LOS ANGELES (AP) — George Springer screamed with joy as he circled the bases after hitting a two-run homer in the 11th inning.
Would it be enough? Was this the final plot twist on one of the wildest nights in postseason history?
Yes, it was — barely — and the Houston Astros won a World Series game for the first time in their 56 seasons.
Charlie Culberson hit a two-out homer in the bottom half off Chris Devenski, who then struck out Yasiel Puig in a tense, nine-pitch at-bat for the win. The Astros outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-6 in a Hollywood thriller Wednesday to tie the Series at one game apiece.
“Wasn’t that the best game ever!?” Alex Bregman proclaimed to no one in particular in the Astros clubhouse.
On a night of dramatic swings and a World Series-record eight home runs, Marwin Gonzalez stunned the Dodger Stadium crowd with a solo shot off dominant Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen on an 0-2 pitch in the ninth that made it 3-all.
But there was more. Much, much more.
“This is an instant classic and to be part of it is pretty special,” Astros starter Justin Verlander said.
Devenski entered and, with Hernandez at second, made a wild pickoff throw that appeared headed toward left-center field before it struck second base umpire Laz Diaz. An incredulous Hernandez put both hands on his helmet, unable to advance, and was stranded when Chris Taylor flied out.
“We were pretty unlucky at the beginning of the game when Taylor dove in center field and (the ball) hit him in the face or head,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I felt like the baseball gods were returning the favor, by having an umpire standing in the way there.”
Cameron Maybin, who had entered in the 10th, singled leading off the 11th against losing pitcher Brandon McCarthy, a surprise addition to the Dodgers’ World Series roster who was pitching for the first time since Oct. 1. Maybin stole second and Springer hit a drive to right-center for a 7-5 lead, just the third 11th-inning home run in the Series after shots by Kirby Puckett in 1991 and David Freese in 2011.
Springer, an All-Star leadoff man, broke out of his slump with three hits and a walk after going 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in the Series opener Tuesday. His decisive drive made the Astros the first team to hit three extra-inning home runs in a postseason game.
Devenski retired Corey Seager and Justin Turner on lineouts in the bottom half. Puig checked his swing on a 2-2 pitch — the Astros jumped when first base umpire Gerry Davis signaled no swing — and Puig fouled off two more. Devenski threw his fifth straight changeup, and Puig swung over it as the Astros ran onto the field to celebrate after finally closing out a back-and-forth game that lasted 4 hours, 19 minutes.
“It was an emotional roller coaster,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who removed starter Rich Hill after he threw only 60 pitches in four solid innings and struck out seven.
After another steamy night in a Santa Ana heat wave, the series shifts to Texas and resumes Friday night at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, where the retractable roof has not been open for a game since June 9. Lance McCullers Jr. starts for the Astros and Yu Darvish for the Dodgers, who acquired him from Texas at the July 31 trade deadline.
Houston is 2-5 on the road in the postseason but 6-0 at home, where the Astros have outscored the Red Sox and Yankees by a combined 31-7.
“We didn’t expect these guys to lay down. It’s a very good ballclub over there,” Roberts said. “We’ll be ready to go.”
Before Gonzalez’s home run, the Dodgers had an 85 percent chance of winning, according to Fangraphs. After Correa’s long ball, the Astros were a 93 percent favorite.
Verlander, wearing an undershirt, entered the dugout at one point and screamed at his teammates that the game was not over.
“All of a sudden, two runs seemed like it was the Grand Canyon,” he said. “I was just trying to remind these guys two runs is nothing.”
Bregman’s RBI single in the third gave Houston its first lead of the Series, a hit that might have turned into a three-run, inside-the-park homer had the ball not caromed off the bill of Taylor’s cap directly to left fielder Joc Pederson.
Los Angeles had just two hits through seven innings but led 3-1 behind Pederson’s fifth-inning solo homer and Seager’s tiebreaking, two-run drive in the sixth against Verlander. It was Pederson’s first home run since July 26.
Jansen entered with a 3-1 lead trying for his first six-out save in a year after Bregman doubled leading off the eighth against Brandon Morrow, a ball that ticked off the glove of a diving Puig in the right-field corner. Furious that he didn’t make what would have been a sensational catch, Puig slammed his mitt to the ground.
Correa’s RBI single off Jansen ended a record 28-inning postseason scoreless streak by the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Gonzalez, choking up on the bat, seemed an unlikely candidate for a tying homer. He had not driven in a run in his 45 plate appearances since Houston’s playoff opener, and the blown save was just the second for Jansen this year. The Dodgers had been 98-0 in 2017 when leading after eight innings, including the postseason.
“I didn’t make my pitch,” Jansen said. “You can’t beat yourself up about that.”
As the slanting sun illuminated the green hills of Elysian Park behind center field and the ochre-tinted San Gabriel Mountains beyond, retired Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully took the mound for the ceremonial first pitch . The 89-year-old, who left the booth in 2016 after his 67th season, charmed the crowd when he began “somewhere up in heaven, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges are laughing their heads off” at his presence on the mound. He feigned an arm injury and turned the ritual over to Fernando Valenzuela, who helped the Dodgers win their 1981 title.
The game-time temperature was 93 degrees — down 10 degrees from the opener. Celebrities in the sellout crowd of 54,293 included golfers Tiger Woods and Fred Couples, and former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning.
Houston improved to 10-0 in nine starts and one relief appearance by Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner obtained in a trade from Detroit at the Aug. 31 deadline to be eligible for the Astros’ postseason roster.
Afterward, players were exhausted.
“When that last out is made, you finally breathe,” Springer said. “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.”
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