After a tidy World Series Game 1 on Tuesday played in 2 hours, 28 minutes — the fastest Fall Classic game in a quarter-century and easily the fastest playoff game this season — the Astros and Dodgers did their best to create mass sleep-deprivation during Game 2 Wednesday.
The extra-inning affair clocked in at well over 4 hours. But in this case, I don’t think anyone was complaining. And if you’re a baseball fan who went to bed before it was over, you woke up this morning with more regrets than those who stayed up late.
In case you missed it, here are a few thoughts about the whole thing:
*The sheer volume of drama, weird/amazing plays and records from Game 2 is staggering. Here are just SOME of the things that happened in the 7-6 victory for the Astros that finally ended after 11 innings.
- The Astros tied the game in the ninth with a home run. They went ahead in the 10th with two home runs, only to have the Dodgers tie it in the bottom of the 10th (after being down to their last strike). The Astros then went ahead again in the 11th, finally for good, with another home run. They became the first team in postseason history to hit home runs in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings.
- The Dodgers, meanwhile, didn’t have a hit that wasn’t a home run until there were two outs in the 10th — and that hit tied the game. The teams combined for eight home runs, a World Series record.
- There was a ball that bounced off the hat of the Dodgers centerfielder. There was a ball that glanced off Yasiel Puig’s glove in right field, then over the wall for a ground-rule double. There was a pickoff attempt in extra innings that nailed the second base umpire in the thigh. Great games need weird plays. This one had it.
- Through it all, the Astros not only managed to remain undefeated in games started by Justin Verlander but also won their first World Series game in franchise history.
*It all made for great theater and did the thing a great game should do: It made me care deeply and watch intently even though I don’t really care about either of the two teams. If you live in Minnesota, a Los Angeles vs. Houston World Series doesn’t have much inherent appeal from a rooting interest standpoint. There’s a chance, though, that this game was just the beginning of an epic series that demands our attention regardless of that.
*From a Twins perspective, this series is both daunting and heartening. The Twins won 85 games this year and made a surprising appearance in the AL Wild Card game before losing to the Yankees — a team that lost in seven games to these Astros in the American League Championship Series.
Houston won 101 games this season. Los Angeles won 104. This is the first World Series between two 100-win teams since 1970. The Twins were a combined 1-8 against the Dodgers and Astros this season. Those nine games — and this series — are evidence of the gulf that exists between a fringe playoff team and an elite team.
It’s hard to imagine the Twins coming remotely close to matching the starting pitching and starting lineups both teams can run out there. It’s equally hard to imagine the Twins — as currently constructed — navigating the late innings against these teams.
That said, the Twins are in the midst of a building process, not at the end of it. Houston lost at least 106 games every season between 2011 and 2013, and then lost 92 in 2014. Their bottoming out period fell more or less in line with the Twins’ bottoming out. In 2015, the Astros won 86 games and made the playoffs. Last year they dipped to 84 and missed the postseason. This year they won 101, and they look to be here to stay.
It’s premature to suggest the Twins’ ceiling is as high as the Astros’ ceiling. Houston has more fully developed talent and more high-end contributors right now. But if the Twins’ lineup continues to develop as it did in 2017, while the pitching staff — by some combination of prospect development and smart spending — finds some dominant contributors, Minnesota could very well be the 2017 Astros by 2019 or so.
*The home runs these teams hit, by the way, are not an accident. Parker Hageman showed us a great statistic Wednesday on Twitter: The Dodgers and Astros were the top two organizations this season in terms of home runs hit across all levels of their minor league system.
This is by design. These 2 orgs’ MiLB teams had the 2 highest HR totals. They work to elevate. They talk launch angles. Viva the long ball. pic.twitter.com/oYX1dON4bJ
— Parker Hageman (@ParkerHageman) October 26, 2017
*The Astros led MLB with an .823 OPS during the regular season. The next-best team was at .785. They also hit the second-most home runs (238). But they also had the fewest strikeouts of any team in the majors. Translation: Hitting for power doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.
The home run that eventually won the game was a perfect example. With a runner on second and no outs, FOX analyst John Smoltz talked about how George Springer needed to at least advance the runner to third by hitting the ball to the right side. Springer stayed inside a slider and belted it the opposite way to right — and he hit it so hard that it not only advanced the runner but carried over the fence for a two-run homer.
It was the type of at-bat that Twins hitters started having more of down the stretch of 2017. It’s a winning approach. We’ll see if it carries the Astros to their first World Series title.
After Wednesday, I’m sure I won’t be the only one watching to find out.