The baseballs are too slick, or maybe they are juiced, or maybe it’s both. The strikeouts happen too often and the home runs never stop falling and the umpire is always wrong. The sport of baseball is broken in 2017, or it’s rejuvenated, or it’s somewhere on the spectrum in between: still perfect for all its imperfections, still timeless for all its radical modernity, still agonizing for what it can do to the lungs and the brain and the spleen.
Because nowhere else can you find theater like this, like the 10th inning of Game 5 of the World Series, with life’s rich pageant displayed in one tableau in the final moments of a depth-defying 13-12 Dodgers defeat in Game 5 of the World Series. Near third base, a mob of Astros moshed around third baseman Alex Bregman, who had delivered the game-winning hit to topple the game’s best closer for the second time in five games. Fireworks rocketed toward the retractable roof of Minute Maid Park. The noise felt loud enough to open the building.
His head down, his body exhausted, Kenley Jansen walked off the mound, unable to tame the remorseless beast that is the Astros offense. No one on his team could, not Sunday, in a game that lasted 5 hours 18 minutes and pushed the Dodgers one defeat away from the offseason, down 3-2 in the series. The outcome felt cruel, for the Dodgers did not wilt. They just could not hold back their opponents.
“This is it,” Jansen said. “We can’t hang our heads.”
Their best was not good enough. The Dodgers handed Clayton Kershaw seven runs of support — and lost. They grabbed a lead on a fortuitous run-scoring triple by Cody Bellinger in the seventh inning — and lost. They overcame a three-run deficit in the ninth inning — and lost. They trusted Jansen to keep them afloat — and lost. The Astros were too much, too deep, too resourceful.
“This is not going to be finished Tuesday,” Yasiel Puig said. “There is going to be a Game 7.”
Puig spoke well past 1 a.m. in Texas, a fine time for bravado. His teammates could only mumble platitudes to match his confidence. They had already unloaded their best shots on their opponents.
Facing a deficit in the ninth, Puig rocked a two-run homer, setting a World Series record with the 22nd in the five games. At the stroke of midnight in Houston, a single by Chris Taylor sprayed through the center of the diamond and tied the score 12-12. It gave the Dodgers life when it felt as if they had been turned into dust.
Attempting to protect a one-run lead in the seventh, Roberts broke his pregame pledge to avoid using reliever Brandon Morrow for the third day in a row and the fifth time in six days. Morrow convinced Roberts he could pitch, in a decision Morrow would later describe as “selfish.” The Astros pilloried Morrow for his confidence.
Outfielder George Springer atoned for a defensive gaffe that led to Bellinger’s triple by launching a redemptive, scoree-tying homer on the first pitch he saw to spark a four-run pounding. Let down by Kershaw, unsure who to trust in his bullpen, Roberts permitted Morrow to face three more batters. He threw six pitches in all.
Astros Alex Bregman is mobbed by teamates after hitting the game winner aginst the Dodgers in the 10th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Astros celebrate a tenth inning win over the Dodgers in game 5.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Astros celebrate a tenth inning 13-12 win over the Dodgers in game 5.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Astros Brian McCann celebrates with pinch runner Derek Fisher to beat the Dodgers(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Astros Alex Bregman gets the game-winning hit against the Dodgers in the 10th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Astros Brian McCann holds his wrist in pain after being hit by a pitch from Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen in the 10th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers Yasiel Puig hits a two-run home run in the 9th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Cody Bellinger snags a foul ball from the stands in the ninth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
There is a lot of numbers on the Minute Maid Park scoreboard,(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher Brandon Morrow sits in the dugout alone after giving up the lead in the 7th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clayton Kershaw walks back to the dugout after giving up four runs to the Astros in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the 2017 World Series.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kenley Jansen meets at the mound with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt in the tenth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Turner is tagged out at 3rd base on a failed sacrafice bunt form Kiki Hernandez in the seventh inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )
Carlos Correa hits a two-run home run against the Dodgers in the seventh inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
George Springer crosses the plate ahead of Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, who homered off of the Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda in the fifth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Carlos Correa of the Astros celebrates after hitsing a two-run home run in the seventh inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Carlos Correa celebrates his two-run home run with Astros teammate Jose Altuve, right, in the 7th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Carlos Correa of the Astros reacts after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning.(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
