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This Astros-Dodgers World Series Is Already One Of The Best Ever

In one of the longest games in World Series history, the Houston Astros gained a 3-2 series lead with an incredible 13-12 win that featured unexpected meltdowns, a barrage of home runs, numerous late-inning comebacks and some of the most exhilarating baseball in history. Including an equally wild Game 2, this World Series is already one of the most exciting in baseball history — no matter what else happens.

With aces Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel facing off, you wouldn’t have guessed the game would produce 25 total runs. But both were removed before the start of the sixth, and this time it wasn’t because of managerial meddling. Keuchel was chased after allowing four runs, and Kershaw suffered an even worse fate (six runs in four and two-thirds innings). Half of that damage came on a Yulieski Gurriel blast that evened up a seemingly insurmountable 4-1 Dodgers lead.

That was just the beginning. A parade of relievers followed: By the time the night was over, each side used six different bullpen arms. None could stop the bleeding for long, with four Dodger pitchers and three Astros allowing runs. Los Angeles raced to a 7-4 lead in the fifth only to be tied again in the bottom half of the inning. Houston looked like it had sealed the deal for good when catcher Brian McCann launched a home run to put them up 12-9 to enter the ninth inning. But then the Dodgers clawed their way back, evening the score to send the game to extra innings. The see-saw marathon finally ended after midnight local time, when Alex Bregman singled home the winning run.

The two powerful offenses combined for the second-most runs in a World Series game ever1 and broke numerous home run records along the way. Amid speculation that World Series balls have been altered — in a season full of juiced-ball theories — the two teams hit seven homers. Just as the 2017 regular season was the year of the home run, this postseason has smashed the all-time homer mark.

Because of the volley of comebacks and the high-leverage home runs, this game established itself as one of the most compelling in World Series history. By averaging the win probability added — basically, the degree to which each play contributes to a victory — across all the plays in a game, it’s possible to quantify how earth-shaking the average play was, and by extension how exciting each game is. And by that metric, last night’s game comes out as the second-most thrilling in World Series history.

This year’s World Series has two of the best games ever

Top 20 World Series games in average win probability added, 1903-2017

WORLD SERIES GAME AWAY HOME INNINGS SCORE AVG. WPA
2011 6 TEX STL 11 9-10 +6.7%
2017 5 LAD HOU 10 12-13 +6.2
1912 2 NYG BOS 11 6-6 +6.1
2000 1 NYM NYY 12 3-4 +6.1
1910 4 PHA CHC 10 3-4 +6.0
1924 7 NYG WAS 12 3-4 +5.9
1980 5 PHI KCR 9 4-3 +5.9
1960 7 NYY PIT 9 9-10 +5.9
2001 4 ARI NYY 10 3-4 +5.9
2005 3 CHW HOU 14 7- 5 +5.9
1975 6 CIN BOS 12 6-7 +5.9
1923 1 NYG NYY 9 5- 4 +5.8
1980 3 PHI KCR 10 3- 4 +5.7
1973 2 NYM OAK 12 10-7 +5.7
1972 5 CIN OAK 9 5-4 +5.7
1946 1 BOS STL 10 3-2 +5.6
2017 2 HOU LAD 11 7-6 +5.6
1986 6 BOS NYM 10 5-6 +5.6
1912 8 NYG BOS 10 2-3 +5.6
1936 5 NYG NYY 10 5-4 +5.5

Source: Baseball Gauge

Even more impressive: Game 5 isn’t the only game from this Series on the list: Game 2 ranks 17th, just one spot ahead of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. To put that in perspective: This series has already had two games more exciting than the famous Bill Buckner game and it’s not even over yet.

Combining all the games of the Series so far, this year’s matchup ranks 10th all-time by the degree to which the average probability of winning the championship moved on a given play. After five games, it currently places between the 1912 series that featured Boston and the New York Giants and the 2001 seven-game series between the Diamondbacks and Yankees — which featured numerous memorable moments (like this or this or this). Perhaps George Springer’s decisive home run from Game 2 and Sunday night’s homer barrage will be this year’s version of those iconic plays. And all of this is still only through five games; Games 6 and (if necessary) 7 carry even more championship leverage — and therefore more chances for big swings in each team’s series odds.

With the Series heading back to Los Angeles, the Astros retain a 69 percent probability of winning the title — and a 48 percent chance of closing it out in Game 6 with ace Justin Verlander taking the hill on Tuesday in Chavez Ravine. If that does happen, the 2017 World Series will still be remembered as an all-time classic. But with the way this matchup has gone, it feels almost inevitable that it will all come down to one heart-pounding, comeback-infused Game 7.

Footnotes

  1. Trailing only this similarly epic battle between the Phillies and Blue Jays in 1993.

Rob Arthur is FiveThirtyEight’s baseball columnist and also writes about crime.

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