For the third time in the last four seasons, the World Series is going the full seven games.
Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, the Los Angeles Dodgers avoided elimination with a 3-1 win (box score) over the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the World Series. The two clubs will play a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Here are eight things to know about Game 6.
Springer tied a World Series leadoff hitter record
The first run of Game 6 was scored on — what else? — a home run. There have been a lot of them this series. The Astros and Dodgers combined for 22 home runs in Games 1-5, a new World Series record regardless of series length. George Springer hit the 23rd homer of the series in the third inning, giving his club a 1-0 lead.
That home run was Springer’s fourth of the series, tying him with Lenny Dykstra for the most ever by a leadoff hitter in a single World Series. He’s the first player to hit four homers in a single World Series since Chase Utley in 2009. And there’s also this:
And — yes, there’s more — Springer’s dinger was home run No. 14 for the Astros this series, which tied them with the 2002 Giants for the most in a single World Series. Crazy.
Remember, Springer went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in Game 1. He has gone 9 for 20 with two doubles, three homers, five walks, and three strikeouts in the five games since.
Verlander was dealing … until he wasn’t
Once again Justin Verlander dominated for five innings, and once again the Dodgers were able to get to him in the sixth inning. Back in Game 2, it was Corey Seager who gave the Dodgers the lead with a sixth inning two-run home run against Verlander.
In Game 6, the Dodgers manufactured two sixth inning runs against Verlander after he shoved for five innings. He retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced. Verlander was dominating and throwing hard.
The sixth inning rally started with an Austin Barnes single and an Utley hit-by-pitch. Chris Taylor fought off a fastball — I mean really fought off — and dunked it into right field for a run-scoring double to knot the game up 1-1. Here’s the video:
Not exactly solid contact, but well-placed is always better than well-struck. The solid contact came from the next batter, Seager, who clubbed a go-ahead sac fly to the wall in right field. I thought it was gone off the bat. It probably would’ve been gone in Game 1 or 2 in the 100-plus degree heat, but not in the cooler Game 6 weather.
After those five great innings to start Game 6, Verlander’s location wasn’t nearly as good while working out of the stretch in the sixth. The pitch Seager hit for the sac fly was a hanging slider. The Astros were lucky it was only a sac fly. The two-run sixth inning ended Verlander’s evening.
It should be noted Verlander threw 93 pitches in Game 6, and it seemed like he had more left in the tank for the seventh inning. Astros manager A.J. Hinch had to pull Verlander from the game because his lineup spot was due up in the top of the seventh, and he needed to pinch-hit with his team down a run.
Roberts’ controversial bullpen call worked out
Given how Game 5 played it, it stood to reason Dodgers manager Dave Roberts would try to get as much as possible out of starter Rich Hill in Game 6. His bullpen was so obviously taxed. And yet, with two outs in the fifth inning and Hill about to face the top of the lineup a third time, he was pulled. It’s important to set the scene:
- The Astros were up 1-0 on Springer’s homer.
- The Astros had the bases loaded with two outs, so it was a chance to break it open.
- Alex Bregman, who crushed lefties all season, was due up.
On one hand, the Dodgers could not afford to let the Astros add more runs. On the other hand, their bullpen was taxed, and Brandon Morrow allowed four runs in the span of six pitches in Game 5. Morrow got the call in that fifth inning and got Bregman to ground out to escape the jam. A pivotal moment in the game, that was.
Hill threw only 58 pitches — 58 pitches! — in Game 6. His longest postseason outing this year was five innings and 79 pitches. That was Game 2 of the NLCS. Roberts is very much committed to not letting Hill go through the lineup a third time this postseason.
Now, had Morrow not gotten the out to escape that fifth inning jam, you can be sure Roberts would’ve been second guessed basically all offseason. It was a controversial decision at the time — there were plenty of folks questioning it on social media, including myself — but it worked out, and that’s all that matters.
