Will Marwin Gonzalez‘s home run in Game 2 go down as the home run that turned the 2017 World Series? We’ll know in a few days, but the immediate return is that Houston Astros fans will be even more pumped up for Game 3.
Returning home tied in the series instead of down two games means Minute Maid Park will be something like Lollapalooza meets The Beatles. It’s going to be loud, and while there’s no sabermetric analysis linking home-crowd noise to victories, you have to think the added energy and electric atmosphere will be a positive for the Astros.
For what it’s worth: The Astros are 6-0 at home this postseason, outscoring their opponents 31 to 7.
The most important thing of the day: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts isn’t going to deviate from his plan. He received criticism following his quick hook of Rich Hill after four innings when Kenley Jansen later blew a save opportunity and Roberts was forced to use Josh Fields and Brandon McCarthy, the bottom of his bullpen, in extra innings. But that’s criticizing the results more than the decision. He had a two-run lead with Brandon Morrow and Jansen, and Jansen has proven he can get six outs. It just didn’t work out.
“As I went through every single pitch and situation last night,” Roberts said Thursday, “could I have brought Kenley in for a clean inning in the eighth? Possibly. But I think that in that situation, trying to overextend Brandon, when he already pitched an inning — six outs wasn’t ideal for Kenley, but in that situation once [Morrow] gave up that leadoff double, I just felt it was time to go to him.”
That strategy could be a little different now with three games in as many days, but we’re also at the stage when winning today is more important than worrying about winning tomorrow. Roberts might want to avoid getting nine outs from Morrow and Jansen, but he could ask for seven or eight. If there’s a quick hook with the starter and it’s a close game, Roberts should ask for more than four outs from Kenta Maeda — and probably be more decisive in whether he wants to actually use Ross Stripling, or save him to be a first man out of the bullpen in extra innings rather than Fields or McCarthy.
World Series Game 2: Dodgers at Astros (series tied 1-1)
The stakes: When the World Series is tied 1-1, the Game 3 winner has gone on to win 69 percent of the time (62-28). So this is an important game. They’re all important!
If the Astros win: Is it possible the series doesn’t return to Los Angeles? It seems unlikely that either team will win the next three in a row, but the Astros would have Charlie Morton going in Game 4 coming off his five scoreless innings in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, while the Dodgers would turn to Alex Wood, who has pitched 4 2/3 innings in the past month. That was his one start against the Cubs in the NL Championship Series, and he served up three home runs. That has been a big problem for Wood after a hot first half. He has allowed 16 home runs in his past 70 1/3 innings.
If the Dodgers win: Kind of sounds like the Astros could have the starting-pitching edge in Game 4. Factor in that the Dodgers obviously don’t want to be down three games to two for a potential Game 6 rematch against Justin Verlander, and there’s arguably more pressure on the Dodgers in Game 3. But if they win this one and then steal Game 4, that lines up Clayton Kershaw with a chance to wrap it up in Game 5.
One key stat to know:
Those numbers include his final three regular-season starts and two in the playoffs. Darvish has talked about simplifying his repertoire, and while he has junked his slow curve and splitter that he used with the Rangers, it’s also true that he rarely threw those pitches with the Rangers (he has only thrown 40 slow curves and 13 splitters all season). What he has done is use his cutter more often and his fastball less.
Note this: His final three regular-season starts came against the Giants, Phillies and Padres, so don’t put too much stock in those results. His playoff starts have been very good, however, as he has allowed two runs — both on solo home runs — in 11 1/3 innings, with 14 strikeouts and 1 walk.
He does have a sizable platoon split. Including the playoffs, he has held righties to a .591 OPS compared to .774 against lefties. The Astros are right-handed heavy, so maybe that’s good news for Darvish. The bad news is four of those guys are named George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
The matchup that matters most: Ken Giles versus the deer. I don’t want to say Giles has been pitching like a man who sees a deer in the headlights — that’s unfair. It’s more like three deer. In his six postseason appearances, Giles has allowed seven runs in 7 2/3 innings, giving up 10 hits, 4 walks and 3 home runs. He has allowed a run (or two) in five of those six games.
He had a very good regular season, but he simply doesn’t look reliable right now. You can crunch all the numbers, but there’s something to it when managers say you have to listen to your gut. What will A.J. Hinch’s gut say about his closer? His percentage of pitches in the strike zone has dropped from 53.8 percent in the regular season to 42.9 percent. The zone rate on his slider has dipped from 48.9 percent to 28.3 percent, and he chucked several into the dirt in Game 2. If he can’t throw the slider for strikes, he’s a one-pitch pitcher, and that has made him hittable.
At minimum, Giles will certainly not be asked to get more than three outs. For now, Hinch indicated he’ll still lean on Giles. “I think Ken Giles is going to get another save in this series,” he said Thursday. “I think he’s going to get some really big outs. I think when the crowd is standing in this ballpark over the next couple of games, if we can have the lead and he’s the right matchup, he’s going to get the last out. He’s done it awfully well this year.”
But don’t be surprised if Will Harris or another reliever ends up closing out an Astros lead.
The prediction: The team that hits the most home runs will win. And if McCullers brings the curveball he had against the Yankees — when he threw it 24 consecutive times to end the game to get a four-inning save — then that means the Astros will hit more home runs. The home playoff streak continues: Astros 5, Dodgers 4. And the save goes to …