Pitching returns to World Series as Dodgers force Game 7
LOS ANGELES — Gravity appeared to return to the World Series on Tuesday as the Los Angeles Dodgers used cooler temperatures and an icy resolve to help force a deciding Game 7 on Wednesday.
The Dodgers’ 3-1 victory in Game 6 over the Houston Astros was in stark contrast to the 25-run onslaught both teams delivered Sunday in a Game 5 that gave the Astros a brief advantage in the matchup.
A World Series that has seen a record 24 home runs had just two Tuesday, with Joc Pederson’s late-inning drive to the opposite field in left the most significant. It gave the Dodgers a two-run cushion in the seventh inning, and closer Kenley Jansen was able to rebound from some early-series wobbles to finish off a six-out save.
The Dodgers might have shown they were good enough to get to this position when they went on a 44-7 run in the regular season behind a dynamic offense. But what might have helped them most Tuesday was what they learned about themselves during a 1-16 stretch late in the year.
“It’s been the same thing all year in that whatever happens the day before is over with,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. “We had a chance to win a ballgame tonight, and we did that. It will be the same thing tomorrow. (Game 6) won’t mean a whole lot. You have to go out and find a way to win a game (Wednesday).”
Corey Seager’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning gave the Dodgers the lead for good, and the World Series will head to a winner-take-all title game for the second consecutive season. There has been a Game 7 in three of the past four World Series.
The Dodgers will try for their seventh World Series title all time and first since 1988. The Astros will be playing for their first championship in their second World Series ever.
“This is when you’re a young kid and you’re kind of trying to play through all the heroes and heroics and talking about a Game 7 in the World Series, and here we are,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I know that we’re happy to be at home. And tonight was very energetic, exciting. I know we love being in front of our fans, and I know we’ll be ready to win a baseball game.”
The Dodgers trailed 1-0 against Astros starter Justin Verlander when they started their comeback in the sixth inning. Austin Barnes hit a leadoff single before pinch hitter Chase Utley was hit by a pitch.
Chris Taylor followed with an RBI double to tie the game 1-1 as the crowd of 54,128 erupted. Seager flied out to the warning track to bring home Utley. With the 100-degree temperatures in Los Angeles during Games 1 and 2, Seager’s drive might have carried into the seats. Dodger Stadium is known to produce fewer home runs during night games.
It is not as if Pederson had an issue with the damp marine layer. In the seventh, Pederson went deep against Astros reliever Joe Musgrove, his third homer of the World Series and fourth this postseason.
“I think we won because we have 25 guys all pulling on the same string,” said Pederson, who has rebounded this postseason after being demoted following the acquisition of Curtis Granderson in August. “We all have each other’s backs. You’ve been watching the series, it’s been quite hectic, emotionally draining, mentally, physically, everything you could think of. And we stick together. And we find a way to produce runs and our bullpen shut them down, and it’s a group effort.”
A Los Angeles bullpen that was a strength all season has a 4.50 ERA during the six games of the World Series, allowing nine home runs. But the Houston bullpen sports a 7.29 ERA and has given up six home runs.
“Listen, it doesn’t matter that they scored runs off us, whatever has happened in the past, the great thing about this bullpen is that we all let that go and don’t think about that anymore,” said Jansen, who followed scoreless relief outings from Brandon Morrow, Tony Watson (2-0) and Kenta Maeda. “We keep believing in ourselves and we just want to go out there and try to win ballgames.”
George Springer continued his World Series offensive onslaught with a third-inning home run, hitting a 1-0 fastball from Dodgers starter Rich Hill over the wall in right field.
Springer’s fourth home run of the series came after a Game 5 in which the center fielder became just the second player in World Series history to hit a home run, walk three times and score three runs in a game. Barry Bonds in 2002 was the only other player to accomplish the feat.
Verlander (0-1) was locked in through five innings, giving up a second-inning single to Yasiel Puig and nothing else. After Puig’s single, Verlander had retired 11 consecutive batters heading into the fateful sixth inning.
“I thought (Verlander) was good, especially early,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “He brings so much energy and so much aggressiveness to the game. And I thought he entered the game with that. And I thought he was obviously cruising. He had the one hiccup in the middle of the game, but that was about it.”
The Astros put together a rally in the fifth against Hill, getting a single from Brian McCann and a double from Marwin Gonzalez to open the inning. Hill retired Josh Reddick and Justin Verlander before giving way to Morrow, who retired Alex Bregman on a groundout to end the threat.
Hill went 4 2/3 innings, giving up one run on four hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He threw just 58 pitches after throwing 60 pitches over four innings in Game 2.
Verlander allowed two runs on three hits over six innings in Game 6, with nine strikeouts and no walks. In Game 2, also at Dodger Stadium, he gave up three runs on two hits over six innings with five strikeouts.
The Astros will start right-hander Lance McCullers in Game 7, while the Dodgers will counter with right-hander Yu Darvish.
“This series was destined to go seven pretty much the whole time,” McCullers said. “I think we have two great teams here. I just have to stick with my game plan and execute a little bit better than last time in certain spots. And just be a competitor out there.”
NOTES: Dodgers RHP Brandon Morrow has appeared in all six World Series games. Only Oakland’s Darold Knowles (1973) pitched in all seven games of a single World Series. ... OF Andre Ethier set a Dodgers record by appearing in his 50th postseason game when he pinch-hit in the seventh inning. He flied out. ... With his third-inning home run, Astros CF George Springer has recorded an extra-base hit in five consecutive World Series games. ... The Astros had been 10-0, including the postseason, when RHP Justin Verlander started a game until the Game 6 defeat.