Most of the Houston Astros had already left for the night, but there was Marwin Gonzalez, still in his uniform sitting in front of his locker, and George Springer standing next to them, looking at one another, and giggling like kids.
It was almost as if they needed one another to validate this zany evening, making sense of it all.
Here they were, the heroes of the game Wednesday, with Gonzalez hitting the game-tying home run in the ninth inning, and Springer hitting the game-winning two-run homer in the 11th, but they still couldn’t quite fathom what just happened.
“What a game!’’ Springer said to Gonzalez. “What a game!’’
Gonzalez grinned, looked at Springer and simply said, “Wow! Bleeping wow!’’
Yes, that about sums up the Houston Astros’ 7-6, 11-inning comeback/blown/comeback/hang-on victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, in one of the wildest World Series games ever played, with 54,293 fans at Dodger Stadium staying until the end, absolutely mesmerized by the 4-hour, 19-minute madcap affair.
“It’s the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,’’ Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said, “but it’s also got to be the greatest game I’ve ever played in.
“And I know privately everybody in here thinks the same.
“It was ridiculous.’’
For eight innings, it had folks thumbing through the record books, with the Dodgers on the verge of becoming the first World Series team to win a game with only two hits since the 1963 Dodgers, back when Sandy Koufax beat Whitey Ford and the New York Yankees, 2-1, with Frank Howard obtaining the only two hits.
And then, insanity, where the World Series turned into Home Run Derby.
“I have to tell you,’’ said Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who failed to hit a fair ball out of the infield until his 10th-inning homer, “this is one of the craziest games I’ve ever played.’’
There were a record eight home runs hit in the game, six in the final three innings, and five in extra innings.
The Astros became the first team in postseason history to hit three homers in extra innings, which is ludicrous, considering there had been only 17 extra-inning homers in the 113-year history of the World Series.
“Obviously, the balls are juiced,’’ said Astros Game 1 starter Dallas Keuchel, who lost his voice in the celebration. “I think they’re juiced 100%. But it is what it is. I’m just glad we came out on top.’’
There were 6,105 homers hit in the regular season, more than 400 homers hit than even in the height of the steroid era, so maybe this home run show shouldn’t have been such a shock.
Yet, in the history of the World Series, we’ve certainly never seen anything like it.
“There are really powerful guys in this league,’’ Keuchel said, “and they’re going to get theirs. But where you can tell a difference is the mid-range guy who’s hitting 20-plus home runs now.
“That doesn’t happen. That’s not supposed to happen.’’
Only it did this evening.
“That’s what Major League Baseball wants,’’ Keuchel said. “They want that exciting two home-run lead, and then they (the Dodgers) come back and hit another home run, and everybody’s still watching. That’s what they want. That’s what they’re getting.’’
There were plenty of nutty moments leading up to the zaniness, with a ball caroming off Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor’s cap to save a run in the third inning, and Chris Devenski’s pickoff throw that hit second baseman umpire Laz Diaz in the upper leg to prevent Enrique Hernandez from advancing to third in the 10th.
And, the wild sabermetric madness that led to manager Dave Roberts pulling starter Rich Hill after only 60 pitches, despite striking out seven batters and yielding just three hits in four innings. Employing three relievers in a five-pitch span. And running out of every reliever by the 11th inning, finally resorting to starter Brandon McCarthy, who had not thrown a pitch since Oct. 1, and was making his first career postseason appearance.
The result was the Dodgers’ losing their first game of the year when leading after eight innings, having gone 98-0, while their bullpen’s postseason record 28-inning scoreless streak was snapped.
“That’s an incredible game on so many levels,’’ Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, “so many ranges of emotion. If you like October baseball, if you like any kind of baseball, that’s one of the most incredible games you’ll ever be a part of.’’
It will be forever treasured in Astros history as the night the Astros won the first World Series game in franchise history, at 12:36 a.m. ET, with Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and second baseman Jose Altuve hugging one another, and the outfielders running into one another for a full body slam, jumping and down in excitement.
“If you had to describe our team by one game,’’ said Bregman, who drove in the game’s first run the old-fashioned way, with a third-inning single, “it was this game right here.
“There’s so much failure in this game, it’s how you come back from it. And this team does a great job overcoming adversity
“We won our first World Series game, so everybody’s so pumped up, but that’s not the goal with us.
“Our goal is to win the whole damn thing.’’
The World Series may be tied at 1-apiece, but the Astros feel as if they can close it out in their house, with the next three games played at Minute Maid Park. The Astros are 7-0 at home in the postseason, and now that they have all of the momentum, they don’t plan on leaving town again until spring training.
The Astros’ fate might have been different if Gonzalez, without an RBI since the AL Division Series, hadn’t take All-Star closer Kenley Jansen deep to lead off the ninth inning, tying the game, and absolutely stunning the Dodgers.
“We’re not here if Marwin Gonzalez doesn’t hit a ball to center field against the best closer in baseball,’’ Hinch says.
Gonzalez became only the 10th player time in World Series history to hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning, and two innings later, the Astros had three more, including back-to-back homers by Altuve and Correa in the 10th, and Springer’s two-run homer in the 11th.
“Marwin’s homer was by far the biggest of the game,’’ Springer said. “If he doesn’t have that at-bat, who knows what happens in this game. Once he did that, we were all able to relax.’’
Well, except for starter Justin Verlander, coming up to the dugout after the Astros had blown a 5-3 lead in the 10th, and screaming: “Let’s bleeping go. We got this. Keep bleeping raking.’’
It was a game in which the Astros had the lead in the third inning, tied in the fifth, trailed in the sixth, tied it in the ninth, went ahead by two runs in the top of the 10th, was tied in the bottom of the 10th, went ahead by two runs in the 11th, and hung for dear life to win it.
“We went from hitting two home runs off a former teammate (Dodgers reliever Josh Fields) who we all love,’’ Keuchel said, “to giving up two runs, to getting back 2 runs, to giving up a home run, to having (Yasiel) Puig up.
“It doesn’t get any better than that.’’
Maybe, it was just that kind of night, where only emotions, and not words, can adequately describe it.
“Wow! Bleeping wow!’’
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook.