Column: Astros get the must-win game they need over the Dodgers and — BAM — it’s a World Series

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and pitcher Kenley Jansen talk about the Game 2 loss to the Houston Astros.


The first blast shocked. The second blast stunned. The third blast silenced. The fourth blast finished.

Bam, bam, bam, bam, the Dodgers have lost a World Series game, a World Series advantage, and every bit of World Series momentum.

After three weeks of partying, a full Dodger Stadium crowd fell into hushed mourning Wednesday night at a sight they thought they would never again see this season.


The Dodgers blew it. The Dodgers blew it big. The Dodgers lost a game that could have set them on an unalterable course toward a World Series championship, one that instead has sent their title hopes careening back into limbo.

Three outs from beating a second consecutive Houston Astros ace and taking a seemingly insurmountable two-games-to-none lead, the Dodgers’ great Kenley Jansen allowed a game-tying homer in the ninth. Then bullpen mate Josh Fields allowed two home runs in the 10th. Then George Springer hit an eventual game-winning, two-run shot against Brandon McCarthy in the 11th for a 7-6 Astros victory.

“It sucks to be on our end of it,” said McCarthy, and that’s one word for it.

Four longballs squelched what seemed to be a foregone championship-style conclusion. Four dingers landed into the laps of Dodgers fans who were so dizzied, one fool even leaped into the Astros’ bullpen during the barrage as if that would help.

It didn’t. The series is tied at one game apiece. The next three games are in Houston, where the Astros are unbeaten in six playoff games this season. In a span of four fat pitches, the seemingly untouchable Dodgers have suddenly become vulnerable.

“It’s huge,” said Justin Verlander, the Astros ace who was bailed out by the homers. “I think the ability to win this game tonight, I mean, you can’t quantify how much that means. For everything to be going right for the Dodgers tonight, late into their bullpen, and for us to come back and win that game, I mean, that’s a game changer.”

In the other clubhouse, some of the Dodgers wandered around in a daze, other huddled in front of the lockers, while McCarthy stared into space as he gamely faced all questions.


One of which was, what he was feeling?

“Numbness that will turn into anger and frustration,” he said, and surely that speaks for all Dodgers fans?

The numbness occurred in the ninth when Jansen, the dominating closer who had not allowed an earned run this postseason, lost an 0-and-2 pitch into the barrel of the bat of Marwin Gonzalez, who drove it over the center-field fence for a home run.

Full Coverage: Astros defeat Dodgers, 7-6, to even World Series at one game each >>

The sellout crowd became silent, as if not believing their eyes. The Dodgers stared out past center field as if they had seen a ghost.

“He’s been virtually unhittable,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts of Jansen. “It just doesn’t always go as planned.”

With the game tied at 3-all, the anger then took over when Fields, part of a bullpen that had earlier completed a postseason-record 28 consecutive scoreless relief innings, allowed consecutive 10th-inning homers to Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. This included Correa celebrating with a monstrous bat flip that surely raised eyebrows in the Dodgers’ dugout.


“Obviously Correa put a good swing on it and he does what he does,” said Roberts.

What happened next was great theater, and helped create what Verlander called, “an instant classic,” but forgive the Dodgers if they won’t be watching this one again, ever.

In the bottom of the 10th, the Dodgers tied it up on Yasiel Puig’s homer — after which the usual bat flipper laid his bat gently on the ground — and Enrique Hernandez’ run-scoring single on which he advanced to second on the throw home. But the inning ended when Hernandez couldn’t advance on a wild Chris Devenski pickoff attempt because the ball hit umpire Laz Diaz, and Chris Taylor flied out to center, and that was only setting the stage for more heartbreak.

In the 11th inning against McCarthy, absent from the first two rounds and having made only three appearances since July 20, Cameron Maybin singled and Springer went deep.

“It kind of happened quickly, to see it get out was pretty tough,” said McCarthy.

It wasn’t quite done after Charlie Culberson homered in the bottom of the 11th, but Devenski struck out Puig to end a battle that many will love but Dodgers fans will hate.

Great drama. Lousy finish. Blown lead. Series up for grabs.

Some will want to blame Roberts for removing starter Rich Hill after four innings of three-hit ball and relying so much on his bullpen, but it’s hard to argue with a pattern they’ve followed all postseason while winning eight of their first nine playoff games and setting those bullpen records.


This time, Jansen just got beat, setting the stage for the mess that followed. This time, at the worst possible time, the bullpen magic just ran out.

The Dodgers can hope they find it again, and soon.

“We don’t see why we have to put our heads down,” said Hernandez. “We’re never going to give up. I’d rather be one-to-one than down 0-and-2 right now.”

The Dodgers will try to restore that sort of confidence for Game 3 in Houston on Friday, when they will face young Lance McCullers Jr. while countering with All-Star Yu Darvish. With this kind of matchup, they could easily regain their mojo.

But suddenly, anything seems possible here at the dreary end of night that began so brightly.

The tone for the game was set in a first-pitch ceremony that was a wonderful mix of chills and history. It began with the retired Vin Scully walking to the mound to a standing ovation and cries of “Scu-lly, Scu-lly.” He immediately launched into some storytelling because, well, of course.

“Boy, it’s a long walk to the mound,” Scully said into a microphone. “You know what I’m thinking right now? Somewhere up in heaven, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges are laughing their heads off ... look who’s throwing out the first ball at the World Series!”


Scully then called for a catcher, and out trotted 1981 World Series hero Steve Yeager to another huge ovation.

Still standing alone on the mound, Scully then raised his left hand to deliver the pitch and suddenly stopped, claiming he had rotator cuff problems and required relief from the bullpen. With the crowd now in full roar, out trotted Fernando Valenzuela, who threw a perfect screwball to Yeager.

At that point, Scully encouraged all the Dodgers fans to join him in shouting out a trademark saying that he hoped would be heard all the way to Houston. Sure enough, it’s never sounded louder.

“It’s time for Dodger baseball!” the voices screamed.

For a long while Wednesday night, it appeared that it was indeed time for Dodger baseball, championship baseball, and that this World Series could be soon nearing its end.

Now — bam, bam, bam, bam — it is just getting started.

The Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series


Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke


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