By Frank Pingue
HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Houston Astros escaped a thrilling home-run filled clash with a 13-12 extra-innings victory against Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday to be one win away from their maiden World Series title.
After blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning during which they had the Dodgers down to their final strike, Houston closed out one of the wildest games in World Series history when Alex Bregman hit a walk-off single in the 10th inning.
"Back and forth, the two best teams in baseball fighting to the very end and going toe to toe with each other," Bregman told reporters. "Everybody was used on both teams, pretty much, every single player. It was special for us to come out on top."
Each team had their left-handed aces on the mound to start the pivotal fifth game of the best-of-seven series but both the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and Astros' Dallas Keuchel failed to produce the pitchers' duel many had expected.
By the time the final out was recorded in a game that had it all and kept the capacity crowd on their feet most of the way, the Dodgers and Astros had combined for a whopping seven home runs, including a trio of three-run blasts.
The Astros, who lead the series 3-2, now have two chances in Los Angeles to win their first World Series championship since the inception of the franchise 55 years ago.
"We knew going into this series, this is the best offensive ballclub that we were going to see all year. And they can slug you. They spoil pitches. They're athletic. And credit to them," said Dodges manager Dave Roberts. "But our guys did the same thing. They just got the hit when they needed."
After rallying back from four, three and one-run deficits, Houston finally pulled in front when Jose Altuve's run-scoring double made it 9-8 just two batters after George Springer tied the game with a solo shot.
Carlos Correa's two-run homer before the inning was over stretched the Astros lead to three but Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager doubled in a run in the top of the eighth to pull his team to within 11-9.
On a night when no lead was safe, the Astros fans remained a tense bunch even after Brian McCann's eighth-inning homer gave the Astros their biggest lead of the night, 12-9.
But the drama was only getting started as the Dodgers stormed back in the ninth compliments of Yasiel Puig's two-run shot and a run-scoring single from Chris Taylor before sending it to extra innings.
Kershaw, who enjoyed a pitching masterclass in the series opener, was locked in early but the wheels came off and by the time he left the game had allowed six runs and four hits with two strikeouts and three walks over 4-2/3 innings.
Keuchel also had a rough night as he loaded the bases in the first before a Logan Forsythe single scored a pair. The Dodgers added another before the frame was done and Keuchel left the game after allowing four runs on five hits through 3-2/3 innings.
"It's hard to put into words all the twists and turns in that game, the emotion, doing it at home, in front of our home crowd," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch.
"Just exactly what you expect to come to the park with Keuchel and Kershaw pitching. Just a perfect setup game for a bunch of runs," he added jokingly.
Game Six is scheduled for Tuesday in Los Angeles where the Dodgers will send Rich Hill to the mound while the Astros will counter with Justin Verlander.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)