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’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.
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.
Astros center fielder George Springer celebrates his two-run home run against the Dodgers in the 11th inning of Game 2.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )
Fans at Dodger Stadium react as Houston wins a Game 2 thriller, 7-6, in 11 innings.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
George Springer exults after his 11th-inning home run.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Disappointed Dodgers fans.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig strikes out to end the game.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A happy Houston Astros fan at Dodger Stadium.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
George Springer and Cameron Maybin celebrate after a two-run homer by Springer off Dodgers reliever Brandon McCarthy in the 11th inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers fan Ethan Czypinski, 7, of San Dimas wears his baseball glove under his World Series hat while watching a tense Game 2 at Dodger Stadium.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Kenley Jansen turns toward the outfield after giving up a game-tying homer to Astros left fielder Marwin Gonzalez in the ninth inning.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
The throw to Astros catcher Brian McCann is too late as Dodgers second baseman Logan Forsythe scores in the 10th inning on a single by Enrique Hernandez to tie the Game 2 score at 5-5.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Yasiel Puig sits with his head in his hands after not being able to catch what turned into a ground-rule double off the bat of Astros third baseman Alex Bregman during the seventh inning.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig throws his glove in anger after not being able to catch a ground-rule double by Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
A fan watches Houston take a 7-6 victory in 11 innings on Wednesday night.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers reliever Brandon McCarthy paces behind the mound as Astros center fielder George Springer circles the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the 11th inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers left fielder Charlie Culberson celebrates as he circles the bases after hitting a home run in the 11th inning to cut the Dodgers’ deficit to 7-6.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers fans wave souvenir towels as they cheer on the Dodgers from the top deck section during Game 2 of the 2017 World Series.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers second baseman Logan Forsythe scores the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning after a hit by Enrique Hernandez.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chris Taylor can’t get to a home run by Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez during the ninth inning of Game 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Fan Angel Rodriguez of East Los Angeles wears his Dodgers pride on his face while watching Houston win 7-6 in the 11th inning to even the series.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa greets teammate Marwin Gonzalez after he hit a solo home run off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning to tie the score, 3-3, and force extra innings.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Corey Seager reacts after hitting a two-run home run during the sixth inning against Astros pitcher Justin Verlander.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Andrew Vialpando, center, cheers with other Dodgers fans while watching the World Series at The Short Stop in Echo Park.(Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)
Corey Seager lets out a yell as he hits a two-run home run against Houston starting pitcher Justin Verlander in the sixth inning.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers left fielder Joc Pederson celebrates after hitting a solo home run, which broke up Justin Verlander’s no-hit bid and tied the score, 1-1.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers left fielder Joc Pederson connects for a solo home run against Houston’s Justin Verlander.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Chris Taylor is tagged out by Astros shortstop Carlos Correa in the fourth inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodger starter Rich Hill watches as Justin Turner throws to first base after fielding Justin Verlander’s sacrifice bunt in the third inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rich Hill delivers a pitch during the first inning of Game 2. Hill would work four innings, giving up one run on three hits, all in the third inning, while striking out seven.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes catches a foul ball hit by Astros third baseman Alex Bregman during the first inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig catches a fly ball hit by Astros shortstop Carlos Correa with his tongue out during the first inning of Game 2.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes falls the ground after catching a foul ball hit by Astros third baseman Alex Bregman during the first inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Actor Jason Bateman yells at Astros shortstop Carlos Correa during the first inning.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Fernando Valenzuela, Vin Scully and Steve Yeager walk off the field after the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The crowd cheers after honoring Vietnam veterans while country music star Brad Paisley sang the national anthem before Game 2.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers legends Vin Scully, left, and Fernando Valenzuela throw out the first pitch before the start of Game 2.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig sports a new dye job before the start of Game 2.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers ace Clayotn Kershaw meets with country singer Brad Paisley before the start of Game 2.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, share a light moment before the start of Game 2.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers outfielder Enrique Hernandez, right, shares a light moment with hitting coach Turner Ward before the start of Game 2.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers fan Wendy Perez, of Los Angeles, holds up 7-month-old son Ezra Perez, her “lucky charm,” in the upper level before watching the Dodgers play the Astros in Game 2.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A Corey Seager fan watches an Astros pitcher work out in the bullpen before Game 2.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Mike Eliason, dressed in a Justin Turner wig, high-fives Dodgers fans before Game 2.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers fan Robbie Tabares, 6, of Whittier takes in the view of his first World Series from the upper deck.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers fans take photos before watching the Dodgers play the Astros in Game 2.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers season-ticket holder Gilbert Romero sports his Dodgers sombrero and beads in upper deck before the start of Game 2.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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.”
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
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