Joc provided a big insurance run
How great has Joc Pederson been in the World Series? He went 4 for 11 (.364) with two doubles and two homers in Games 1-5. Pederson wasn’t even on the NLDS roster, remember. He was only added to the NLCS roster when Seager got hurt.
Pederson’s big World Series continued in Game 6, when he drove in a huge insurance run with a seventh inning solo home run. It was an opposite field job:
It wasn’t that long ago that the Dodgers sent Pederson to Triple-A because he was slumping so badly. Going from Triple-A in August to World Series hero in October is quite the turnaround.
Kenley looked like Kenley
This has been a rough World Series for all-world closer Kenley Jansen overall. He blew the save in Game 2 and suffered the walk-off loss in Game 5. The Astros tagged him for three runs in 5 2/3 innings in Games 1-5, and, more than anything, Jansen just looked worn down in Game 5. He was running on fumes, so much so that Roberts said he would limit him to only three outs in Game 6.
“I would say probably the other day we felt good about him going six outs,” said Roberts before the game. “But I would say today is probably a three-out situation, yeah.”
And yet, with the Dodgers leading 3-1 after seven innings, in came Jansen for the six-out save. He retired the side in order on seven pitches in the eighth, then threw 12 more pitches in the ninth to nail things down. His velocity was down a few ticks, presumably due to fatigue, but Robertson asked Jansen for six outs and Jansen gave him six outs.
Something tells me that if the Dodgers have a late lead in Game 7, it’ll be Clayton Kershaw on the mound trying to close things out, not Jansen. Just a hunch.
Hill made sure Gurriel got booed
As expected, Yuli Gurriel received plenty of boos throughout Game 6 at Dodger Stadium. It started during the pregame lineup announcements. Here’s the crowd when Gurriel was announced during the pregame introductions.
, after he took Yu Darvish deep, though the suspension doesn’t begin until next season. He remains eligible to play in the World Series, and he hit a big game-tying three-run home run against Kershaw in Game 5.
Hill made sure the crowd had plenty of time to give Gurriel the business during his at-bats in Game 6.
Well deserved boos, those were.
The Astros finally lost a Verlander start
Between the regular season and postseason, Verlander has now made 10 starts for the Astros. The team’s record in those 10 games: 9-1. Game 6 was Houston’s first lost in a Verlander start since the August 31 trade. Not great timing! But, you know, going 9-1 in 10 starts is pretty incredible. And it’s not like Verlander pitched poorly either.
Puig’s prediction came true
Following his team’s Game 5 loss, Yasiel Puig confidently said the series would not end in Game 6, and that there would be a Game 7.
Puig went 1 for 3 in Game 6. He is 1 for 1 in predictions so far this series.
Game 7 is next
Wednesday night the Dodgers and Astros will close out the 2017 season with the 38th winner-take-all Game 7 in World Series history. This is the second straight World Series with a Game 7. It’s also the third World Series Game 7 in the last four years, and the fourth in the last seven years. Some more numbers:
- The NL is 23-14 all-time in Game 7. They’ve also won the last three Games 7s and five of the last six. (The 2002 Angels are the exception.)
- The road team is 19-18 all-time in Game 7. The road team has won the last two Games 7 (2016 Cubs and 2014 Giants), though prior to that, the home team won nine straight.
- Nine of the last 11 Game 7s were won by a team that trailed in the series 3-2, and had to win Game 6 to force Game 7. (The 2014 Giants and 1997 Marlins are the two exceptions.)
The Astros have never played a World Series 7. Heck, prior to this year, they’d never won a single World Series game. This will be the sixth World Series Game 7 in Dodgers history. They won Game 7 in 1955 and 1965, and lost in 1947, 1952, and 1956.
Also, it should be noted that since the LCS went to a best-of-seven series in 1985, the home team has won Game 6 to force a Game 7 a total of 16 times. They went on to win the series 14 of those 16 times (!). Crazy. That’s what the Dodgers are attempting to do. Win the World Series after going home down 3-2 for Game 6.