.
Yet thanks to Gurriel's game-changing swing and the subsequent heroics from Springer, Correa, Altuve, and, finally, Bregman, the Astros are headed back to Los Angeles with an opportunity to wrap up the series with Justin Verlander on the mound Tuesday in Game 6.
"The players' spirits are very high," Gurriel said. "We have to take advantage of that in these last two games we have left, although I hope we can be victorious in [Game 6]."
Gurriel's teammates know how difficult the previous 36 hours had been for the first baseman, and while they were thrilled that he came up with such a pivotal moment against Kershaw, they continued to stress the type of person they believe him to be despite his regrettable actions in Game 3, which resulted in a five-game suspension that will be served at the start of the 2018 season.
"First and foremost, he's a great guy. I love him to death," Springer said. "He's in a tough spot right now. He made a mistake; he's human. He's a great guy, a great teammate, and I know he's beating himself up about it. For him to come out and hit that homer, I couldn't be happier for him."
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.