Jose Altuve hits a three-run homer off Dodgers reliever Kenta Maeda in the fifth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The Astros’ George Springer can’t come up with a ball hit by the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger during the seventh inning.(Eric Gay / AP)
Alex Bregman of the Astros tags out Justin Turner of the Dodgers at third base during the seventh inning.(Bob Levey / Getty Images)
Yuli Gurriel is swarmed by Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa after hitting a three-run homer off of Dogers starter Clayton Kershaw in the fourth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kenta Maeda reacts after Jose Altuve hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
George Springer crosses the plate ahead of Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, who homered off Kenta Maeda in the fifth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Cody Bellinger celebrates his home run in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the World Series.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger hits a three-run homer in the fifth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clayton Kershaw gives up a three-run home run to the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel in the fourth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Cody Bellinger hits a three-run home run against the Astros in the fifth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Logan Forsythe scores during the fourth inning.(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve can’t get a glove on a hit by the Dodgers’ Charlie Culberson during the fourth inning of Game 5.(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
Logan Forsythe is safe at second base on a steal as Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve holds up the ball.(TANNEN MAURY / EPA)
Clayton Kershaw pitches during the first inning of Game 5.(Pool / Getty Images)
Former United States Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush speak to the crowd before Game 5.(Pool / Getty Images)
Dodgers fan Edward Santos, whose family is from the Philippines, sports a jersey with the phrase “Icanmakerice” before Game 5.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
After a single and a run-scoring double, Morrow watched a towering parabola rise off the bat of shortstop Carlos Correa. The ball landed in the left-field Crawford Boxes, a shot that felt like an exclamation point for the 43,300 at Minute Maid Park, one of whom rushed the field wearing a stars-and-stripes shorts but no shirt.
“This whole series has been an emotional rollercoaster,” Roberts said.
The lows can sink so deep, and the highs can feel so fleeting. Earlier in the game, the offense flattened Dallas Keuchel by the fourth inning and scored four runs. Kershaw coughed them up in a fourth-inning flurry that ended in a three-run homer by first baseman Yuli Gurriel. After Bellinger unleashed a three-homer in the fifth, Kershaw walked two batters and watched from the dugout as second baseman Jose Altuve tied the score once more with a three-run blast against Kenta Maeda.
After a sterling performance in Game 1, in which he swallowed any lingering anxiety and struck out 11 Astros, Kershaw wilted Sunday. Houston mauled him for six runs. His command did not accompany him when he returned to the mound for the fourth. After a walk by Springer and a single by Altuve, Correa whacked a double.
The next pitch from Kershaw detonated the crowd. It was an 89-mph slider, spinning helplessly before Gurriel unloaded on it. The baseball crashed into an advertisement above the left-field wall. Kershaw crumpled on the mound.
“I just lost my command a little bit there,” Kershaw said. “That’s all it took.”
The gesture did not work. Roberts attempted to squeeze another inning out of Kershaw. The gambit appeared safe, until Springer took a two-out walk. Bregman outlasted Kershaw with a 10-pitch walk.
In seven previous outings this October, Maeda yielded only two hits. His third stung, as he fed Altuve a 94-mph fastball over the heart of the plate. Altuve left no doubt. His three-run homer landed on a porch overhanging the 404-foot sign in center field.
The tie lasted into the seventh. With a runner at first, Bellinger sizzled a 100.3-mph liner into center field. Springer dove for it. The ball bounced past him for a triple. The Dodgers were ecstatic. The drama had only begun.
Into the fray came Morrow. The Astros bludgeoned him. Yet, the game was only in the seventh, leaving a lifetime in this era of baseball. Seager supplied a run-scoring double in the eighth. Tony Cingrani gave up a solo homer to catcher Brian McCann in the bottom of the inning.
The three-run rally by the Dodgers in the ninth kept the game going.
The Astros partied. The Dodgers mourned. The game did not end the 2017 season. It only felt like the culmination of it, in which the balls seemed enhanced, the homers seemed endless and the cost of it all felt so taxing.
“Everybody’s pretty exhausted after that one, emotionally and physically,” Kershaw said. “It’s a tough one.”