HOUSTON — In the end, after more than 400 pitches and more than five hours, after the Astros had somehow managed to make one Dodger lead after another disappear before the Astros made a three-run lead of their own disappear in the 9th inning, what you felt at Minute Maid Park was not just the power and magic of the World Series. You felt the amazing, timeless power of baseball.
It was not just that seven more home runs had been hit in baseball’s crazy home-run season, to the point where you honestly feel that if you held a 2017 Big League ball in your hand, it would hum the way your cell phone does when you’re playing music on it. It was not just the comebacks, from both teams, and the way you honestly started to think that the two managers were going to start pulling guys out of the stands to pitch in relief.
It was this, as you sat there at Minute Maid and experienced Game 5 of this World Series, Astros 13 and Dodgers 12:
You knew this was a game, 10 innings of it and all those home runs of it and all those pitches and pitchers and lead changes and mood swings, that was not just exploding on social media the longer it went. It was the kind of World Series baseball game that the whole country would still be talking about the next day.
No other sport in this country was king on Sunday night and into Monday morning in Houston. Baseball was. The World Series was, all the way until Alex Bregman, a tough out who wears Jeter’s No. 2 and who plays third base for the Astros, had singled home a pinch-runner named Derek Fisher, in there for an old former Yankee catcher named Brian McCann, who had taken one for the team in the bottom of the 10th, when it was still 12-12 at Minute Maid Park.
No clock to run out on this night. No way to shorten a game that was tied by Chris Taylor at 12 at exactly 12 midnight in Houston. On Friday night, after Game 3, Astros manager A.J. Hinch had talked about how you use relief pitchers in big October games like these, the goal being to “get to 27 outs with the lead.”
Well, on Sunday night and into Monday morning, 27 wasn’t enough. The Astros needed to get 30 outs off the Los Angeles Dodgers, as tough and game in Game 5 as the Astros were. And the Dodgers? They could only get 29 off Houston, before there was one more two-out rally for the Astros, in the bottom of the 10th.
Back in 1986, we sure had a bottom of the 10th in a World Series, Game 6 of that one, Mets against the Red Sox, their own two-out rally, one that will live in New York baseball for as long as New York baseball is played. The Mets stayed alive that night in ’86. The Astros and Dodgers weren’t fighting to save their seasons the way the Mets were in ’86, just to get ahead three games to two. So the stakes weren’t like that. And yet? There had never been a World Series game like this, in this world.
The list of things to talk about, in a game that has the whole country talking baseball, is as endless as this game was. Not enough time, or space. Clayton Kershaw, the great Kershaw, had a 4-0 lead in Game 5. His lifetime record in games in which the Dodgers gave him a four-run, or more, cushion, was 100-1. It felt like a bit of a 100-to-1 shot that the Astros could come back on him. But come right back they did, in the bottom of the fourth, ringing him up for four runs, making it 4-4 in Game 5, before they chased him an inning later.
“I think it’s crazy, man,” the gifted Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said afterward. “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.”
He hits No. 4 for the Astros. Jose Altuve, the best player in this world, hits No. 3. They combined for seven RBI in this game, six hits, five runs scored, two doubles, two home runs. Just that. They both look young enough to be high school kids. Nobody cared about their ages in Game 5, how young they are, in a game for the ages.
Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers’ home run kid, hit a three-run homer of his own. The Dodgers scored three in the first to jump out to a lead, three in the ninth to wipe out an Astros lead. One of those games. One of those nights that keeps bringing us back to baseball, and always will.
All that power, from all those young players, up and down both batting orders, to all corners of Minute Maid Park and this game. But the real power and magic was of the World Series. Of baseball. Which still has the power to make us all feel young.