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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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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