LOS ANGELES — They don’t make rallies like they used to.
They make them much, much better.
In last night’s instant classic Game 2 of the World Series, the Astros were just a wee bit better at fighting back then the Dodgers were and the difference meant this series is now tied.
The 7-6 Astros victory will go down as an 11-inning, non-stop rally that featured eight home runs, nine runs scored from the eighth inning on — seven in the two extra innings — and in the end a pair of death-defying, crypt-busting teams that refused to accept, over and over again, the reality of what appeared to be an all but certain loss.
Denial was as abundant as the drama.
“That’s an incredible game on so many levels, so many ranges of emotion — 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,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch after the team won the first World Series game in franchise history. “This was a hard game to finish, obviously, for both teams. Got some really really key hits. It’s hard to put into one game let alone one series.
George Spring, Avon, Connecticut, native and U Conn product, hit the game-winner, a two-run home run in the 11th inning off Brandon McCarthy.
Fittingly, Springer’s back-story fit the occasion. He had been awful the night before, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
He had been pressing, but before the game, he heard Hinch say that he was not going to panic and drop him from the leadoff spot or make any changes.
That made a difference.
“For him to have my back and to say that ‘Hey you’re still going to hit first, you’re still going to set the tone for us’ — it slowed me down, I was doing things I don’t normally do,” said Springer. “I was fortunate enough to hit a ball well and get the job done.”
The Astros were trailing 3-1 entering the eighth, which is when Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts turned to his usually untouchable closer Kenley Jansen after a leadoff double. Jensen allowed an RBI single — which was the first run the Dodgers bullpen had allowed in its last 28 innings.
There were five more to come.
In the ninth, Marwin Gonzalez hit a leadoff home run that took the non-existent wind from a stifling Dodger Stadium and quieted the crowd of 54,293 with the game-tying home run.
“Bottom line is I’ll take Kenley with a one-run lead in the ninth any day of the week,” said Roberts. “He’s been virtually unhittable. Marwin put a good swing on an 0-2 pitch. It was center cut — you tip your hat to him.”
Said Hinch: “Marwin Gonzalez kicked it all off. We’re not here if Marwin Gonzalez didn’t hit a ball to dead center field against the best closer in baseball.”
The Dodgers had no walk-off wattage in them for the bottom of the ninth.
Their bullpen, represented by Josh Fields, followed suit in the top of the 10th.
The first two Astros batters, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hit home runs to give the Astros a two-run lead for the first time. Correa gave his bat an impressive flip after his blast.
The Dodgers responded this time.
Beginning with Yasiel Puig’s leadoff home run — he responded with an anti-flip by laying his bat gently on the ground after his swat — and then Kike Hernandez’ RBI single, the Dodgers knotted the crazy back-and-forth game, 5-5, one more time.
One note: Hernandez knocked in Logan Forsythe from second — who should have been at least on third except that the Astros’ pitcher Ken Giles’ errant pick-off throw happened to hit second base ump Laz Diaz in the middle of his body. Regardless, Forsythe scored on Hernandez’ hit.
The play was payback of sorts for third-inning weirdness when Alex Bregman’s RBI single fell in front of diving center fielder Chris Taylor and would have bounced way behind him only it hit squarely against the bill of his cap and caromed into left fielder Joc Pederson’s glove to keep the runners in check.
Justin Verlander had a no-hitter through 4.2 innings before Pederson hit a home run. Corey Seager hit a two-run home run off Verlander in the sixth.
Milton’s Rich Hill went four innings, allowing three hits, three walks, the one run on Bregman’s single, and seven strikeouts.
All that before the game got real interesting.
“We didn’t come to LA thinking we couldn’t beat them, we just proved that we can put some really good at-bats together against some really good pitching,” said Hinch. “They’ve had the best bullpen in baseball this postseason and much of the season.”
Last night, the Astros, finally, were better.
“Guys were playing hard on both sides — unfortunately, we came up short,” said Roberts. “We didn’t expect these guys to lay down. That’s a very good ballclub over there. Take the day tomorrow and we’ll be ready to go.”