One manager pulled his starter too soon, the other saw his perfect closer cough up the lead and the blue crew bullpen that banked a streak of 28 scoreless innings succumbed to an Astros’ team that’s not buying into the hoopla of the Dodgers destiny.
Wednesday night at Chavez Ravine Houston’s stars staged a stunning comeback to beat Los Angeles 7-6 in an 11-inning slugfest that may go down as the greatest Game 2 in World Series history.
The end result may have changed radically if not for a questionable pitching change in the top of the fifth by Dave Roberts who got bitten by a formula that has been very good to him.
With the Astro’s clinging to a one-run lead, the reigning manager of the year removed Rich Hill after 60 pitches, three hits, seven strikeouts and walks. Kenta Maeda replaced a not-so-happy Hill then mowed down the side.
In the home half Astros ace Justin Verlander, undefeated in a Houston uniform, silenced the crowd with four innings of no-hit ball. But in the bottom of the fifth, Joc Pederson blasted his breaking ball that didn’t into the right centerfield seats to even the score.
After Maeda gave up a leadoff single to Carlos Correa to start the sixth, Yuli Gurriel’s pop out behind the plate brought Tony Watson to the mound who’s first pitch induced an inning-ending double play.
Verlander became vulnerable in the bottom of the sixth surrendering a two-out free pass to the pesky Chris Taylor. And just like Game 1, the guy who always seems to draw a walk in front of the guy who hits it out scored on Corey Seager’s home run to left for a 3-1 Dodger lead.
The seventh inning brought the fourth Dodger pitcher to the dance, Ross Stripling, who was pulled after walking the first batter Marwin Gonzalez on four pitches. Brandon Morrow brought better location doubling up Josh Reddick and Gonzalez then getting Gattis, who had singled, on a force out at second via George Springer’s ground ball.
Will Harris took over for Verlander and survived a throwing error by Alex Bregman, and a wild pitch of his own that placed Cody Bellinger on second, then to third on Yasiel Puig’s grounder to short. The righty kept it a two-run game with clutch back-to-back strikeouts by Pederson and Austin Barnes.
In the eighth, Alex Bregman got a hold of Morrow’s 98 MPH fastball for a ground-rule double to deep left that glanced off the glove of a diving Puig. Kenley Jansen entered for a premature save, but after getting Jose Altuve on a chopper to second, Correa belted an RBI single up the middle, breaking the Dodger bullpen’s 28 inning scoreless streak with a dose of some bragging rights for finally getting a run off of their star closer.
Marwin Gonzalez jacked a leadoff home run off Jansen in the ninth to knot it up at three and Astro closer Ken Giles put the side down in order to send the game into extras. It was the first postseason blown save for Jansen after a record 12 straight successful tries.
“I wanted it up and in and it was down the middle,” said Jansen. “Hit a line drive the other way, the ball was carrying tonight. Just one missed pitch, he got me, that’s it.”
The Houston power that had sat dormant in Game 1 and the better part of Game 2 awoke in the top of the tenth off of Josh Fields with back-to-back homers by Altuve and Correa. Gurriel’s double sent in the eighth Dodger reliever, Tony Cingrani, to contain the damage, which he did with a double play ball.
And just when you thought the Astros were home free up by two, Yasiel Puig, madder than hell for missing the play that put his team in this predicament, pounced on Giles four-seam fastball to bring LA within one.
After retiring Yasmani Grandal and Barnes on a pair of swinging strike threes, the Houston reliever had Logan Forsythe on the ropes with a 1-2 count then lost him on three straight pitches. With drama dripping in the 90-degree air, Enrique Hernandez, an earlier defensive switch, delivered an RBI base hit to right, landing at second on the throw to the plate. Chris Devenski replaced Giles, ending the rally on Chris Taylor’s fly ball to center field.
In the eleventh, Roberts put his faith in Brandon McCarthy to keep it a 5-5 game, but the Astros bats had other plans. Cameron Maybin, in his first at-bat of the World Series, singled on a line drive to center, then Springer sailed an 88 MPH slider into the right center field seats to bring Houston up by two.
“Like I’ve told you before, we’re never out of it,” said Correa after the game. “We have a lineup that is really scary. When we swing at strikes and put great at-bats together, we are very scary. You saw it tonight. We were able to score runs off the bullpen and we were able to come up with the win.”
But no lead seemed to be safe as in the home half the Dodgers were determined to keep their undefeated postseason record intact. Devenski got Seager and Turner out on sharp line drives.
One out away from evening the series, defensive sub Charlie Culberson took Devenski deep to bring the Dodgers within one. It was a record setting fifth home run in extra innings, not just for the playoffs but in a major league game. The teams also combined for a World Series record eight home runs.
Puig revved up with redemption, coming to the plate. He pushed it to a full count until finally flailing at the ninth pitch, a nasty 84 MPH changeup that dipped in the dirt, giving the Astros a sigh of relief heading back to Houston.