HOUSTON — There’s this notion, as crazy as it sounds, that baseball somehow isn’t good anymore. Every year, this notion gives birth to endless headlines about baseball dying. Or baseball not being exciting enough. Or baseball only being a sport for people who have been watching baseball for 40 years.
Well, that notion walked into the 2017 World Series and got laughed right out of the room. Or perhaps more fitting: Someone swung a bat at it and crushed it over the fence.
This may not be the easiest thing to admit for fans of the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, who live and die with each pitching change and each game-tying homer (and oh, there have been a lot of both), but if you put your rooting interests aside and just look at this World Series for its pure entertainment value, you have to admit it’s been amazing.
And as the series heads back to L.A. with the Astros leading 3-2 and a possible Game 7 looming, there’s still the possibility that this series could get even crazier.
We’ve seen Clayton Kershaw throw a masterpiece in Game 1, an absolutely bonkers finish in Game 2, the Astros offense exploding in Game 3 and the Dodgers roaring back in Game 4.
But nothing so far has topped Game 5 at Minute Maid Park on Sunday night. It was an NFL Sunday’s worth of drama, with the over-the-top excitement of WWE. We’re talking 25 runs, 28 hits, seven homers and five lead-changes. Oh, it was long — 10 innings, five hours and 17 minutes. There were 417 pitches thrown by 14 pitchers. But anybody who complained about the length, well they just don’t like to be entertained.
This was entertainment, from the Dodgers four-run first inning to the Astros’ 10th inning walk-off.
There was the Astros clawing back three times to tie the Dodgers. Then the Dodgers coming back in the ninth to tie the game, down to their final out. Then Alex Bregman with the walk-off base hit to give Houston — and, yes, this was the real score — a 13-12 win
How could you not love it and, more importantly, how could you not love this series?
People watching at home had some version of the same take: “OMG, this game.” Didn’t matter which team you rooted for. Same on both sides. Fans at Minute Maid Park were riding the same roller coaster. They put their heads between their knees. One guy got out of his seat and marched onto the concourse when the Dodgers tied it up — just to walk off that anger. “I can’t,” another woman said, as she covered her eyes. And boy did they celebrate when the Astros finally won.
The players were blown away too, although the two clubhouses reacted a little bit differently, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
“I thought Game 2 was crazy,” said Astros pitcher Brad Peacock. “But this one definitely tops it for me. I may have a heart attack before it’s all over.”
In the Dodgers clubhouse, however, Corey Seager hadn’t yet had enough time to appreciate the crazy, historic nature of the game his team had just lost.
“Not really right now,” Seager said. “Not really right now.”
With time, Corey. As of right now, it doesn’t feel far-fetched to call this game an instant classic, and this series a classic that’s not finished yet. You don’t need to know how Shawshank ends before you call it a great movie.
Just consider all this:
• The Dodgers and Astros have already set a World Series record for most homers in a series. Yasiel Puig’s in the ninth was the 19th in the series. And there are still two games left!
• According to MLB.com’s David Adler, in addition to the homer record, this series has also set records for most players to homer (14), most go-ahead home runs (8) and game-tying homers (6).
• The Astros in Game 5 were the first team in MLB history to have five different players homer in a World Series game.
Now consider all the characters and storylines we’ve been watching for five games.
There’s Clayton Kershaw, the guy who keeps having to prove his legacy and falling painfully short — like setting a record for homers allowed. There’s Jose Altuve, the 5-foot-6 MVP who swings a bigger bat than anybody and is now one of only eight players to hit seven homers in a single postseason.
There’s the NL Rookie of the Year favorite, Cody Bellinger, who lost his stroke, then found his stroke and really found it in Game 5. There’s the guy whose beard makes him look like Teen Wolf, the guy whose beard makes him look like he’s in an alt-folk band. Not to mention the guy with blue hair who swears this series is going to seven games.
And someone out there would dare say that baseball is boring? Not even close. Not this postseason, where every series has been thrilling. Not this series, which is sizing up Game 6 and thinking, “What other records you got?” Definitely not these two teams, who — if nothing else — have entertained the heck out of anybody who’s been watching them for the past week.
It all might end in Game 6 with Justin Verlander on the mound for the Astros. Or Puig might be right and we’re going to a Game 7.
Either way, you’d be silly to think this isn’t exciting enough to watch.
– – – – – –
More World Series coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Recapping one of the wildest World Series games ever
• Story behind Astros fan who stole home-run ball
• Puig guarantees Dodgers will force Game 7
• Dodgers pitcher: My ‘selfish’ decision cost us Game 5