By HAL McCOY
Just call them the Houston Blastros and be done with it.
Not long ago, when the Houston Astros lost more than 100 games three years in a row, they earned the altered nickname of the Houston Lastros.
That is ancient history.
Down two runs in the eighth inning in Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Astros hit three home runs in an extra inning game — two in the 10th and one in the 11th to score a 7-5 victory.
In was an incredible, incredible game and the Astros had to dig deep to pull this one out to even the World Series at one game apiece.
The biggest blow of several big blows came in the top of the 11th inning, a two-run home run by George Springer after Cameron Maybin led the inning with a single. That broke a 5-5 tie.
How did that happen. The Astros took a 5-3 lead in the 10th, but the Dodgers scored two in the bottom of the 10th to re-tie it.
Houston’s double play combination of second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa doubled up on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 10th.
They led the 10th with 840 feet worth of back-to-back home runs to give the Astros a 5-3 lead. Altuve had struck out his first two at bats on six pitches.
But Yasiel Puig homered to lead off the bottom of the 10th. Then after Houston closer Ken Giles struck out two and was one out away from finishing it, he walked Logan Forsythe on a close full count pitch.
Giles threw a wild pitch to put Forsythe on second and he scored on a single by Enrique Hernandez to tie it, 5-5.
Then came Springer’s two-run homer in the top of the 11th. End of it?
Not in his unbelievable wild and wooly game. With two outs in the bottom of the 11th, Charlies Culberson homered, the eighth home run of the game, to cut Houston’s lead to 7-6 and bring up Yasiel Puig as the tying run. Houston pitcher Chris Devensky slipped two quick strikes past Puig. Then Puig checked his swing a couple of times, fouled off two 3-and-2 pitches, finally striking out on a pitch in the dirt.
And it was finally over, 4 hours and 19 minutes after it started, Houston’s first World Series victory in franchise history after losing their first five.
LA manager Dave Roberts’ season-long method of quickly pulling his starting pitcher and relying on the bullpen to close it out backfired on this important night.
He pulled starter Rich Hill after four innings when the game was tied, 1-1, and Hill pitched a hissy fit in the dugout over his premature removal.
It looked good, though, in the sixth inning when the Dodgers scored two runs to take a 3-1 lead.
Getting that lead was unusual, too. They had only two hits over six innings against Houston starter Justin Verlander, both home runs.
Houston took a 1-0 lead in the third on three straight singles, with Alex Bregman’s single to left scoring the run.
Verlander faced the minimum 14 hitters until he had two outs in the fifth. He issued a walk in the fourth but that runner was erased with a double play.
But with two outs in the fifth, Joc Pederson drilled a game-tying home run with LA’s first hit.
Verlander retired the first two in the sixth, but walked Chris Taylor and shortstop Corey Seager hit an opposite field home run to make it 3-1.
Verlander left after six, giving up three runs, two hits, two walks and he struck out five.
But Roberts put himself in a real bind by removing Hill after four. Before the game ended he used nine pitchers.
He started Ross Stripling in the seventh with the 3-1 lead, but when he issued a four-pitch walk to his first batter, Roberts removed him for Brandon Morrow.
Morrow gave up a leadoff double to Alex Bregman to start the eighth and Roberts immediately went to closer Kenley Jansen, asking him to get six outs to preserve the game.
It didn’t happen. Jansen gave up a run-scoring single to Carlos Correa, the first run giving up by the LA bullpen in 30 innings. But the Dodgers still led, 3-2.
Jansen went back for the ninth, three outs from victory.
It didn’t happen. Marwin Gonzalez, without an RBI in his last 45 at bats, led the inning by reversing a 0-and-2 Jansen pitch over the center field wall to tie it, 3-3.
It was Jansen’s first blown save of the post-season after he converted 41 of 42 save opportunities in the regular season.
Then came the extra-inning extra-curriculars.
The Astros put their leadoff hitter on base in nine of the 11 innings. They scored six runs after the eighth inning, scoring in each of the last four innings.
The top four hitters in the Astros lineup — George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, had nine hits, three homers and drove in six runs.