Lance McCullers was good. Brad Peacock was even better. Together, they tamed the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday for a 5-3 victory that put the Astros in a commanding 2-1 lead in the 2017 World Series. It's possible for the Astros to win their first World's Championship without having to return to California but they'll have to go through Clayton Kershaw to do it.
Infielders give props to Peacock on save
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Yu Darvish used to own the Astros. The Japanese-born righthander, while with the Rangers, often dominated the Spacemen, including on the road. But that was a couple of surgeries ago and the 30-year-old isn't whom he once was.
Darvish absorbed a leadoff double by George Springer in the first without allowing him to score. In the second, however, Yuli Gurriel greeted him with a solo homer into Crawford Boxes to give Houston the lead.
Josh Reddick followed with a double to left and DH Evan Gattis drew the first of his three walks on the night. Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann followed with base hits to plate Reddick and Gattis respectively. Alex Bregman completed the scoring with a sacrifice fly that brought home Gonzalez as the sellout crowd roared their approval. Kenta Maeda had to finish the inning for Darvish.
Wildness allowed the Dodgers a run in the third without getting a hit. McCullers issued three walks to fill the bases then Corey Seager rapped into a double play while the first L.A. run scored. McCullers coaxed a grounder from the dangerous Justin Turner to end the inning.
The Astros got that run back in the fifth when Reddick spanked a two-out single then Gattis hit a dribbler that was fielded by pitcher Tony Watson, who had relieved Maeda earlier in the frame. Watson's throw to first sailed off target and Reddick scored as the ball was retrieved from the outfield. Reddick slid in just ahead of the throw home.
McCullers seems to lose his effectiveness the third time through a lineup (many pitchers do) so when Seager walked and Turner cracked a double to lead off the sixth, the Houston bullpen jumped into action. After McCullers whiffed Cody Bellinger, who wore the "Golden Sombrero" for the night, Peacock entered in relief. McCullers allowed just four hits but walked four in 5-1/3rd innings.
Peacock did not allow a hit the rest of the way over 3-2/3rd innings for the save, but he did allow an RBI groundout in the sixth that plated Seager and a wild pitch that scored Turner. From then on, Peacock shut the door.
Once again, the contrast in hits allowed was stark despite the close score. The Dodgers managed just four hits while the Astros collected a dozen. Peacock's brilliance meant the rest of the Houston bullpen now has two days' rest while the Los Angeles pen had to account for 6-1/3rd innings of relief.
Los Angeles looks to lefthander Alex Wood to turn the Series around while Houston sends out Game 7 hero Charlie Morton in the 7:00 Central time fourth game, Saturday night at Minute Maid. Wood was particularly stingy this year away from Dodger Stadium (an anomaly from most Dodger hurlers) with a 7-1 record and 2.24 ERA. Morton was much stronger at home (10-3, 3.34 ERA) than on the road during the regular season.
If Houston wants to win the Series, they'll need to treat lefty pitching more like they treated Boston's and less like the Yankees.
- Bob Hulsey