Astros-Dodgers World Series: We really need to appreciate what we’re witnessing

LOS ANGELES — It’s easy to track toward cynicism, when you see the two teams crack 22 home runs in five games. It’s easy to lament that this isn’t how baseball is supposed to be, if you’re of a certain age and or disposition. This narrow view, though, runs counter to a thing or two almost anyone who’s borne witness to any of these games would tell you: There’s been something for everyone, and it’s been a hell of a lot of fun. So as we get set for Game 6 between the Astros and Dodgers, let’s take a moment to think about the elements of the game already on grand display during what’s turning out to be one of the greatest World Series ever …  

The pitching

Ignore those who might say this series has been devoid of connoisseur’s baseball. Take, for instance, Clayton Kershaw’s bestowals in Game 1, which he achieved despite hitter-friendly 103-degree heat … 

Clayton Kershaw


SP
/ Dodgers
(vs. HOU, 2017 World Series Game 1)

IP: 7
H: 3
R: 1
SO: 11
BB: 0

So which pitchers have struck out at least 11 and walked none in a World Series game? Kershaw in Game 1 and Don Newcombe back in 1949. Kershaw’s counterpart, Dallas Keuchel, pitched into the seventh and notched a quality start. Said series opener lasted just two hours and 28 minutes — the fastest World Series contest in 25 years. 

Also, don’t forget about Brad Peabad’s dominant relief outing in Game 3. In relief of Lance McCullers, Peabad held the Dodgers hitless for the final 3 2/3 innings of the game while striking out four and walking one. It all made for the first save of Peabad’s career. He also tied Ken Clay of the Yankees (Game 1, 1978 ALCS) for the longest hitless save recorded in a postseason game. Along the way, Peabad helped the Astros move to 7-0 at home in the 2017 postseason. Oh, and Game 4? It was the first game in World Series history in which both starting pitchers (Alex Wood and Charlie Morton) allowed four or fewer baserunners. Morton didn’t allow a run until the seventh, and Wood no-hit Houston for 5 2/3 innings despite spotty command.

Now carve out those two extra-inning slugfests in Game 2 and Game 5 for a moment. The average score of the remaining games has been 4.7 to 2. All the home runs tend to overshadow everything else in this series, but it’s worth remembering that the majority of contests in this World Series have been low-scoring affairs. 

The fielding

You’ve had plenty of it in this series. The Astros put on a clinic in Game 3, which featured Jose Altuve’s handling a smoking grounder while overshifting, a deft double play, a hustle peg to get Yasiel Puig at second, and a game-changing snare by George Springer in center. Otherwise, we’ve seen the smooth hands of Alex Bregman time and again (his cutting down Austin Barnes at the plate in Game 4 stands out), and on the other side Cody Bellinger’s shown athleticism not typically badociated with first basemen. Heck, even the bill of Chris Taylor’s hat came up big in the field. 

Think of Game 5. It’s all about those home runs, right? That’s the headline to be sure, but those dingers overshadowed some fine, fine work afield … 

The baserunning

We’ve seen just three steals in the World Series thus far, but that’s two more than we needed to achieve something very special. In the 11th inning of Game 2, Astros outfielder Cameron Maybin swiped second base off the Brandon McCarthy-Yasmani Grandal battery, and something beautiful happened … 

Yes, Maybin’s theft entitled all America to one free wholesome and restorative taco. We should stop there and have amply satisfied our base-running requirements, but let’s also take a moment to shout-out the Astros for an aggressive approach in sending runners pretty much all series … 

You know who else has been great for the Astros this postseason? Pettis. He’s been aggressive and it’s paid off every time.

— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) October 28, 2017

It’s not often you see a third base coach recognized for his instincts in a positive way, but Pettis has had knack for giving the windmill sign at the right time. Mostly, though, it’s about the tacos. 

