October 25, 2017

WS2: Astros 7, Dodgers 6 (11)

Astros  - 001 000 011 22 - 7 14  1
Dodgers - 000 012 000 21 - 6  5  0
... and people will sit there and insist that baseball is boring.

In the Dark Ages - before Tito and Flo and that wonderful Cast of Motley Idiots led us to the Promised Land - I fully expected that if (and when) the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, every game (all seven of them, of course) would play out like tonight's contest - tonight's ridiculous, astonishing, outlandish, exhausting, and awesome battle.

That was not some dream or fantasy. That was what I truly believed I would be forced to endure in order to be allowed to see my team win a championship. Because when you considered the team's history of heartbreak, how could it go any other way? As it happened, it did go another way. We had our anxiety and tension and times when we nearly passed out from stress in the ALCS. Then we sat back, put our fucking feet up, and won four straight World Series games, thank you very much. (If I'm being honest, it felt a little anti-climatic.)

Anyway. ... Game 2 of 2017. ... I have seen only one World Series game in my life that can match the wildness of this one. It was on Thursday, October 27, 2011, Game 6 between Texas and St. Louis. The visiting Rangers led 3-games-to-2, but the Cardinals won 10-9 in 11 innings - and then won the World Series the following night. (I was curious what I wrote after that game, but I did not blog that World Series.)

Justin Verlander (6-2-3-2-5, 79) began the night by retiring the first nine Dodgers. In that time, his teammates got him a run. Josh Reddick singled off Rich Hill (4-3-1-3-7, 60) in the top of the third. Verlander bunted him to second and George Springer's single to left put him on third. Alex Bregman lined a pitch to left center. Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor dove in the gap for the ball, but it bounced in front of him. Then it caromed off the bill of his cap - directly to left fielder Joc Pederson, who held Springer at second. But Reddick scored. Hill then struck out Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa on six pitches.

Verlander walked Taylor to start the fourth, but a double play ended the inning. However, Pederson got Los Angeles' first hit - and tied the game at the same time - when he homered to right-center with two outs in the fifth. The Dodgers took the lead when - after Verlander had retired the first two batters - Taylor walked (balls 3 and 4 were very close) and Corey Seager homered to left for a 3-1 lead.

Meanwhile, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled Hill after only four innings and went to his pen (which had a streak of 25 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason). Kenta Maeda retired the side in the fifth and after giving up a single and getting an out in the sixth, he departed as Roberts brought in lefty Tony Watson to face Brian McCann. Watson threw one pitch and McCann grounded into a double play.

Now that LA led 3-1, Ross Striping began the top of the seventh. He walked Marwin Gonzalez on four pitches - and Roberts decided that was enough. Brandon Morrow took the mound and got Reddick to hit into a double play - the second time in a span of three batters that a new reliever got a double play from the first man he faced.

Will Harris took over for Verlander in the bottom of the seventh and an infield error, a wild pitch, and a groundout put Cody Bellinger on third with one out. Harris kept the Dodgers' lead at 3-1 by striking out Pederson, getting him to swing and miss three high fastballs, and retiring Barnes on a nubber in front of the plate that McCann made the play on.

Now it's the top of the eighth. And the wildness begins. ... Bregman led off for the Astros and lined a 1-1 pitch towards the right field corner. Yasiel Puig sprinted after it and dove, but the ball ticked off the end of his glove, hit the warning track dirt, and bounced into the crowd. Puig, furious at not making the play, ripped the glove off his left hand and fired it to the ground. Back in the infield, Playoff Assassin Roberts was not messing around. He went to Kenley Jansen, who had thrown 14 pitches in Game 1. Roberts was probably asking for a six-out save, but even if he wasn't, he was smart in bringing in his best arm when the game was on the line. (At the same time, Enrique Hernandez replaced Pederson in left field.)

Altuve grounded to second and Bregman went to third. Correa chopped a 1-0 pitch up the middle, just out of Chase Utley's range and into center field. Bregman scored, cutting LA's lead to 3-2. Yuli Gurriel fouled to first and Jansen struck out McCann.

