Houston starting pitchers are paying it forward this postseason with clutch multiple inning saves for their teammates who toed the rubber before them. Brad Peacock did it for Lance McCullers Friday night, and McCullers for his pal Charlie Morton in Game 7 of the ALCS.
“The ovation I got when I was in the bullpen — I got chills,” McCullers said. “I’ll probably never forget that. Our crowd, they bring it. I’ve played in a decent number of stadiums now, at least for postseason ball, and when Minute Maid gets rocking, there’s no place louder.”
The success Yu Darvish garnered against the Astros as a Ranger was derailed as a Dodger in just 1 2/3 innings of play. They got to the blue crew’s third in the rotation early and often with four earned runs on six hits. In the second, the first five batters he faced reached base with Yuli Gurriel rounding them for a leadoff home run, his first of the postseason.
Ex-Dodger Josh Reddick, who couldn’t hack it in LA, has found a productive home in Houston. Albeit in the ALCS he couldn’t buy a base hit, going 0-for-25, but in the World Series he’s taken his woes out on his former team. The right fielder followed up Gurriel’s solo shot with a double to left, scoring on Marwin Gonzalez’s single to a similar area code.
Catcher Brian McCann had a bountiful night with his first of two hits, a laser to right sending Evan Gattis, who previously walked, home and Gonzalez to third. George Springer was robbed by Logan Forsythe’s grab of his sharp line drive, but Alex Bregman did what every batter hopes to do with one out and a runner on third – he brought home the Astro’s fourth run on a sac fly to center field and Jose Altuve’s double delivered Kenta Maeda to the mound to relieve Darvish.
“It’s always good to play in front of your fans, especially in this city,” Altuve said. “They’ve been here since we lost 100 games three years in a row, and they kept coming to the ballpark and supporting us. I think this is the time for us to pay them back.
“This is one of the loudest places I’ve ever played, especially right now in the playoffs and the World Series. We feel the love between the fans and the players. There’s like a connection. They’re not just here to watch a game. They’re here to watch the guys who can make the dream come true for everybody.”
McCullers, who had retired six of seven Dodgers on a steady diet of four seam fastballs and knuckle curves, walked the bases loaded in the third with the same cuisine. But the nasty curve he relied on to save Houston’s hide in the ALCS, got Corey Seager out on a running scoring double play, with a close call at first, and put away Justin Turner on a ground ball to short.
Maeda was magical for manager Dave Roberts, holding Houston to the original runs they scored on Darvish, but after 42 pitches he summoned lefty Tony Watson who gave back the unearned run they gained with back-to back singles by Reddick and Evan Gattis, Watson’s wild throw to first and Yasiel Puig’s offline attempt to get Gattis at the plate.
The Dodgers chipped away in the sixth with a leadoff walk to Seager, followed by a line drive double to deep left from Justin Turner putting runners on the corners. After Cody Bellinger whiffed on three straight pitches, Brad Peacock took the reins from McCullers. On his first pitch Puig turned the score to 5-2 with a ground out to second. With Turner now at third, a wild pitch to pinch-hitter Chase Utley brought another run to the plate, lessening the lead by two. The Houston natives were getting a little restless until Peacock ended the inning on Utley’s pop up to third.
In the bottom frame, Watson was sent packing for Brandon Morrow who got out of runners on first and second via a throwing error by Turner and a walk of his own, with consecutive strike outs to Altuve and Carlos Correa.
Peacock had his high heat working in the seventh, retiring Yasmani Grandal on one pitch, striking out Joc Pederson with three, surrendering a lone walk to Andre Ethier, who was left running to second while Gurriel beat Chris Taylor by a hair as they both dove for the first base bag.
Roberts continued to empty his pen in the home half signaling for Tony Cingrani after Gurriel laced a leadoff double to left. Reddick had great intentions of laying down a bunt, but it sailed in the air and snagged beautifully by Bellinger. Gattis was intentionally walked, Gonzalez popped up to Utley, McCann slapped a single to the hole that Bellinger couldn’t handle to load the bases.
Another call to the bullpen brought in Ross Stripling to face George Springer. With four grand slams on his resume, Springer got the crowd on their feet sending a 2-1 92 MPH four seamer into the glove of Taylor, just shy of the center field seats.
The gift of Peacock kept on giving into the eighth with a pair of strikeouts to Seager and Bellinger and a pop up behind the plate by Turner.
Houston skipper AJ Hinch didn’t flinch keeping his 29-year old stallion to close out the ninth by sticking to the old adage, “if ain’t broke why fix it?” So in tossing analytics to the wind, Puig went down on strikes, Utley bounced one back to the box, and Grandal prolonged the inevitable by staying on the mechanical bull for seven pitches, before fittingly flying out to former Dodger, Josh Reddick.