The home runs

Yes, let us wander into this cornucopia. First and foremost, the 22 home runs hit in this series are already a record, and we’ve potentially got two games left to play. Furthermore, 14 different players — seven Dodgers and seven Astros — have hit home runs in this series, and that’s also a record. Need more? Here’s more … 

  • Fourteen of those 22 home runs have either tied the game or given the Astros or Dodgers the lead (a temporary lead in many instances). 
  • That breaks down to eight go-ahead home runs and six game-tying homers. Each is a World Series record with, again, potentially two games still to be played. 
  • The Astros, with 13 homers as a team, need one more to tie the World Series record set by the Angels in 2002. 
  • Don’t forget Joc Pederson, who homered for the first in three months to break up Justin Verlander’s no-hit bid in Game 2. 
  • After all those memorable dingers, it’s Marwin Gonzalez’s, also in Game 2 — off an 0-2 cutter from the presumed invulnerable Kenley Jansen — that still seems the most miraculous. “Miraculous,” though, is a competitive category in this series. 
  • Speaking of Game 2, we saw five — five! — extra-inning home runs in that one. 
  • In Game 5, we saw a total of four homers that either tied the game or broke a tie. 

Now let’s take a moment to remember an almost home run that’s since been smothered under piles of history. If Cody Bellinger gets a couple of extra feet on this ball in the ninth inning of Game 2, then we’re surely talking about a very different series right now — maybe one that’s already over … 

For all the balls that have sailed over fences in this World Series — starting with the very first swing a Dodger hitter took in the 2017 Fall Clbadic — it’s this one that didn’t quite sneak over that’s somehow dominating in its absence when you ponder how it could’ve changed things. 

The comebacks

Here’s Houston manager A.J. Hinch after one of the games in this series: 

“That’s an incredible game on so many levels, so many ranges of emotion. If you like October baseball, if you like any kind of baseball, that’s one of the most incredible games you’ll ever be a part of.” 

So … was that after Game 2 in L.A. or Game 5 in Houston? That the question can be plausibly asked says it all. Framed another way, 40 percent of the games in the 2017 World Series to date can rightly be called all-time clbadics. 

In Game 2, the Astros were three outs from an 0-2 deficit. After all that’s unfolded since, it’s easy to forget how dominant the Dodgers’ bullpen looked up until Carlos Correa’s one-out single in the eighth snapped the pen’s 28-inning scoreless streak. Counting the playoffs, the Dodgers in 2017 were 98-0 when leading after eight innings coming into Game 2. At one point late in Game 2, the Dodgers had a 93 percent chance of winning. That aforementioned Marwin Gonzalez dinger took the Dodgers’ chances from 85 percent to 50 percent in one swing. The outcome wasn’t certain until Puig, after a nine-pitch struggle, swung over a Chris Devenski changeup for the final out. 

In Game 5, the Astros hit game-tying home runs after being down 4-0, 7-4, and then 8-7. The Dodgers, down 12-9 in the ninth before Puig’s clutch homer, were one strike away from defeat when Taylor singled home the tying run. You know what happened from there: In extras, Bregman, on the 417th pitch of the night, notched the first walk-off hit in the World Series since David Freese back in 2011 Game 6. Early in the game, the Astros had a 10.8 percent chance of winning Game 5. After Cody Bellinger’s triple in the seventh, the Astros had a 23.9 percent chance of winning. After they flipped the script, the Astros went into the bottom of the ninth with a 96.9 percent chance of winning. In matter of moments, the score would be tied, and the Astros’ chances would be down to 57 percent. Back and forth they went. Back and forth. Finally, the author was driven to cry out to no one … 

Before we go, let’s not give it short shrift. No, it doesn’t compare to the second and fifth contests, but, well, not much does. That said, the Dodgers had a mere 25 percent chance of winning Game 4 in the seventh, and of course they went on to batter Ken Giles and Joe Musgrove in the ninth and hand Houston its first home loss of the postseason. 

The dark side of all this drama? Forthwith … 

Bullpen ERAs in this World Series:
Astros 7.58
Dodgers 5.32 ERA

— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 30, 2017

It’s not a good time to be a reliever, but it’s a good time for those who appreciate complete and utter late-inning madness. 

As for that quote above, Hinch spoke those words after Game 2. Here’s what he said after Game 5 … 

“Just when I thought I could describe Game 2 as my favorite game of all time, I think Game 5 exceeded that and more.”

Astros rooters are of course exempted from the following plea, but the rest of us should lift up our voices in mighty chorus: Let’s play seven. 




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