By MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange – UPI
HOUSTON — With ball after ball clearing the fences at Minute Maid Park, with wild swings of momentum seemingly accompanying every home run bashed into the frenzied crowd, it was surprising that a single capped one of the zaniest, heart-pounding World Series games in memory.
Alex Bregman deposited a first-pitch, walk-off single into shallow left field with two outs in the 10th inning to lift the Houston Astros to a dramatic 13-12 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros will take a 3-2 series lead back to Los Angeles for Game 6 Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium on the strength of their prolific offense, which produced 14 hits, including five homers, in a five-hour, 17-minute affair.
With his winning hit off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen (0-1), Bregman (2-for-5) became the fifth Houston starter with a multi-hit game Sunday.
Bregman homered off Jansen with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 4. He processed that at-bat while George Springer reached base ahead of him with a walk, then promptly dumped the first Jansen offering into an open expanse, scoring pinch runner Derek Fisher from second base.
“I got him on a slider last night, so I knew he wasn’t going to throw that,” Bregman said. “Looking for a cutter. (Shortstop Carlos) Correa, all of our hitting coaches said, ‘Hey, you better stay on top of the cutter.’ Tried to stay on top, and we’re up 3-2, baby.”
Fisher replaced catcher Brian McCann, who homered in the eighth inning and reached in the 10th after being hit by a pitch with two outs. Springer walked, advancing McCann into scoring position, and the speedy Fisher entered just in time.
The Astros, after managing just two hits in Game 4, faced a 4-0 deficit in Game 5 against Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers’ ace left-hander handcuffed Houston in Game 1 by allowing one run over seven innings while tallying 11 strikeouts. Game 5 didn’t resemble the series opener.
Fourteen pitchers combined to throw 417 pitches as Sunday night extended into the wee hours of Monday morning. In addition to McCann’s homer, Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve slugged game-tying, three-run home runs for Houston, and Springer and Correa went deep in the seventh inning.
Gurriel ignited the onslaught with his blast off Kershaw in the fourth inning, but the Dodgers provided Kershaw the lead again a half-inning later when rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger crushed a three-run homer to right off Astros right-hander Collin McHugh for a 7-4 advantage.
Despite recording two quick outs to open the fifth, Kershaw did not complete the inning, issuing back-to-back walks to Springer and Bregman before getting the hook.
Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda had yet to allow a run this postseason, but that changed when Altuve cranked his seventh home run of this postseason to left-center field, pulling the Astros even at 7-7.
Kershaw allowed six runs on four hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings, but he was an afterthought by the seventh when Springer and Correa took righty Brandon Morrow deep.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow tonight,” Kershaw said.
Morrow, making his fifth consecutive appearance in the series and 12th overall this postseason, yielded a titanic blast to left by Springer that pulled the Astros even again at 8-8.
Two batters later, Altuve doubled to plate Bregman for the Astros’ first lead. Correa chased Morrow with a two-run dinger to left. Morrow allowed four runs without recording an out.
Trailing 12-9 entering the ninth, the Dodgers rallied against Astros right-hander Chris Devenski, who recorded the final out of the eighth and stranded the tying run at second.
Yasiel Puig golfed a two-run homer into the Crawford Boxes in left. Two batters after Austin Barnes hit a one-out double, Chris Taylor lined a two-out, two-strike RBI single to center.
“I think this whole series has been an emotional roller coaster,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s the two best teams playing for a championship. And these are two teams that play 27 outs, like we’ve talked about. So, you’re not going to expect those guys to lay down. And obviously, you saw what our guys did tonight and competed until the last out.”
Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel allowed three runs in the first inning before departing after surrendering three hits and another run in the fourth, on a two-out single to Barnes. With Kershaw on the mound and the Dodgers leading 4-0, things looked dire for Houston. Then the bottom of the fourth unfolded, and the madness ensued soon thereafter.
“It’s hard to put into words all the twists and turns in that game, the emotion, doing it at home, in front of our home crowd,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Just exactly what you expect to come to the park with Keuchel and Kershaw pitching. Just a perfect setup game for a bunch of runs.”
NOTES: After taking a grounder off the left calf in Game 4 and being lifted for a pinch runner in the ninth inning, the Dodgers’ Justin Turner moved to designated hitter from his customary spot at third. Logan Forsythe shifted from second base to third and Charlie Culberson joined the lineup, playing second and batting ninth. … Without explicitly labeling the move as a demotion, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he would avoid using RHP Ken Giles in high-leverage situations when possible. Giles took the loss in Game 4 and has allowed at least one run in six of seven postseason appearances. … With Los Angeles facing a left-handed starter, Dodgers LF Enrique Hernandez batted cleanup for the third time this postseason. He did so twice in the National League Championship Series against Chicago Cubs LHPs Jose Quintana and Jon Lester in Games 1 and 2.