After the Dodgers went quietly in the bottom half, Jansen returned to the mound, three outs away from sending his team to Houston with a two-game lead. He got two strikes on Gonzalez and then Gonzalez belted a home run to left-center, tying the game at 3-3. Jansen got two quick outs,but Springer ripped a double down the left field line. Bregman had a chance to put the Astros on top again, but he grounded to shortstop.

(The Astros' rally ruined a great opportunity to point out what a stupid and worthless thing the "win" is for pitchers. If Jansen had held the lead and the Dodgers had won the game, the "win" would have been awarded to Tony "One-Pitch" Watson.)

Houston's closer Ken Giles started the bottom of the ninth by striking out Seager and getting Turner on a grounder to short. Bellinger seemed to crush a 1-0 pitch to right-center, but Reddick made the catch on the warning track. (I did not see a replay of Giles's reaction, but I think he was truped as much as I, or anyone else watching on TV, was.)

And so we went to extra innings. The Dodgers went with Josh Fields after Jansen threw 29 pitches in two innings. Altuve looked at two balls and slammed a home run to left. Then Correa fouled a pitch off and HE homered to left, just a bit deeper than Altuve's dong. Gurriel then pasted the first pitch he saw for a double to the gap in left-center. Fields had thrown only six pitches and his team trailed 5-3 and they had a runner on second with no one out.

Tony Cingrani came in to clean up the mess. Roberts made a few other changes, moving catcher Austin Barnes to second base, putting Yasmani Grandal behind the plate, moving Logan Forsythe (who took over for Utley in the bottom of the ninth) from second to first, and pulling Bellinger. (I had switched from Fox to ballpark sound in the middle of the seventh, so I did not fully get all of these changes.) McCann flied to center and after an intentional walk to Gonzalez, Reddick grounded back to the mound and Cingrani started a double play.

Giles returned for the home half of the tenth, having thrown only 10 pitches in the ninth. Puig led off and, on a 2-1 pitch, he belted a home run to deep left-center. (I had hoped to see Puig end the game in the previous inning with a walkoff dong, but the Dodgers had gone in order. Here was the homer, but the Dodgers still needed at least one more run.) And Puig, who was recently criticized for flipping his bat on what turned out to be a double, bent down and placed the bat gently on the ground before beginning his trot.

In my mind I was taunting Giles to not blow it, but he got his shit together and struck out the next two hitters, Grandal and Barnes. So it was up to Forsythe. And Giles was consistently staying away from the strike zone. With a 1-2 count, Giles threw three straight pitches away from Forsythe and out of the zone. A walk! Hernandez was up now - the man who hit three home runs in the pennant-winning game against the Cubs.

Giles threw another pitch low and outside for a ball. Then he bounced one and it got past McCann. Forsythe advanced to second - and the crowd really started roaring. A foul and another ball (away) put the count at 3-1. Hernandez lined the next one into right field for a single. With two outs, Forsythe had been off with the crack of the bat and sprinted around third as if the proverbial hounds of hell were closing in. Reddick scooped up the ball and fired the ball home. It reached McCann on the fly, but just a split-second too late, as Forsythe dove head first and brushed his fingers over the edge of the plate before McCann could apply a sweeping tag. TIED! The game was tied at 5-5.

An amazing fact: Hernandez's single was the Dodgers' first hit of the game that was not a home run - and it came with two outs in the tenth inning! (Their only hits before that were the homers by Pederson, Seager, and Puig.)

Hernandez had taken second on the throw and Astros manager A.J. Hinch changed pitchers, bringing in Chris Devenski. But before Devenski threw a pitch to Taylor, he whirled and fired to second, trying to pick off Hernandez. But his throw was wild and it struck umpire Laz Diaz, who was trying to leap out of the way, high on his left thigh. The ball rolled away but Hernandez had to stay where he was. Taylor flied to center - and it was on to the eleventh!

Roberts went with his ninth pitcher of the night - and the last man in the bullpen, Brandon McCarthy. (Taylor was pulled and Charlie Culberson went to left, with Hernandez moving over to center.) Cameron Maybin, who took over in center when Devenski came into the game, led off from the ninth spot. And he lined a single to left-center. After McCarthy threw over to first twice, Maybin took off and stole second. Two pitches later, Springer launched the Astros' fourth home run in the last two-plus innings. It sailed over the fence in right-center and it gave Houston a 7-5 lead. McCarthy retired the next three batters - and everyone wondered if the Dodgers could match the Astros again.

