George Springer homered and Justin Verlander was on cruise control. The Astros were nursing a 1-0 lead in the unfriendly confines of Chavez Ravine. Back in Game 2, the Dodgers got to Verlander in the middle innings and the offense made a late-inning surge to end with a 7-6 extra-inning classic.
Taylor, Pederson embrace after win
(c) AFP Photo
The Dodgers, true to form, scored twice on Verlander in the sixth, added an insurance run in the seventh and their bullpen held on for a 3-1 verdict that will force a Game 7 for the World's Championship Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The World Series is currently tied at three games each.
Springer's homer came off Rich Hill in the third inning, a solo shot to left which gave Houston fans visions of an all-night celebration. But more scoring opportunities were few and they couldn't convert the ones they were given. Houston finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
The Astros had just wasted a 2-on, 2-out scoring chance which caused Verlander a long wait. Austin Barnes began the Dodger half of the sixth with a single to left and Chase Utley was hit by a pitch. Chris Taylor cracked a 1-2 pitch into right for a double that tied the game. Utley then scored on Corey Seager's sacrifice fly.
It might have been worse but Verlander retired Justin Turner on a foul pop and fanned Cody Bellinger with his 93rd pitch of the night.
Joe Musgrove took over in the seventh and gave up a solo shot to Joc Pederson on another 1-2 pitch. Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers' fourth reliever, slammed the door with a two-inning save that included no hits or walks, and three strikeouts. He needed 19 pitches (18 strikes) to finish Houston off.
So now it's down to one last game where the Astros have never traveled before, certainly not in November. One city will wind up celebrating a title and the other will feel highly disappointed. The Astros will start 24-year-old Lance McCullers, who did well in Game 3. He'll face 30-year-old Yu Darvish who was drubbed in less than two innings of work in Houston but has a long history of owning the Astros.
This will be an "all hands on deck" night just like Game 7 of the A.L.C.S was. In that game, you'll recall, Charlie Morton pitched the game of his life and McCullers got the first save of his career. This time, it might be Morton coming in for McCullers but it could also be Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski or even Dallas Keuchel if a few lefty hitters need to be retired. Verlander is highly unlikely although he might tell Manager Hinch he could go an inning or two.
If Darvish flounders, expect a quick hook and a conga line of Dodger hurlers with everyone, including Hill, a possibility. The 3-4 part of the Houston lineup that is Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa have been feast or famine in recent games. It will be bad sign if they are famine. For the Dodgers, keeping Seager and Turner off the bases will be critical while turning Bellinger back into a strikeout machine will be important.
Houston, you've waited long enough for a World's Champion. Let's hope the wait ends Wednesday on the same field where the Astros won their first division crown.
- Bob Hulsey