The World Series is saving baseball. Again.

As television ratings for NFL games slide for a variety of reasons, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers have been battling in one of the most compelling Fall Classics in the history of the game.

We knew this year’s series would have a hard act to follow. Last year, the Cubs broke a 108-year championship drought, capturing our attention and our hearts. The ratings for that series were the best since 2004 – when the Red Sox were busy breaking their own decades-long drought.

How could the 2017 series, featuring two teams from west of the Mississippi, possibly compete with the numbers posted by Joe Maddon’s Cubbies? By battling through some of the greatest October baseball games ever played.

The Dodgers’ 6-2 win in Game 4 was the second most-watched Saturday night World Series telecast since the Sox beat the Cardinals 11-9 in Game 1 back in ’04. Overall, the ratings for the Series don’t quite match last year’s, but viewership through five games is the second-best at this point of a series since 2009.

And those numbers will only go up if it goes seven games.

Two of the five games in the Series have gone to extra innings, including the Astros’ 13-12 win in 10 innings on Sunday night. It was a game that saw Houston come back from 4-0 and 7-4 deficits – and then blow a 12-9 lead – before celebrating a walk-off win. It drew better ratings than the Sunday night NFL telecast.

We’ve already seen a World Series-record 22 home runs hit in five games, a series with more emotional moments than you’ll usually find in a month of baseball.

It took 5 hours, 17 minutes to play the game, the second-longest in World Series history. Yet no one was complaining about the length of this one. Most of us would’ve stayed up another hour or two if the home run bashing continued.

For years, baseball has had to defend itself against criticism that the game is too slow and too boring for our touch-screen society. Yet there was nothing boring about the 25-run battle we saw Sunday night. This was like a schoolyard basketball or driveway hockey game. Last run wins.

Commissioner Rob Manfred suddenly finds himself running an industry that has a little momentum behind it. He has been an outspoken proponent of initiatives that would speed up the pace of play in games. That hasn’t changed, even with this exciting postseason. In fact, this should serve as a groundswell to be even more proactive in bringing changes like a pitch clock or a limit to mound visits into the game before next season. We’ll sit through more than five hours of a World Series game; we’re highly unlikely to do it on a random Tuesday night against Cleveland.

One of the beauties of baseball is how it has endured throughout the history of our country. It survived world wars, domestic disasters and civil unrest. Baseball has often brought a city or country back together in the days following horrific events.

The Astros rallied against the Dodgers on Sunday night wearing Houston Strong patches on their uniforms, thrilling a city that is still trying to regroup in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Throughout the country fans are uniting to watch a series that continues to find new ways to amaze us. All of this at a time when our nation is as divided as it has been in decades.

None of that should come as any surprise. Baseball is doing what it has always done.

In 2017 we’ve got one, maybe two more nights to be thankful for that.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.