Los Angeles — At this rate, Justin Verlander might very well hit his first home run for real.
A classically poor-hitting pitcher, the Houston ace knocked one over the wall last week at Dodger Stadium in batting practice. Maybe that bolstered his belief that this batch of baseballs is slick and juiced.
On Tuesday night, Verlander, the former Tigers star, aims to lead the Astros to their first championship when he faces the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of a power-packed World Series that’s already set the mark for home runs.
“We’re just making memories right now,” Astros catcher Brian McCann said, a day after he homered.
A total of 22 homers so far, more than 1½ miles of dingers.
These nightly episodes of home run derby are connecting with fans, too — in much of the country, they stayed up well past midnight to watch Houston outlast the Dodgers 13-12 in 10 innings at Minute Maid Park, TV numbers showed.
With each swing, perhaps this Series really is becoming more riveting.
George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and McCann launched longballs in the Astros’ back-and-forth thriller. Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig homered for the Dodgers — seven different players on each side have homered.
“This is not going to be finished Tuesday. It’s going to be Game 7,” Puig said.
Springer has hit three in the Series. His assessment of Game 5: “Bedlam.”
“This is the craziest atmosphere I’ve ever played in, the craziest results, just big hit after big hit, big play after big play,” the Houston leadoff man said.
Major League Baseball set a record this year for most home runs in a season and, fittingly, Minnesota leadoff man Brian Dozier began the playoffs with a homer.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, meanwhile, has been tagged for a record eight home runs in a single postseason. Gurriel got him in Game 4, and Houston has 13 overall against the Dodgers.
Did anyone expect this many at this time in October? Surprising, right?
“I guess a little bit, just because both teams are putting up incredible at-bats in the most important times,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday on a conference call.
“I think we realize on the pitching side, both teams are at the very end of their rope,” he said. “Their mistakes are getting hit. But the volume is certainly record-setting, and certainly the intensity of the moments that are ending in home runs is hard to fathom.”
Dodgers lefty Rich Hill, a Michigan alum, opposes Verlander, looking for his first World Series title after appearing in the Fall Classic with Detroit in 2006 and 2012, in a rematch from Game 2. That night, the teams wound up combining for a Series-record eight home runs, with Houston holding on to win 7-6 in 11 innings.
Los Angeles reliever Ross Stripling was among 14 pitchers, seven on each side, who worked in the Game 5 slugfest.
“If we can just hold them to less than 12 runs, we can get some wins,” Stripling said.
There were 6,105 home runs during the regular season, an average of about 2.5 homers per game. There have been 4.4 per game in the Series.
The ball has been flying out of the ballpark all year,” said Justin Turner, whose tiebreaking homer helped Los Angeles win the opener, when the gametime temperature was 103 degrees.
“So, no, it’s not surprising. I will say that you might see a little bit different game here tomorrow night, a little bit different weather. It’s going to be a lot cooler here than it was for the first two games, and it might be a different ballgame than you’ve seen in the first five games.”
RATINGS A HIT
Houston’s 13-12, 10-inning victory over Los Angeles was the second-most watched World Series Game 5 since 2003, trailing only the Cubs’ 3-2 win over the Indians last year.
Fox said Sunday’s game averaged 19.6 million on its three outlets, drawing 18,940,000 on the main Fox Network, 496,000 on Fox Deportes and 172,000 on the digital stream Fox Sports Go.
That was down 21 percent from 24.2 million for last year’s Game 5: 23.6 million on Fox, 342,000 on Fox Deportes and 135,500 on Fox Sports Go, Last year drew the most viewers for a fifth game since the Florida Marlins beat Cleveland 8-7 in 1997.
Viewers on the main network peaked at 20,755,000 from 11:45 p.m. to midnight EDT, and the average from 1 a.m. until the last out at 1:39 a.m. EDT was 18,942,000.
The game drew a 32.8 rating and 52 share in the Los Angeles, the highest for baseball in the market since the Anaheim Angels beat San Francisco in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. The Astros’ win drew a 32.9/53 in Houston.
Fox’s main network is averaging 16,397,000 through five games, down 15 percent from last year’s 19,288,000.
Game 5 actually outdrew Sunday night football between the Steelers and Lions, a rarity.
The rating is the percentage of television households watching a broadcast, and the share is the percentage tuned in among those households with televisions on at the time.
Fox’s main network is averaging 16,397,000 through five games.
Houston vs. L.A. Dodgers
(Best-of-7; x-if necessary)
Astros lead, 3-2
Game 1: L.A. Dodgers 3, Houston 1
Game 2: Houston 7, L.A. Dodgers 6 (11 innings)
Game 3: Houston 5, L.A. Dodgers 3
Game 4: L.A. Dodgers 6, Houston 2
Game 5: Houston 13, L.A. Dodgers 12 (10 innings)
Tuesday: at L.A. Dodgers, 8:20, Fox
x-Wednesday: at L.A. Dodgers, 8:20, Fox