October 26, 2017
After the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Astros on Tuesday night, it seemed like smooth sailing for the home team. In the bottom of the first inning in Game 1, a guy named Chris Taylor* swung at the first pitch thrown by Dallas Keuchel and knocked it way up into the left field bleachers. Welcome to "La-La Land"! But Keuchel held firm for the next few innings, and the Astros tied it 1-1 on a home run by Alex Bregman in the fourth inning. That showed that Clayton Kershaw isn't perfect, at least. But in the bottom of the sixth, Chris Taylor drew a walk and the phenomenal Justin Turner got yet another huge clutch hit, a two-run homer that ended up being the decisive run-scoring play of the game. Kershaw gave up just three hits while striking out 11 batters over seven innings. Dodgers 3, Astros 1.
But last night's game changed everything. The Astros had their new ace Justin Verlander on the mound, and were really counting on him to prevent the Dodgers from gaining a 2-0 series lead. The game unfolded as a virtual carbon copy of Game 1, except that Houston scored first. Once again, in the bottom of the sixth inning Chris Taylor drew a walk and the very next batter hit a home run to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. (This time it was Corey Seager.) Verlander finished the inning, but was in line for what seemed to be a probable Houston loss. But the Astros weren't dead, and in the top of the eighth, Alex Bregman hit a ground-rule double to the right field corner, just out of reach of the diving Yasiel Puig, who threw then his glove down in anger. Bad karma? Carlos Correa batted in Bregman, and the score was 3-2 going into the ninth inning. That's when the leadoff batter (a guy named Marwin Gonzalez) shocked the crowd by hitting a game-tying home run off of the usually-unhittable Kenley Jansen. Maybe it was a mistake to put him on the mound in the eighth inning.
In the top of the tenth inning, things got very weird very fast. Jose Altuve, who had been hitless in five at-bats, hit a leadoff home run, and the next batter Carlos Correa did likewise. Then Yuli Gurriel hit a double, and it seemed like the Dodgers were about to collapse. But a new pitcher and solid defense prevented any more runs. In the bottom of the inning, Yasiel Puig hit a leadoff home run, and all of a sudden Dodger fans came back to life. Ken Giles struck out the next two batters, but then walked a batter, threw a wild pitch, and gave up a game-tying RBI single. This time it was Houston that seemed on the verge of collapse, wasting a two-run lead. It was an incredible reversal of fortune. But in the top of the 11th, Cameron Maybin singled and then stole second base, and the next batter, George Springer, hit a home run to give the Astros a two-run lead once again!! The first two Dodgers batters in the bottom of the inning lined out (to center field and third base), and then Charlie Culberson homered to cut the margin to just one run. Could the Dodgers repeat what they did one inning before?? Well, no. The mighty Yasiel Puig struck out, and the Astros won the game, 7-6. It was the most home runs ever hit during a World Series game (eight altogether), and the first time in major league history that five home runs have been hit during extra innings. (See more on MLB.com.)
The outcome of that game gave a big psychological boost to the Astros, as the series shifts to Houston for the next three games. They have never won a World Series, and have only won a single pennant: for the National League! Since they were swept (by the White Sox) in 2005, Game 2 was the first World Series game the Astros have ever won. As a result, this series will almost certainly return to L.A. for a Game 6, and I wouldn't be surprised if it goes all the way to Game 7. My expectation that it would only take five games for the Dodgers to win it was clearly "off base."
* In my October 17 blog post, I meant to draw attention to Chris Taylor, "a guy" whose name I really should have known. He played for the University of Virginia baseball team, yet another Cavalier to make it big in the big leagues. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2014, and was traded to the Dodgers in June 2016. Other former Cavaliers in the majors include Ryan Zimmerman (of course), Brandon Guyer, and Danny Hultzen. (I should make a list...)
Just like last year, and several years before that, I present the home ballparks of the two World Series teams, for easy comparison. The contrasts between Minute Maid Park and Dodger Stadium are stark and obvious in many ways. Although my diagrams for both those stadiums are up to standard, I still need to tweak the recent alterations to the center field portion of Minute Maid Park. Stay tuned!