2017 World Series Game 6 Recap: Do Or Die Time
Through the first five innings of Game 6 of the World Series, Houston's ace was painting the black with mid-90s fastballs that seemed to explode out of his hand. His breaking stuff was creating enough wind from Dodgers' bats to power a small town. Coming into the game, Verlander had posted a 0.46 ERA in series-clinching games, and thanks to an early home run from leadoff man George Springer, it felt as if momentum was on the Astros' side.
But thanks to a bit of wildness from the right-hander in his final inning and some terrific work by the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen, L.A. defeated Houston 3-1, forcing a do-or-die Game 7 tonight at Chavez Ravine.
It's what this Fall Classic deserved.
A Quick Hook...Again
The Dodgers managed to overcome 6 brilliant innings from Verlander, who gave up 2 runs on 4 hits with no walks and 9 strikeouts. He outlasted Rich Hill, who, like in Game 2, was pulled before he was allowed to face a single Houston batter for a third time. Hill went 4.2 innings and gave up 1 run on 4 hits with 1 walk and 5 strikeouts, but came through in the game's pivotal moment in the top of the sixth inning.
After allowing a leadoff single to Brian McCann and then a double to Marwin Gonzalez, Hill faced Josh Reddick with runners on second and third with no outs, already trailing 1-0. With Verlander dealing, any more runs by Houston could have put the game away. Hill fell behind Reddick 3-0, but battled back to record the strikeout on a nasty bender for the first out of the inning.
Rich Hill, Filthy 74mph Curveball movement. ðŸ¤¢ pic.twitter.com/lbIGeMVwTb
â€” Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 1, 2017
He followed that by striking Verlander out for the second out. The Dodgers decided to intentionally walk Springer, who has four homers in the World Series and is slashing .375/.483/.958, to load the bases and, surprisingly, Roberts then pulled Hill from the game with Alex Bregman coming to the dish.
Hill was not pleased.
Rich Hill with no regard for Californiaâ€™s water supply pic.twitter.com/Kz6BvLa5Tn
â€” Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) November 1, 2017
It was a fascinating decision, and one that could have backfired tremendously as the Dodgers' bullpen has struggled in the Fall Classic. So far this postseason, Los Angeles has been terrified of letting Hill face the Houston lineup for a third time despite the fact that he surrendered a slash line of .158/.208/.200 the third time through the order during the regular season. And while those numbers are not necessarily predictive of what would have happened, they at least combat the impression that Hill has traditionally fallen apart when hitters get a third look at him.
Over the last two seasons, Hill has gone 24-13 in 45 starts with a 2.78 ERA. He is the team's third-best pitcher and one of the best left-handers in baseball. And yet, in the postseason, the Dodgers have had a remarkably quick hook with him.
|NLDS Game 2||4.0||18||2||2||3||4||3|
|NLCS Game 2||5.0||19||1||1||3||8||1|
|World Series Game 2||4.0||18||1||1||3||7||3|
|World Series Game 6||4.2||19||1||1||4||5||1|
He hasn't given up more than two runs in any of his four postseason starts. However, he's failed to get out of the fifth inning in all but one despite an ERA of 3.48 during this time. Removing Hill was especially risky given the state of the Dodgers' bullpen, which had been victimized by the Astros in Games 3, 4 and 5 in Houston.
But in Game 6, the move paid off. Brandon Morrow, who became the first pitcher since Felix Rodriguez in 2002 to pitch in each of the first six games of a World Series, got out of the inning by coaxing a groundout from Bregman. Morrow has now appeared in 13 of the Dodgers' 14 playoff games and has thrown a whopping 159 pitches in this postseason. He stayed in the game to record the first two outs of the sixth inning before turning the ball over to Tony Watson, Kenta Maeda, and Kenley Jansen, who was once again asked to record a six-out save.
This time, he did.
As for Houston, they simply couldn't get their offense going on the road, a trend that has been there throughout the playoffs. The Astros scored 20 runs over the weekend in Houston (in three games), and have scored 22 all postseason away from Houston (in eight games). Their bats simply come alive in their home ballpark but struggle to create the same thunder away from home. Can they overcome that trend in Game 7?
Another Game 7
Wednesday's Game 7 will be the third time ever -- and first time since 1931 -- that two 100-win clubs will play a decisive final game of the World Series. The Astros will attempt to join the 1985 Kansas City Royals to become just the second team ever to win a Game 7 in the LCS and the World Series.
Since 1985, teams going home down 3-2 in a best-of-seven playoff series are 14-2 when they force Game 7. That's what the Dodgers did last night. Eight of the last nine teams to force a World Series Game 7 at home went on to win the series.
Home teams are 54-54 all-time in winner-take-all postseason games. The home team won the most recent one, the Astros in this year's ALCS Game 7. But L.A. is the home team tonight.
The Astros are 2-3 all-time in winner-take-all games on the road. One of those losses was at Dodger Stadium in the 1981 NLDS.
The Astros will become the fifth team ever to play multiple Game 7s in a single postseason, and the first to do so since the 1991 Braves.
The last time the Dodgers played a Game 7 in the World Series at home, Sandy Koufax was the starting pitcher (October 14th, 1965).
With a win, the Dodgers will become champions for the first time since 1988. Only the Cleveland Indians (69 years) and Texas Rangers (56 years) have gone longer without a championship than the Astros, who have been waiting 55 years.
Our metrics give the slightest of edges on Wednesday to the Dodgers , who have 54.3% odds of hoisting the World Series trophy for the first time in franchise history.
This World Series deserved a Game 7. And thankfully, we got one.