HOUSTON — How do you come back from that? How is it even possible to recover from that kind of body blow?
“This is not going to be finished Tuesday,” Puig said. “There’s going to be Game 7. All the fans in Los Angeles expect a lot from all of us. From spring training, we’ve done a lot of work. A lot of preparation. This is the reason I think we’re in the World Series right now.”
Puig’s defiance is paradoxically admirable (and reckless) after L.A.’s energy-draining, hope-sucking loss in Sunday’s Game 5 of the World Series. It was an epic game in an epic series, but the Dodgers could not come up with one final moment in a contest in which it seemed heart-stopping moments would never stop coming. But they did stop, 5 hours, 17 minutes after the game’s first pitch, the second-longest in World Series history. They stopped when Alex Bregman singled off Kenley Jansen in the 10th inning, giving the Houston Astros a 13-12 win in a marathon tug-of-war that leaves the Dodgers one game from elimination in what has turned out to be one classic Fall Classic.
Nevertheless, while the rest of us were just beginning to dissect the improbability of what we’d just seen, and Puig was predicting the existence of a Game 7, Jansen had already moved on from his loss.
“You can’t worry about that,” Jansen said. “It’s over. We’re going home. … We can’t let a bad day effect us.
“They did what they were supposed to do on their home field. We took one. Now we just have to go protect ours in Game 6 and get back into it.”
Bregman’s hit was the final blow in one of the most memorable World Series games ever played, one in which the Dodgers blew leads of both three and four runs, and the Astros coughed up a three-run lead of their own.
The Dodgers got the game into extra innings with a ninth-inning rally on a night in which rallies were virulent, with both offenses circling the bases in dizzying rapidity against two totally gassed pitching staffs.
Puig started that game-tying rally with a two-run homer off Chris Devenski, making the score 12-11 — just the fourth time in World Series history both teams hit double digits in runs.
“We knew going into this series, this is the best offensive ballclub that we were going to see all year,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They can slug you. They spoil pitches. They’re athletic. Credit to them.
“But our guys did the same thing. They just got the hit when they needed. I thought we did a lot of great things, as well, on our offensive side.”
After Puig’s homer, Austin Barnes laced a hit into left-center, just barely beating George Springer‘s throw into second. Joc Pederson grounded out, sending Barnes to third. Then Taylor laced a 2-2 Devenski pitch into center field to tie the game. It turned out to be the crest of a Dodger wave that finally rolled back when Bregman’s single scored pinch-runner Derek Fisher and set off a wild celebration on the Houston side of the field.
While Cody Bellinger wasn’t so brash as to guarantee anything, he’s says the Dodgers are still in a great place mentally.
“We’re determined,” Bellinger said. “This thing isn’t over yet. We have a bunch of resilient guys in here that will come out full force. We’re going to do that in a couple of days.”
Bellinger homered, tripled and drove in four runs in the game to become the youngest player to hit a home run in the World Series since Miguel Cabrera in 2003. However, he just missed on the first pitch he saw from Houston reliever Joe Musgrove in the 10th, flying out near the warning track in right-center with a runner on base.
Game 5 was not the first game to unfold in insane fashion in this World Series — the first between two 100-win heavyweights since 1970 and just the third since World War II.
“This whole series has been an emotional roller coaster,” Roberts said. “It’s the two best teams playing for a championship. And these are two teams that play 27 outs. You’re not going to expect those guys to lay down.
“And obviously you saw what our guys did tonight and competed until the last out. A credit to our guys. Guys want to take the baseball. Guys coming up with big hits in big spots. And that’s what the World Series is all about.”
At the same time, in other ways the series keeps defying our expectations. The anticipation was at a fever pitch before Game 5 began. Not only was the series tied entering the contest, but the pitching matchup featured Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel.
It turned out to be no Don Larsen-versus-Sal Maglie duel straight out of 1956: Neither star lefty made it through the fifth. Remember when that trend was the talk of the postseason? We’ve found other objects of fascination since then, but there have now been 32 such starts this postseason, three more than any other season. Maybe the record 101 homers hit this postseason — including a record 22 in this World Series — has something to do with that.
“I can’t say enough about our team with what they were able to accomplish [despite] what I gave them,” Kershaw said. “They battled and battled. It’s tough one, no doubt.”
Karl Ravech is stunned Clayton Kershaw couldn’t make it past the fifth inning and David Ross pinpoints the overuse of the bullpens in the 10th inning battle.
