Column: For Astros, epic Game 5 provides a thrill worth savoring

HOUSTON — You walk into the Houston Astros clubhouse late Sunday night, and expect to see wild euphoria, but instead find only subdued relief.

You are ready for loud, blaring music, but instead hear only muffled sounds over the speakers.

You want crazy, colorful, braggadocio from a team that just won the biggest, craziest, most entertaining game of their lives, but instead see players almost too numb to talk, emotionally drained to even celebrate.

The Houston Astros, who were there for all 5 hours, 17 minutes, spanning 417 pitches, still can’t believe what they just saw in the most magical, ridiculous game in franchise history.

Their 13-12, 10-inning defeat of the Los Angeles Dodgers was one of the zaniest World Series games played in 113 years.

Little wonder, then, that this Game 5 would be the athletic moment of a lifetime for anyone involved - particularly the victors.

“It’s the greatest game I’ve ever been part of,’’ Astros reliever Brad Peacock said. “The greatest game I ever watched. You’re watching it, and you’re thinking, “God dang, this is crazy watching it. It’s something I’ve never seen, and I’m not sure I want to see again.

“I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.’’

It was a game in which the Astros overcame a four-run hole in the fourth inning, a three-run deficit in the fifth inning, blew a three-run lead in the seventh, and another three-run lead in the ninth, and still lived to take a 3-2 World Series lead back to Los Angeles.

“It was insane,’’ Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Just insane.’’

How in the world can the Astros produce just one hit off the Dodgers’ No. 4 starter 24 hours earlier, and then come back and score 13 runs in a game started by three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, and finished by preeminent closer Kenley Jansen?

“I’ve never seen anything like that, ever,’’ said Astros starter Dallas Keuchel, who gave up four runs in just 3 2/3 innings, and was able to shrug it off like a spring-training outing. “The highs. The lows. The in-betweens. It was all there. And that was just sitting in the dugout.

“I’ve never been more nervous in my life.

“Epic.’’

They are one victory from their first World Series championship in franchise history, and will start former MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander in Game 6.

Yet, as much as the Astros are running on adrenaline, and can’t wait to hit Dodger Stadium, even they decided to exhale, and take a minute to appreciate what they just accomplished, moving their flight to L.A. back two hours on Monday.

They’ll take a pass on batting practice and workouts just to catch their breath.

Yes, it was that kind of night and early evening, when Jim Crane and his wife, Whitney, finally retreated to his suite at 2 a.m. CT, pouring a couple of drinks, and trying to appreciate what they just witnessed.

“I sit behind home plate, but I can’t sit still,’’ Crane said. “So I was up and down. I’m like a nervous wreck. I just had to keep moving.’’

Crane went up the elevator, took out his phone, and estimated he already had 300 text messages since the game ended, including one from his neighbor in Pebble Beach, a fella by the name of Reggie Jackson.

“I got a classic, you won’t believe this one,’’ Crane said. “'(Jose) Altuve is the best player in the game. Says who? Says Mr. October.’ ‘’

That’s Reggie, who watched Altuve, the AL MVP favorite, go 3-for-5 with a homer, four RBI and three runs, giving him seven homers for the postseason - one shy of the Major League record. Jackson wasn’t among the 43,300 fans at Minute Maid Park who refused to leave their seats, but he’ll be among the millions who will cherish the memory of one of the most entertaining games in World Series history.

“Man, mentally exhausted right now,’’ said Dodgers rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger, who drove in a team-high four RBI, including a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning and a game-tying triple in the seventh.

“That was by far the craziest thing I’ve been a part of. Or will ever be a part of.’’

You try to figure out how Kershaw gave back all of a four-run lead bottom of the fourth, and knocked out after just 3 2/3 innings, the shortest outing of his postseason career.

“It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow,’’ said Kershaw, who has given up eight home runs this postseason, the most in history.

It was a night the two teams put on one of the greatest hitting exhibitions in World Series history, combing for 28 hits, 16 for extra bases, with seven home runs by seven players off 14 pitchers. The Astros tied a World Series record with their five homers, and two clubs combined to set the World Series record with 22 homers this series - 15 that have either been a go-ahead homer or tied the game.

“Dude, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said this is the craziest game of my life,’’ Astros reliever Joe Musgrove said. “This is the craziest game of my life.’’

The game was so nutty that the Astros rallied from deficits of 4-0, 7-4 and 8-7 to tie the game, but blow leads of 11-8 and 12-9.  It was so bizarre that Yuli Gurriel and Altuve hit game-tying three-run homers for the Astros in back-to-back innings, a feat so rare that there had been only four game-tying three-run homers in the last 40 years. 

“It’s crazy man,’’ Correa said, “I feels 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.’’

That is, until the moment Alex Bregman lined Jansen's 10th-inning pitch into left field, with pinch-runner Derek Fisher sliding across the plate.

There was bedlam in Minute Maid Park, with the entire Astros’ team running onto the field as if they won the World Series.

They still have one game to win, but it's hard to fault their sense of finality in that moment.

“It felt like it was Game 7, it really did,’’ Peacock said. “When he stood in the box, he was the guy I wanted up there. He’s a guy you know the moment isn’t too big for him. You had a feeling something good was going to happen.’’

When Bregman left the batter’s circle, he looked at Correa, who simply told him, “It’s your time.’’

Bregman sauntered to the plate, taking his swagger with him, and dug in.

“There is nobody more confident than that guy in the locker room,’’ said Correa, who doubled, homered and drove in four runs. “He expects the best out of himself. And he was facing Jansen, the best closer in the game.

“So he went to hit knowing that the game was going to be over. That's what makes him so special, he's always very confident.’’

 “Just pure joy,’’ Bregman said. “When you look around you, and you see the smiles on your teammates’ face, it makes everything worth it. There's nothing like it."

Now, if they can somehow muster the energy to pack their bags, board a plane one last time, and leave a little room in the overhead.

You see, they have a World Series trophy to bring back.

“Hopefully, we can win one more game, and take a break,’’ Correa said, “because this is hard on me.’’

Follow Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment