LOS ANGELES -- The first World Series win in Houston Astros history was 55 years in the making ... and it was not easy. It was, however, unbelievably exciting -- a true Fall Classic that Houston finally won 7-6 in 11 innings Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
"If you like October baseball, if you like any kind of baseball, that's one of the most incredible games you'll ever be a part of," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said afterward.
The best offense in baseball did it its way, ultimately taking the final lead on George Springer’s two-run homer off Los Angeles Dodgers righty Brandon McCarthy in the 11th.
Springer avenged his four-strikeout performance in Game 1, creating questions he answered with a three-hit night in Game 2. "I just think when the lights turn on even brighter you tend to subconsciously press, and you want to succeed so bad that you start to do things that you wouldn't do, or you start to come out of an approach that has worked the whole year. And this is my first experience at playing this far, playing this long and in a game of this magnitude," Springer said. "I understand now why guys struggle in the postseason and some don't."
Then it was reliever Chris Devenski who finally ended this Game 2 classic, picking up the final three outs. He didn’t make it unscathed, surrendering a home run to Charlie Culberson, but he struck out Yasiel Puig to finish it.
The Astros, born in 1962 as the Colt 45s, have now stripped L.A. of home-field advantage as the series heads to Houston for three games this weekend.
The Astros thought they won the game after 10 innings. First Jose Altuve, the 5-foot-5 wunderkind (who might just be the best player in baseball), nailed a go-ahead homer off the Dodgers' Josh Fields to open the 10th. Then Carlos Correa hit a shot into the night and put an exclamation point on the drive with a bat flip for the ages.
"This was a night obviously the ball was carrying," Hinch said. "A lot of big-time players stepping up and getting big swings."
Puig led off the bottom of the 10th with a solo homer off Astros closer Ken Giles. (Known for his bat flips, Puig neatly placed the bat on the ground.) Giles got the next two outs but walked Logan Forsythe and then threw a wild pitch. Kike Hernandez drilled an RBI single to right as Forsythe beat the throw home.
The Astros started their comeback in the eighth and ninth innings against closer Kenley Jansen, who was asked to protect a two-run lead and pick up a six-out save. He instead picked up a blown save.
In the ninth, left fielder Marwin Gonzalez sent a ball into Houston sports history, going the other way off Jansen to tie the game 3-3. The Astros' dugout erupted in excitement. They were back in this World Series.
Gonzalez’s heroics were set up in the inning before by Alex Bregman and Correa. Bregman led off the eighth with a double off the glove of a diving Puig. That's when Roberts turned to Jansen. After an Altuve out, Correa bounced an RBI single up the middle.
Astros ace Justin Verlander pitched well enough to pick up more than a no-decision. He threw four no-hit innings and finished having allowed only two hits over six. The problem was they were both homers.
Verlander was fired up, which showed in his velocity and his results. He retired the first nine batters he faced, averaging 96.3 mph on his fastball, the most velocity he has displayed in the past three years. The Dodgers, meanwhile, were not making him work: Verlander threw just 32 pitches in the first three innings. Over the past three years, he has never thrown that few pitches to pick up the first nine outs of a game. He was rolling but wasn’t getting much support from his offense.
The Astros scored only one run in Game 1, when Bregman slammed a solo shot off Clayton Kershaw. In Game 2, it was Bregman again. He smacked a liner into center in the third inning that was trouble for the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor. If not for luck, Bregman might have had an inside-the-park homer. Taylor dove and missed the ball, but it bounced off the bill of his cap and to left fielder Joc Pederson. One run scored but no more in what could have been a big inning.
Verlander couldn’t hold the lead, allowing a solo shot to Pederson and a two-run homer to Corey Seager. While Verlander brought the Astros to the World Series, it was his teammates who picked him up for the first Series win in franchise history.
"Getting this win was hard," Hinch said. "And obviously it's a long time coming for an organization that's been to one other World Series. But records are made to be broken."