The Dodgers went up 4-0 in the fourth on Barnes’ single. With Kershaw on the hill, having faced the minimum through three, it seemed like game, set and match — as early as it was. After all, the Dodgers were 65-0 in games when they led by four or more runs this season. But it was not Kershaw’s night. He got just one swing and miss on 39 sliders during his outing. One of the swings that connected was devastating — a slider he threw to Yuli Gurriel, who hammered it over the left-field wall for a three-run shot to tie the game.
“I’m sure everybody is pretty exhausted after that one,” Kershaw said. “Emotionally and physically, just a tough one. But we’ve still got a chance in this thing, so we’re going to go home and get ready to go.”
With hopes for a historic pitching duel dashed, it was up to the offenses to provide the drama, and boy did the hitters come through. There were 25 runs, seven homers and the game-ending pitch Jansen threw to Bregman was the 417th offering of the game.
But Kershaw and six Dodgers relievers had no answers for the relentless Houston attack, especially the top five hitters in the batting order — Springer, Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Gurriel, who who combined for 12 hits, three doubles, four homers, 11 runs, 12 RBI and four walks.
Now the Dodgers are tasked not only with regrouping and re-energizing by Tuesday night, they still have the less tangible project of finding answers for the most prolific group of hitters in the majors, who are all swinging red-hot bats.
“It’s the best lineup we’ve seen, one though nine, especially in this ballpark,” Roberts said. “When you’ve got [Brian] McCann hitting in the nine, it’s a very talented group.”
Signs of fatigue are everywhere. Jansen, even before Sunday’s loss, had allowed homers in back-to-back games.
Reliever Brandon Morrow, who was pitching for the third straight day and and for the fifth time in this series, gave up a blast to Springer on the first pitch he threw, a single to Bregman, a run-scoring double to Altuve and a two-run, flyball homer to Correa.
Those four runs set off a bedlam at Minute Maid Park on the Astros’ last night at their home park this season.
“It was special,” Bregman said. “It meant a lot to us. Before the game I know that everybody knew that this was our last home game of the year. The people of Houston have been here with us the entire season and they’ve stood strong through some tough times.”
More signs of wear and tear: Kershaw, who looked off even when he was getting outs, looked positively gassed while walking the last two batters he faced. Third baseman Justin Turner, who DH’d in Game 5, was limping around because of a sore calf.
This is a lot to come back from. But if the Dodgers need inspiration, they only need to look back to the team that eliminated them last season, the Chicago Cubs. Like the Dodgers, the Cubs led the majors in regular-season wins and mostly waltzed into the World Series, only to fall behind. The Cubs’ obstacles were worse: They trailed 3-to-1 and had to win the last two games on the road.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, will be returning to Dodger Stadium and the sea of blue, where the Texas-themed songs will be verboten and nary a “wooo!” call for Josh Reddick will be heard. It will be good to be home.
“We have to see that as a positive thing for us,” Jansen said. “They’re celebrating right now, [up] 3-2. Guess what? You’ve still got to beat us one more time. The fact that we get to go home, we’ve just got to continue the run. This is it.”
The Dodgers should also be able to look forward to weather much cooler than the blasting heat of Games 1 and 2, when balls were flying out of Dodger Stadium at night — which doesn’t normally happen. Perhaps that little bit of a shift will help an L.A. staff that has now allowed 13 homers in the series.
Roberts is certainly looking forward to getting home, but he’s not looking at Game 7, unlike his right fielder.
“It’s going to be boisterous and energetic at Dodger Stadium,” Roberts said. “I think our focus is just going to be to win one game. To get ourselves to think about two in a row, I think we’d be getting ahead of ourselves.
“We’re at an elimination stage right now, and we’ll do everything we can to win one game.”
The Dodgers bounced back after losing Game 2 at home. They bounced back after falling behind 2-games-to-1. They bounced back in Game 5 against an Astros team that could not be finished off. The question remains: Just how much bounce do the Dodgers have left? How do they regroup knowing that a fired-up Justin Verlander will be rested and ready when he takes the hill on Tuesday?
“This game is over, they’re up 3-2,” Puig said. “Now it’s going back home tonight. Happy flight. We have two more games to win. The Astros have one game. See you Tuesday.”
Mercifully, Monday is a travel day. If the Dodgers and Astros can top what we’ve seen so far, it might be too much for us all. The Dodgers say that they are all set, as impossible as that seems.
“I’m already moving forward from this,” Jansen said. “I’m already ready for the game on Tuesday. They’ve got to beat us again. They’ve got to beat all 25 of us to win. I have great confidence in our guys that it ain’t going to be that easy.”