Astros win epic slugfest 13-12, take 3-2 series lead

Derek Fisher celebrates the game-winning run. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After having Dallas Keuchel struggle and put them down in a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 hole against Clayton Kershaw, the Astros offense had a magical night to win a back-and-forth slugfest to win Game 5 and now own a 3-2 series lead, putting them one win away from a championship.

Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve both hit game-tying three-run home runs early in the game, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Brian McCann hit homers of their own later in the game, but it was Alex Bregman's walk-off hit in the tenth that made the difference as Houston goes on to beat the Dodgers 13-12 in an offensive clash for the ages.

Chris Taylor started Game 5 with a leadoff single up the middle off of Dallas Keuchel, then moved to second after a one-out walk of Justin Turner. Keuchel issued another walk to load the bases, then gave up a two-out single by Logan Forsythe to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. The Dodgers made it 3-0 as Kike Hernandez came home during a pickoff attempt of Forsythe who got stuck between first and second but made it safely after a wide throw by Gurriel that put Altuve too far away from the bag to make the tag in time. In the bottom of the inning, Clayton Kershaw made quick work of the Astros, retiring them in order on 12 pitches.

Keuchel was much better in the top of the second and was able to get a 1-2-3 inning to keep the Dodgers off the bases. Kershaw continued to overpower the Astros bats in the bottom of the inning, making it a six up, six down inning to send the 3-0 game into the third.

Keuchel continued to bounce back from the bad first inning, retiring the Dodgers in order again in the top of the third. Evan Gattis was the first baserunner for the Astros after getting a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning but was the first out in a double play hit by Marwin Gonzalez. Kershaw then got a groundout to end the third and maintain his team's 3-0 lead.

In the top of the fourth,  Keuchel gave up a one-out double to Forsythe who then scored on a two-out single by Austin Barnes to make it a 4-0 Dodger lead. Keuchel then allowed an infield single to Charlie Culberson, resulting in A.J. Hinch ending his short, disappointing night to bring in Luke Gregerson from the bullpen who was able to get a strikeout to end the half inning. Springer worked a leadoff walk against Kershaw in the bottom of the inning, then moved to second on a one-out single from Altuve. Correa was up next and lasered a ball into left-field to get the Astros on the board and make it a 4-1 game. Gurriel was up next and tied the game with one amazing swing, launching a ball off the wall above the Crawford Boxes to tie the game at 4-4 and send Minute Maid Park into a frenzy. Kershaw was able to get a flyout to end the inning, but the damage had been done.

Collin McHugh took over on the mound for the Astros in the top of the fifth and issued back-to-back walks to start the inning. That would turn into a go-ahead three-run home run by Cody Bellinger to give the Dodgers the lead back at 7-4. In the bottom of the inning, Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks prompting a call to the Dodgers bullpen to bring out Kenta Maeda. Altuve tied the game up yet again, getting a two-out three-run homer of his own to make it 7-7 before Maeda could get out of the inning and send the tie game to the sixth.

McHugh returned in the top of the sixth and worked around a one-out walk with a flyout and strikeout to get through the half inning. Maeda likewise continued on the mound for the Dodgers, but issued a one-out walk and was then pulled in favor of Tony Watson. Watson was able to strand the inherited runner and keep the game tied headed to the seventh.

Brad Peacock was next out of the bullpen for the Astros in the top of the seventh and allowed a leadoff double to Turner before throwing Turner out at third on a bunt by Hernandez. Hernandez came around to score on a missed diving attempt by Springer on a hit by Bellinger that made it all the way to the center field wall, giving the Dodgers the lead again, 8-7. Without missing a beat, Springer led off the bottom of the inning by rocketing a ball to the train tracks in left field off of Brandon Morrow to, yet again, tie the game. Bregman was next and singled, then hustled to score on an Altuve double, giving the Astros their first lead of the night, 9-8. The offense didn't stop there, Correa followed and hit a two-run homer to extend the lead to 11-8, still with no outs in the inning, resulting in another call to the Dodgers' bullpen. Tony Cingrani took over for the Dodgers and was able to get three consecutive strikeouts to bring an end to another long, epic inning.

In the top of the eighth, Brad Peacock allowed a one-out double to Joc Pederson, then had a pitch get away from him that hit Chris Taylor, putting runners on first and second with one out, and bringing A.J. Hinch out of the dugout to bring in Will Harris. Harris allowed an RBI double to Corey Seager to make it 11-9, then got Justin Turner to fly out to right before another call to the bullpen, this time for Chris Devenski, who was able to get a groundout for the third out. Tony Cingrani stayed on the mound for the bottom of the inning, but he too fell victim to the Astros as McCann hit a one-out solo shot to make it 12-9 and prompt bringing in Ross Stripling. Stripling was able to work around a single by Springer to get a double play to send the game to the ninth.

Devenski was brought back out for the top of the ninth and allowed a one-out, two-run home run to Yasiel Puig to make it a one-run game at 12-11, then a double to Austin Barnes who advanced to third on a groundout for the second out. Barnes would score on a two-out single up the middle by Chris Taylor, tying the game at 12 before Devenski was able to get the third out. Kenley Jansen took over for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth and worked around a two-out double by Yuli Gurriel to send the game to extra innings.

In the top of the tenth, the Astros turned to Joe Musgrove who was able to work around a one-out single by Andre Ethier to get through the half inning. Kenley Jansen was back out for his second inning of work in the bottom of the tenth and after hitting Brian McCann with a pitch issued a walk to George Springer. Derek Fisher came out to pinch-run for McCann, which proved to be the difference as Bregman singled to score Fisher and win the five-hour long game.

Game 6: Both teams get tomorrow off as the series shifts to Los Angeles for Game 6 and possible Game 7. First pitch of Game 6 from Dodger Stadium is scheduled for 7:20 PM Central Tuesday night. The Astros will send out their postseason hero, Justin Verlander, who despite giving up three runs over six innings in Game 2 of this series has been incredibly good for Houston. The Dodgers will send out Rich Hill who has not gone more than 5 innings and has allowed at least one run in all three of his postseason starts. An Astros win will end the series and give Houston its first championship in franchise history.

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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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