Column: A wild game and a bullpen that finally cracked
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Smoke came drifting over Dodger Stadium in the extra innings of World Series Game 2, though it wasn’t because Houston bats were suddenly on fire.
But it did seem an odd coincidence in one of the wildest — and most entertaining — World Series games you’ll ever see.
On a night when the Dodgers threatened to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series with just two hits, the Astros rallied in the most improbable of ways. In a stretch of seven batters they hit three home runs in the ninth and 10th innings, then added another one in the 11th to take the lead for good.
The Dodger bullpen that had been so spectacular imploded. The team that hadn’t lost in 98 games this season with a lead after the eighth inning finally did.
And a World Series that struggled to attract viewers in Game 1 suddenly became must-see TV.
“It was crazy,” Carlos Correa said. “A lot of emotions, a lot of feelings.”
Blame it on Dave Roberts over managing. Blame it on Kenley Jansen for hanging a cutter in the ninth inning of a game all 54,293 in attendance at Dodger Stadium just knew he was going to close out.
Mostly, though, credit a resilient Astros team that just wasn’t ready to lose a game to a team that had only a pair of home runs to show for the first nine innings.
“These guys, they can do a lot of things, and they fight to the last out. They play 27 outs,” Roberts said. And that’s the same thing we do. And it was one of those games that just ran out of outs.”
How crazy was this game? Here’s a couple of stats in a sport consumed by them:
Dodger relievers had gone 28 consecutive innings before allowing a run in the eighth inning.
And Astros hitters were 9 for 19 with four home runs from the eighth inning on.
“That was a great game on so many levels,” said Houston manager A.J. Hinch. “If you like October baseball, if you like any baseball that’s one of the most incredible games.”
Incredible, yes. Up until the point Yasiel Puig struck out — after hitting a home run in his previous at bat — fans at Dodger Stadium were on their feet in anticipation of yet another comeback.
After all, hadn’t little used minor league callup Charlie Culberson just homered in front of Puig to cut the lead to 7-6?
In a season of the home run, eight of them went out on this wild and crazy night.
The final one for the Astros was the winner, a two-run shot by George Springer who was just trying to get Cameron Maybin moved over to third base. Instead he put himself in the World Series record books, though not before the Dodgers tried yet another comeback of their own in the 11th.
“When that last out is made, you finally breathe,” Springer said. “But that’s an emotional high, emotional high to low to high again. But that’s why we play the game. And that’s the craziest game that I’ve ever played in, and it’s only Game 2.”
That the Dodger bullpen finally cracked wasn’t terribly surprising. They had gone 28 scoreless innings in the postseason but were playing the highest-scoring team in the major leagues.
But Jansen was brought in for a six out save, and failed. Josh Fields replaced him in the 10th and promptly served up home runs to Jose Altuve and Correa. And starter Brandon McCarthy let up the game winner after the Dodgers had tied it in the 10th.
That’s on the second-year Dodger manager, who is so super quick with the hook he let Rich Hill go only four innings despite letting up only one run and striking out seven. Roberts replaced another reliever, Josh Fields after he walked the only batter he faced.
“I just felt that right there at the top of their order coming up, and with the way our bullpen has been throwing, you look back behind that, we had three scoreless innings after that,” Roberts said. “So just trust the guys behind him, and the bottom line is I’ll take Kenley any day of the week with a one-run lead going into the ninth inning.”
Justin Verlander turned from pitcher to cheerleader after being pulled after the sixth inning down 3-1. He was in the video room when Springer’s ball went out.
“I almost fainted I think three times, I’m not joking,” Verlander said. “Cheering so loudly I had to take a minute to recompose myself so I didn’t pass out.”
He and everyone else. It was that kind of a night.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg