We all thought Game 2 was the climactic pinnacle that would come to define the 2017 World Series between the abnormally deep, star-studded Los Angeles Dodgers and the tenacious, explosive Houston Astros. Four days later, it’s nothing but a distant memory, paling in comparison to what can only be described as pure, concentrated insanity on a baseball diamond.
Game 5 is undeniably the most purely exciting game in MLB history. It was so exhilarating, those possessing apathy or even disdain for America’s pastime could momentarily perceive beyond the facade of an ostensibly “boring” sport and come to truly understand why mass participation in its fandom is such a rabid mania successfully ensnaring the hearts and souls of people who dutifully invest into its intoxicating ethos. If you believe the previous sentence to be overly-romanticized, hyperbolic schlock about a superficially mundane sport, you likely didn’t watch the Astros and Dodgers lay it all on the line for over five hours Monday night.
“Oh, there goes Ben, gushing about a children’s game in pretentious vernacular again like the big, dumb manchild nerd he is.” Yeah, you know, maybe. But I would insist that Game 5, an extra inning, 13-12 slugfest thriller, was a staggering microcosm of the myriad unfolding stories between an iconic playoff mainstay and a relentless newcomer playing with a ravaged city on its back.
With the Dodgers jumping out to an early 4-0 lead behind the best pitcher in the world, Clayton Kershaw, Houston appeared to be in dire straits, on pace to drop two of its final three home games and expecting to return to L.A. down 3-2 in the series.
Suddenly, the Astro offense awoke and ignited a domino effect of insanity that spiraled out of control long before the contest would end. A four-run fourth inning stirred the Houston crowd into an absolute frenzy, knocking Kershaw out of the contest and shifting the momentum 180 degrees in favor of the home team. Sure enough, L.A. responded immediately with three emphatic runs during the next half inning, robbing Astros fans of hope as soon as they sniffed it. Continuing the turbulent roller coaster ride, Houston icon and likely American League MVP Jose Altuve, the pride of short athletes everywhere, mashed a three-run homer in the following half inning, gridlocking the score at 7 and escalating the energy in Minute Maid Park to an arguable all-time high.
L.A. Houston. L.A. Houston. Back and forth, back and forth, lead change after lead change until the Astros finally emerged victorious after the Dodgers accomplished an improbable three runs with their backs to the wall to send the storybook game into extra innings. What makes this Game 5 in particular so uncanny is the near identical match it shares with each team’s story up until its first pitch.
The Dodgers, always the bridesmaid but never the bride, consistently jumpstarts regular seasons with a torrential pace, a stacked roster and more financial resources than any organization could hope for, yet always ends up belittled in October for faltering on the biggest stage in spite of their numerous advantages. While only the most cynical of fans could claim they choked in such a closely contested competition, the fact remains that they put themselves in a near-optimal position to stranglehold Houston into submission and once again let a golden opportunity slip through their grasp. While certainly not eliminated, it’s a feeling that L.A. fans have grown woefully accustomed to during the past decade.
The Astros face impossible odds in the middle of a metaphorical hurricane and represent a rare spark of hope for a city in ruin after a disastrous literal one, rising to a herculean challenge and refusing to concede. The people of Houston desperately needed something to get excited over, and, like the 2013 Boston Red Sox before them, the narrative of tenacity and unity that the Astros have consistently displayed through the playoffs, World Series and especially Games 2 and 5 is a perfect match to uplift those devastated by tragedy.
By the time this article is published, Game 7 will have definitively dictated the next baseball champion – if last season’s zany conclusion between the Cubs and Indians is any indication, things could, somehow, get even crazier. However, Game 5 will always be the one to remember, as it not only perfectly encapsulates what it means to follow either the Dodgers or the Astros, but, more importantly, reminds baseball fanatics that the impossible is never out of reach while simultaneously inviting outsiders to understand its potentially unrivaled allure. For my money, it doesn’t matter who wins – Houston and L.A. have already imprinted their mark in history.