HOUSTON ASTROS ONE WIN AWAY FROM WINNING FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP IN FRANCHISE HISTORY

The Houston Astros are one win away from clinching their first championship in franchise history after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 13-12, in a wild 10-inning Game 5 of the 2017 World Series on Sunday night.

Alex Bregman, who homered off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning Saturday, ended the game with a walk-off RBI single against the All-Star reliever that scored pinch-runner Derek Fisher from second base.

After missing an opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead Saturday night, the Astros got back on track 24 hours later. They will end the 2017 postseason with an 8-1 record at Minute Maid Park, but it will take one more victory at Dodger Stadium to win the biggest prize in Major League Baseball.

Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times had the best description of this game that still manages to undersell the ridiculousness of it:

An even more appropriate tweet to describe this game is this 2015 gem from Justin Klugh of The Good Phight:

There’s almost no story that can fully capture the wildness of a matchup that took five hours and 17 minutes, featured 25 runs scored and began with two former Cy Young winners starting the game.

This marked the second time in the series that Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel were the starters, but ESPN’s Marly Rivera noted this one had a far different pace than Game 1:

With Kershaw on the mound, the Dodgers gave their ace a three-run cushion before he ever threw a pitch. Logan Forsythe hit a two-run single off Keuchel, followed by Enrique Hernandez scoring on a throwing error by Yuli Gurriel.

Heading into the game, this seemed like it was going to be a tense pitching showdown because of the starting hurlers. Kershaw and Keuchel had an outstanding duel in Game 1 that the Dodgers won, 3-1.

Instead, it turned into a wild back-and-forth slugfest that featured four ties, five lead changes and seven home runs.

Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Gurriel did most of the damage for Houston. That trio went a combined 8-for-15 with three of Houston’s five home runs, 10 RBI and six runs scored.

Keuchel had been lights-out this postseason with a 3.00 ERA, 28 strikeouts and six walks in 24 innings over four starts coming into Game 5.

Richard Justice of MLB.com noted Keuchel has been masterful at Minute Maid Park throughout the 2017 season:

The 2015 American League Cy Young winner didn’t have his best stuff or pinpoint control Sunday, needing 32 pitches to get out of the first inning and lasting just 3.2 innings before Astros manager A.J. Hinch went to his bullpen.

After Austin Barnes extended the Dodgers’ lead to 4-0 with an RBI single in the top of the fourth, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince noted Kershaw has been virtually unbeatable in this situation throughout his career:

However, Houston’s offense came to life against Kershaw in the bottom half of the fourth inning to bail out Keuchel.

Gurriel tied the score at four with a monster home run off Kershaw after Correa got Houston on the board with an RBI double:

That blast from Gurriel also put Kershaw in the MLB postseason record books, though not for a reason he would prefer:

The Astros were still in a vulnerable position, having to rely on their bullpen for 19 outs. That group has struggled with a 5.21 ERA this postseason and allowed five runs in the decisive ninth inning of Game 4.

Ken Giles, who has given up at least one run in six of his seven appearances this postseason, was told by Hinch before Game 5 he likely wouldn’t be used in the closer’s role.

“He’s a big reason why we’re here,” Hinch said (via MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart). “Right now, those words probably fall on deaf ears because of the struggles that he’s had. He doesn’t have to wear the burden of anything. He’s doing his best to be prepared and come in and make pitches, and he’s getting burned a couple of different times.”

Hinch turned to Chris Devenski to get the final four outs for Houston, but he turned out to be just as ineffective as Giles. Yasiel Puig cut the deficit to 12-11 with a two-run homer, and then Chris Taylor tied the score with a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the top of the ninth.

From innings seven through nine, there were five consecutive half-innings in which at least one run was scored. Jansen ended that streak with a scoreless ninth inning that sent the game into extra innings before Bregman got to him again.

Collin McHugh, who hasn’t pitched since Game 3 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, started the fifth inning for Houston and gave the Dodgers life. Corey Seager and Justin Turner walked to open the frame, and Cody Bellinger picked up where he left off from Saturday with a three-run homer:

In case you wondered how quickly a playoff narrative can turn, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle sent this after Bellinger struck out against Charlie Morton in the top of the fifth inning in Game 4:

In five at-bats after that punchout, Bellinger hit two doubles, one home run and drove in four runs.

Unfortunately, Kershaw couldn’t bounce back after getting the lead back. He was pulled with two on and two out in the bottom of the fifth, setting up Altuve to tie the score against Kenta Maeda with a three-run shot of his own.

The homer was Altuve’s seventh of the postseason. Katie Sharp of River Avenue Blues noted he’s closing in on exclusive company:

Even though the Astros have their own bullpen concerns, the Dodgers haven’t gotten much relief from their crew in this World Series. Jansen blew the first playoff save of his career in Game 2, though that looks like nothing compared to what happened Sunday.

Six Dodgers relievers combined to allow seven runs in five innings. Ross Stripling (0.2 innings) and Tony Watson (0.2 innings) were the only members of that group who didn’t give up runs in their outings.

After a quiet sixth inning, George Springer gave the Dodgers new life when he tried to make a spectacular play on a sinking line drive by Bellinger that hit the ground and went all the way to the wall, allowing Hernandez to score.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts turned to his shutdown relievers with an 8-7 lead, starting with Brandon Morrow in the seventh inning. It didn’t take long for the plan to fall apart when Springer greeted him with a leadoff homer to tie the score.

After Bregman followed with a single, Altuve struck again with an RBI double over the head of Joc Pederson in left field to put the Astros on top for the first time. Correa’s two-run homer appeared to put the nail in Los Angeles’ coffin on this night before the ninth inning.

Despite Devenski’s slip-up in the ninth, the Astros didn’t waver until they were finally able to prevail.

This game is the story of Houston’s 2017 season. It’s a team led by a high-powered offense, which scored an MLB-best 896 runs during the regular season.

In Game 4 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, the Astros scored three runs off Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel to close out the series. They outscored the New York Yankees 11-1 in the last two games of the ALCS to earn a trip to the World Series.

On Sunday, the Astros knocked Kershaw around and got Jansen to give up a run for the third straight time he’s pitched in the series.

The Astros will have Justin Verlander on the mound for Game 6 on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium looking to close out the series. The Dodgers will attempt to rid themselves of the bad taste in their mouth from this game when they start Rich Hill to save their season.

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