Devenski retired Seager on a fly to center. He battled Turner for nine pitches before Turner smoked a line drive to third that Bregman caught on his left side. Two outs. As I said above, I was not clear on all of the double switches, so I thought Bellinger was now batting - which offered some hope. But it was Culberson, who had batted .154 and slugged .231 in 15 plate appearances during the regular season. He had gone 5-for-11 in the NLCS, so maybe it shouldn't have been such a shock when he sent Devenski's 1-0 pitch over the wall in left for a home run! And - once again - the Dodgers were one good swing away from tying the game for the third time.

More amazing facts: Culberson's solo shot was the eighth home run of the game - the most ever hit in a World Series game. And there were five home runs hit in extra innings - something that had never happened in any game in history, regular season or postseason.

It was up to Puig. He took two called strikes and fouled the third pitch off. The crowd was chanting "Let's go, Puig! Let's go, Puig!" at what seemed like a deafening volume. He took ball 1 outside and checked his swing on ball 2, low and away. He checked his swing again on the 2-2 pitch and he probably swung, but first base umpire Gerry Davis ruled that he did not. (Which - robots aside - was fine, because that would have been a shitty way for this game to end.) So the count was full. Puig fouled off the seventh pitch. And he fouled off the eighth pitch. "Let's go, Puig! Let's go, Puig!" Devenski's ninth pitch of the at-bat was also low and outside, but this time, Puig went after it. And he did not get it. Strike three. And - after 4:19 - the end of the game.

This was the first World Series game victory in Astros' history. They had lost their first five WS games.

And now everyone gets a day of rest before the festivities resume on Friday night in Houston.
Justin Verlander / Rich Hill

Verlander faces a team that has outscored its opponents 51-20 in the postseason* while going 8-1, including 5-0 at Dodger Stadium. In three postseason starts, Verlander - the MVP of the ALCS - has allowed only three earned runs in 22 innings (1.23 ERA).

*: Houston has outscored its opponents 44-40.

Hill has made two postseason starts, lasting four innings against Arizona and five innings against the Cubs. In those nine innings, he gave up six hits, four walks, and three runs.

The Dodgers have a slightly different lineup tonight, with Corey Seager batting second and Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Yasiel Puig all moving down a spot. Joc Pederson will be in left field and Chase Utley is at second base.

Prediction: Astros 4-2.


allan said...

David Schoenfield, ESPN Senior Writer
"You wouldn't believe this game if you didn't watch it. Before tonight, there had been 17 extra-inning home runs in World Series history. We had five in this crazy game, including three in the 10th inning, George Springer's two-run shot in the 11th and then Charlie Culberson's two-out homer in the bottom of the 11th that gave the Dodgers one last gasp of hope. It finally ends with Chris Devenski striking out Yasiel Puig on a nine-pitch at-bat. Let's call it the greatest Game 2 in World Series history."

GK said...

Girardi out as manager............the ghost of George Steinbrenner in action!

Please.... Bobby Valentine is only a MetroNorth train ride away from availability.


David Cho said...

What an emotional roller coaster that was. I was going from, "this is looking great. The series may not have to come back to LA" to "Oh I hope it comes back." I was talking to my nephew about taking a day off for the victory parade.

Oh Kenley, I still love ya.

Prediction: Astros 4-2.

That was for last night's game, right? Not for Friday's.

David Cho said...

Everybody is piling on Roberts for overmanaging the pitching staff. Do you agree with that?

allan said...

Everybody is piling on Roberts for overmanaging the pitching staff. Do you agree with that?

I don't think so. His moves were working, but Jansen had a bad outing. Then he was left with what he was left with. (I have not read anything about him today, though.)

Yeah, 4-2 was for Game 2.

allan said...

Bobby Valentine is only a MetroNorth train ride away from availability.

OMG, that would be glorious.

allan said...

Fangraphs: "In Defense Of Dave Roberts"