LOS ANGELES (AP) – George Springer screamed with joy as he circled the bases after hitting a two-run homer in the 11th inning.
Would it be enough? Was this the final plot twist on one of the wildest nights in postseason history?
Yes, it was – barely – and the Houston Astros won a World Series game for the first time in their 56 seasons.
Charlie Culberson hit a two-out homer in the bottom half off winner Chris Devenski, who then struck out Yasiel Puig in a tense, nine-pitch at-bat. The Astros outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-6 in a Hollywood thriller Wednesday night to tie the Series at one game apiece.
“This is an instant classic and to be part of it is pretty special,” Astros starter Justin Verlander said.
On a night of dramatic swings and a World Series-record eight home runs, Marwin Gonzalez stunned the Dodger Stadium crowd with a solo shot off dominant Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen on an 0-2 pitch in the ninth that made it 3-all.
Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hit consecutive home runs against Josh Fields in the 10th to build a 5-3 Astros lead, with Correa making a big bat flip to celebrate.
But there was more. Much, much more.
“That’s the craziest game that I’ve ever played in, and it’s only Game 2,” Springer said
Puig homered off Ken Giles starting the bottom of the 10th and Enrique Hernandez knotted the score 5-5 with a two-out RBI single.
Devenski entered and with Hernandez at second, a wild pickoff throw headed toward center field before it struck second base umpire Laz Diaz. An incredulous Hernandez put both hands on his head, unable to advance, and was stranded when Chris Taylor flied out.
Cameron Maybin, who had entered in the 10th, singled leading off the 11th against losing pitcher Brandon McCarthy, a surprise addition to the Dodgers’ World Series roster who was pitching for the first time since Oct. 1. Maybin stole second and Springer hit a drive to right-center for a 7-5 lead, just the third 11th-inning home run in the Series after shots by Kirby Puckett in 1991 and David Freese in 2011.
Springer, an All-Star leadoff hitter, was 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in the Series opener Tuesday.
Devenski retired Corey Seager and Justin Turner on lineouts in the bottom half. Puig checked his swing on a 2-2 pitch – the Astros jumped when first base umpire Gerry Davis signaled no swing – and Puig fouled off two more. Devenski threw his fifth straight changeup, and Puig swung over it as the Astros ran onto the field to celebrate after finally closing out a back-and-forth game that lasted 4 hours, 19 minutes.
“Oh my gosh, it was crazy. A lot of emotions, a lot of feelings,” Correa said. “The ball flies at this ballpark.”
After another steamy night in a Santa Ana heat wave, the series shifts to Texas and resumes Friday at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, where the retractable roof has not been open for a game since June 8. Lance McCullers Jr. starts for the Astros and Yu Darvish for the Dodgers, who acquired him from Texas at the July 31 trade deadline.
Houston is 6-0 at home in the postseason, where the Astros have outscored the Red Sox and Yankees by a combined 31-7, but just 2-5 on the road.
Before Gonzalez’s home run, the Dodgers had an 85 percent chance of winning, according to Fangraphs. After Correa’s long ball, the Astros were a 93 percent favorite.
“Up, down, up, down, up,” Springer said, describing his emotions over the last few innings. “That’s a heck of a game right there.”
Verlander, wearing an undershirt, entered the dugout in the 11th inning to scream at his teammates that the game was not over.
Alex Bregman’s RBI single in the third gave Houston its first lead of the Series, a hit that might have turned into a three-run, inside-the-park homer had not the ball bounced off the bill of Taylor’s hat in center and deflected right to Joc Pederson in left.
Los Angeles had just two hits through seven innings but led 3-1 behind Pederson’s fifth-inning solo homer and Seager’s two-run drive in the sixth against Verlander. It was Pederson’s first home run since July 26.
Jansen entered with a 3-1 lead for his first six-out save in a year after Bregman doubled leading off the eighth against Brandon Morrow, a ball that ticked off the glove of a diving Puig in the right-field corner.
Correa’s RBI single off Jansen ended a record 28-inning postseason scoreless streak by the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Gonzalez was an unlikely candidate for a tying homer. He had not driven in a run in his 45 plate appearances since Houston’s postseason opener.
As the slanting sun illuminated the green hills of Elysian Park behind center field and the ochre-tinted San Gabriel Mountains beyond, retired Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully took the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. The 89-year-old, who left the booth in 2016 after his 67th season, charmed the crowd when he began “somewhere up in heaven, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges are laughing their heads off” at his presence on the mound. He feigned an arm injury and turned the ritual over to Fernando Valenzuela, who helped the Dodgers win their 1981 title.
The game-time temperature was 93 degrees – down 10 degrees from the opener. Celebrities in the sellout crowd of 54,293 included golfers Tiger Woods and Fred Couples, and former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning.
Houston improved to 10-0 in nine starts and one relief appearance by Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner obtained in a trade from Detroit at the Aug. 31 deadline to be eligible for the Astros’ postseason roster.