Whatever you were expecting from Game 2, you weren’t expecting this. After one of the most dramatic postseason games in recent memory, the Astros are heading home with a coveted road win. With the series tied 1-1, Houston carries some pleasant momentum into their upcoming three-game home stand. It took no shortage of small miracles to get them there.
Tthe ‘Stros struck first in the top of the third inning. Former Dodger Josh Reddick greeted ex-teammate Rich Hill with a leadoff infield single before Justin Verlander, making just the 54th plate appearance of his storied career, executed a sacrifice bunt to move Reddick into scoring position. George Springer followed with a screaming line drive to left—too fast to score Reddick and straight at left-fielder Joc Pederson. With runners at the corners, Alex Bregman connected for a single of his own. After flailing at far too many of Clayton Kershaw’s offerings the night before, the Astros were returning to the contact-oriented approach that served them so well during the regular season.
But that’s all they could muster off Hill, who exited the game after just four innings in favor of LA’s vaunted relief corps. At the time, it seemed a reasonable move—the veteran lefty sometimes struggles to throw strikes, and he was due to face the righty-hitting heart of the Houston lineup. By the end of the game, at which point Los Angeles had burned through an astonishing nine different pitchers, the decision to pull Hill loomed large.
Houston starter Justin Verlander’s performance was also something of an oddity. The ace allowed just two hits on the night across six innings of work, and looked untouchable at the start of the game. He struck out four of the first six Dodgers he faced, and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning. But that hit—and the one that followed it an inning later—did considerable damage. First, Joc Pederson muscled an errant slider left up in the zone over the fence for a game-tying solo home run. Per Statcast, balls struck with a similar launch angle and exit velocity go for home runs just 16% of the time. Cold comfort for Verlander.
In the very next inning, Corey Seager connected for a devastating two-run blast that put the Dodgers up 3-1. Shortly thereafter, the ace was out, and Houston faced a long uphill battle to rally against a historically dominant LA bullpen.
Alex Bregman got the job started with a ground-rule double off power reliever Brandon Morrow. All-Star closer Kenley Jansen entered the game for a rare six-out save opportunity, and allowed a Carlos Correa single that scored Bregman and moved the Astros to 3-2. Jansen came back out for the ninth, and promptly allowed a line drive Marwin Gonzalez home run to knot the game at three runs apiece. It was the first blown save of Jansen’s postseason career, and the game lurched into extra innings after Ken Giles retired the side in the bottom of the ninth.
The Dodgers turned to righty Josh Fields, who worked to a 2.84 ERA in the regular season, for the tenth. Jose Altuve, fresh off winning the AL Hank Aaron Award for his outstanding offensive 2017 campaign, immediately homered on a line drive to left center to put the Astros ahead 4-3. One batter later, Carlos Correa hit a long home run of his own—the pair became the first tandem to record back-to-back extra inning home runs in World Series history.
But the Astros’ bullpen couldn’t hold their 5-3 lead. Yasiel Puig crushed a solo home run in the bottom of the tenth, and an Enrique Hernandez single four batters later tied the game at five before Chris Devenski entered to record the inning’s final out.
In the top of the 11th, speedy Houston center fielder Cameron Maybin laced a leadoff single and stole second base. George Springer, who had already reached base three times throughout the game, smacked an emphatic home run to put the Astros up 7-5. Chris Devenski battled through the bottom half, allowing a solo home run to Charlie Culberson. But he gritted down for the final out, striking out Yasiel Puig on a well-placed changeup to end the roller-coaster game.
In total, the Astros and Dodgers combined for eight home runs, a World Series record. Five extra-inning home runs were exchanged between the sparring partners, which is a new record for any MLB game, ever. It was one of the most thrilling, dramatic finishes in playoff history, a fever dream that left most of America equal parts enthralled and exhausted. And there’s only one cure: More baseball.
Game 3 kicks off in Houston Friday night at 7:00 Central. Lance McCullers Jr. takes the ball for the ‘Stros. The Dodgers counter with trade acquisition Yu Darvish. Darvish is a familiar foe—he’s spent most of the last five years pitching for the Texas Rangers, and is 5-5 lifetime with a 3.44 ERA against Houston; McCullers has only faced the Dodgers once, pitching seven innings and allowing two runs in a no-decision.