HOUSTON - HOUSTON — The Astros pummeled former AL West rival Yu Darvish like a punching bag, with five consecutive hits in the second inning leading to four runs and the shortest outing of Darvish’s major league career.
and five different Astros batters ended up driving in a run in an 11-hit attack to improve Houston’s record to a perfect 7-0 at home this postseason.
Lance McCullers tossed five solid innings before tiring in the sixth, using his outstanding curve ball to great effect. He only had three strikeouts, but they were all against Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger.
Brad Peacock came on in the sixth and allowed a pair of inherited runners to score, but was otherwise outstanding. He blanked the Dodgers for the final 3 2/3 innings to close out the win.
Game 3 pivot point: Down 4-0 in the third inning, the Dodgers threatened to get back in the game when they loaded the bases on three consecutive walks by McCullers and had the tying run at the plate in shortstop Corey Seager.
McCullers dropped a 1-1 curve ball into the bottom of the strike zone and Seager grounded it sharply toward the right side. Gurriel made a diving stop and scrambled to his feet to throw to second as McCullers broke to cover first.
Shortstop Carlos Correa made the turn and threw just in time to beat Seager for a 3-6-1 double play. Although one run scored, McCullers got out of the jam when he induced a groundout by Justin Turner to short to preserve a 4-1 lead.
Man of the moment: Gurriel played key roles on both offense and defense. Hitting a leadoff homer to spark the Astros early rally. He nearly had a second homer in the seventh inning, but his high fly down the left field line hit off the wall, forcing him to settle for a double.
He also made the defensive play of the night to start the 1-6-3 double play that thwarted the Dodgers best chance to get back into the game.
And in a not-so-flattering moment, Gurriel was caught on the television broadcast making a mocking slant-eye gesture after his homer off Darvish.
Manager's special: Darvish’s abbreviated outing would cause trouble for any team’s bullpen, but Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts took a different approach with reliever Kenta Maeda than he did in Game 2.
Maeda entered that game in the top of the fifth inning in relief of starter Rich Hill. Roberts removed him after just five batters, even though he allowed just one hit and no runs. This time, Maeda came on in relief of Darvish in the second and pitched into the fifth – facing twice as many hitters and holding the Astros scoreless on one hit.
The lengthy outing of 42 pitches over 2 2/3 innings will most likely make Maeda unavailable for Game 4 and probably Game 5, but Roberts made the calculated gamble that hold the Astros in check with his best long reliever would outweigh the consequences.
The question now must be raised: After using five different relievers to finish Game 3, would Roberts consider bringing back ace Clayton Kershaw – who threw only 83 pitches in Game 1 – back on short rest to start tomorrow?
Needing a mulligan: Dodgers starter Yu Darvish just didn’t have his best stuff – or any stuff, for that matter – lasting just 1 2/3 innings in the shortest start of his major league career.
He gave up four runs on six hits and a walk. But even more telling was his inability to fool any of the Astros hitters, despite the fact he had held them to a .199 batting average over 89 innings in his career with the Texas Rangers.
.Even the outs Houston hitters made were loud ones. And of the 49 pitches Darvish threw, only one of them resulted in a swing and miss.
Needing a mulligan II: Yasiel Puig giveth and just as quickly Yasiel Puig taketh away. The Dodgers outfielder had a chance to start a rally with one out in the top of the fourth when he hit a grounder down the third base line that just ticked off Alex Bregman’s glove.
As the ball hit the wall in foul territory and caromed back toward the infield, Puig ran past the bag at first as if Bregman had caught the ball. When he saw the ball rolling around in short left, he made the wide turn and headed for second.
Hustling all the way, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa retrieved the ball and fired to second. Puig dove, but Jose Altuve made a lunging tag to get the out.
State of the Series: There have been 58 previous World Series that have been tied 1-1. The team winning Game 3 has gone on to win the title 37 times (63.8%).
The Astros will send right-hander Charlie Morton to the mound on Saturday night. The veteran was the starter and winner in the decisive Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, pitching five scoreless innings here against the New York Yankees.
The Dodgers, however, present a different challenge. “They can get to fastballs that are faster than average. So I think I'll have to make better pitches in the zone,” Morton said before Game 3. “When I do challenge somebody in the zone, it's going to have to be a better pitch.”
The Dodgers will counter with 16-game winner Alex Wood, who because of the Dodgers’ dominance in the first two rounds has only made one start in the playoffs. (He took the loss against the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 of the NLCS.)
The Dodger bullpen, normally a strength, may be a little taxed after Game 3. So even though Roberts has shown a quick hook in the playoffs, Wood may have to go a little longer than he’s had to in the past.
“We don't have the longest leash, so if anything, it kind of holds us to a higher standard, like you need to go out and shut it down and put up zeroes, and not give up any runs and then you can stay in longer,” he said.
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