LOS ANGELES — Oh the drama! What looked like a sure-fire two games-to-none lead for the Dodgers is all even thanks to some late-inning heroics from the top of the Astros order.
George Springer’s two-run blast in the top of the 11th was the final blow in a slugfest that included seven home runs and blown saves by both teams’ closers.
Houston trailed 3-1 entering the eighth inning with a dominant Dodger bullpen that had pitched 28 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason poised to close things out. However, Correa’s RBI single and Marwin Gonzalez’s solo homer off Kenley Jansen pulled Houston even and forced extra innings.
With Josh Fields taking over for Jansen in the 10th, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hit back-to-back home runs in the top of the 10th inning to put the Astros in front.
However, the Dodgers came right back in the bottom of the frame.
Yasiel Puig hit a leadoff homer of his own in the bottom of the 10th and the Dodgers tied the game on a two-out RBI single by Kike’ Hernandez off closer Ken Giles.
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Then in the 11th -- with veteran Brandon McCarthy pitching for the first time since Oct. 1 and making his first career appearance in the postseason -- Springer connected on an 89 mph slider that just kept carrying and carrying until it disappeared over the right field wall.
Man of the moment: Springer rebounded from a horrendous World Series opener to play the role of the hero.
Hitting just .213 in the playoffs and coming off an 0-for-4 performance in Game 1 in which he struck out in all four of his at-bats, Springer collected three hits and a walk in Game 2.
Game 2 pivot point: When runs are at a premium, there’s little room for error. That’s what has made Jansen such a valuable weapon.
After Brandon Morrow gave up a leadoff double in the eighth to Alex Bregman, the strains of “California Love” began echoing throughout Dodger Stadium as manager Dave Roberts turned to his closer for a six-out save.
Jansen, who tossed a scoreless inning to save Game 1, gave up Correa’s single to center, but he shut the door to protect the one-run lead.
But Gonzalez silenced the 54,293 in attendance with one swing, a 394-foot fly that just barely cleared the wall in left center to tie the game.
In his career, Jansen has allowed seven earned runs 31 1/3 innings (2.10 ERA). The blown save was his first in the postseason in 12 chances. He blew only one save in 42 opportunities in the regular season.
Manager's special: Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts changed up his starting lineup for Game 2, starting lefty hitters Joc Pederson in left field and Chase Utley at second base against the right-handed Verlander.
“I think that this guy (Verlander) is obviously plus, plus velocity. I like Joc a little bit better with the velocity,” Roberts said before Game 2. “And I think Joc is a better defender in left field, too.”
His words proved prophetic when Pederson ended Verlander’s no-hit bid with two outs in the fifth inning. Pederson, who had just one hit in six at-bats this postseason, unloaded on an 88 mph slider and blasted a 370-foot homer to right center.
Needing a mulligan: As he’s done every time he’s taken the mound as a member of the Astros, Verlander was outstanding. However in the warm Chavez Ravine air, the Dodgers made him pay for the only two mistakes he made all night – both of which resulted in home runs.
Verlander had won all five of his starts after being acquired Aug. 31 from the Detroit Tigers – and all four of his appearances in the postseason.
Entering the game, Verlander had a 1.23 ERA in 58 2/3 innings in an Astros uniform. He retired the first nine Dodgers in order before allowing a leadoff walk that was quickly erased by a double play.
The only hits he allowed in six innings before being taken out for a pinch-hitter were the two home runs.
State of the Series: The Astros have to feel confident as the series as it shifts to Houston, where they are a perfect 6-0 in the postseason.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced Wednesday he’ll go with Lance McCullers over Charlie Morton on the mound in Game 3. McCullers, a 2017 American League All-Star before injuries limited him to six starts in the second half.
“The home start, coming home, and having Lance McCullers go, there is going to be a ton of energy in the building,” Hinch said. “And we had to pick one.”
When we last saw McCullers in the playoffs, he was tossing four shutout innings in relief to save Game 7 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees.
If the World Series goes to a Game 7, McCullers would be in line to start.
The Dodgers counter with trade deadline acquisition Yu Darvish, who’s won both of his starts this postseason, but who is someone the Astros have seen often as a member of the Texas Rangers.
In two starts against Houston this season, Darvish posted a 1-1 record and 3.00 ERA in 12 innings. Over his career, he’s 5-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 14 starts. However, he has held the Astros to a .199 batting average over 89 innings.
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