The Houston Astros had lost the first game of the 2017 World Serie in Los Angeles and were trailing the Dodgers 3-2 entering the ninth inning of Game 2 on Oct. 25. Kenley Jansen had been largely invincible as the closer.
Utility player Marwin Gonzalez was playing right field for the Astros. He was 7-for-43 in a disappointing postseason. He hit a leadoff home run vs. Jansen to tie the game, and then the Astros tied the World Series with a 7-6, 11-inning victory.
Rich Hill started that game for the Dodgers and allowed one run in four innings, with seven strikeouts. Kenta Maeda was the first L.A. reliever and gave the Astros one hit and no runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Over this past offseason, the Astros were revealed to have aggressively stolen signals from catchers – including beating on a garbage can from the home dugout in Minute Maid Stadium.
Gonzalez’ huge home run came in Dodgers Stadium, and he has faced no accusation as to wearing a buzzer to learn what pitch was coming, as has Jose Altuve.
There was an attempt to break down percentages of garbage-can banging at home games, and Marwin did rank high on that list.
On Saturday, the Astros returned to Dodger Stadium for the first time since winning Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. No fans were permitted, although there were campaigns to fund airplane flyovers trailing signs demeaning Houston’s somewhat tainted championship. Turns out, the flyovers were not permitted because of smoky skies over L.A.
The Dodgers brought in Jansen with a 5-1 lead in the ninth. He did not get an out as the Astros scored five runs (four earned) against him. Houston then celebrated a 7-5 victory in the Dodgers’ Revenge Game as if it was the Game 7 win three years earlier.
Astros manager Dusty Baker, the replacement for A.J. Hinch (fired due to the sign-stealing brouhaha), said: “That was the win of the year. Hopefully, we look back on this as the turning point of the season.’’
Also on Saturday night, the Twins were playing Cleveland at Target Field in Game 2 of an important three-game series. They had won the opener on Friday, 3-1, when Maeda cruised through seven innings to outpitch Shane Bieber, the A.L.’s Cy Young Award front-runner for this abbreviated season.
Hill was the Twins starter in Game 2. He went five innings, allowed two runs, six base runners and struck out seven. Good enough the win as the Twins hit five home runs in an 8-4 victory.
Gonzalez, hit a two-run home run vs. Zach Plesac to get the Twins started in the second inning. He came into the game in a 2-for-24 dive and with his average seemingly headed for sub-.200.
Boom. The home run off Plesac was followed by another hit on Saturday, and then a two-run home run in the third inning on Sunday. That came against Cleveland's impressive rookie, Triston McKenzie, and cut the Twins' deficit to 3-2.
The Twins wound up trudging their way to a 7-5 win in 3 hours, 43 minutes, sweeping Cleveland to take second place in the feisty AL Central. Marwin's home run was the first of four on Sunday, giving the Twins a total of nine in two games.
The need for Gonzalez to escape this Twins' slump certainly was not as urgent as for that World Series at-bat vs. Jansen. Yet, getting something out of Marwin gained importance this weekend, when the preferred second baseman, Luis Arraez, went on the injured list with an ongoing knee problem.
That makes Gonzalez the No. 1 second baseman for another week, minimum, and it’s a vital one with the Twins headed to Chicago to take on the first-place White Sox, followed by the Cubs’ collection of strong starting pitchers.
The Twins' goal must be to finish in the top four in the American League and get to play an opening three-game seres in Target Field, where they have played much better than on the road in this weird season.
No matter how that turns out, the mystical nature of baseball was on display on Saturday night.
Hill and Maeda had worked 5 1/3 innings to put the Dodgers in position to take a 2-0 lead in the 2017 World Series, and Gonzalez spoiled that by ascending from a slump against Closer Kenley.
And now those depressed Dodgers pitchers from that late October night three years ago were winning starters for the Twins vs. Cleveland, and with Marwin helping out on their side -- and while that was happening, the Astros welcomed themselves back to Dodger Stadium by not llowing Jansen to get an out as five runs scored.
I don’t care what you say, folks … that was some funky, connected stuff.