HOUSTON - A masterful pitcher’s duel between a pair of No. 4 starters ultimately was decided by the bullpens as Cody Bellinger snapped out of his hitless World Series slump with two key hits as the Dodgers exploded for five runs in the ninth inning to turn a nail-biter into a blowout.
The Dodgers’ Alex Wood carried a no-hitter into the sixth and the Astros’ Charlie Morton pitched shutout ball into the seventh … but neither were involved in the decision.
Bellinger’s RBI double in the top of the ninth plated the go-ahead run, Austin Barnes delivered a sacrifice fly and Joc Pederson punctuated the rout with a three-run homer to provide the final margin.
Closer Kenley Jansen, who was named the National League reliever of the year earlier in the day, rebounded from a blown save in Game 2 to secure the victory.
Game 4 pivot point: Astros closer Ken Giles was fantastic in the regular season, pitching to a 2.30 ERA and converting 34 of 38 save opportunities.
After being charged with three runs and not getting an out, Giles’ postseason ERA rose to 11.74.
Facing the heart of the Dodgers order with the score tied in the ninth, Giles got in trouble by allowing a leadoff single to Corey Seager and walking Justin Turner.
That brought Bellinger to the plate at the game’s most crucial moment.
The rookie delivered again with an opposite-field double to bring home the go-ahead run and knock Giles out of the game.
Man of the moment: On the heels of his five shutout innings against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, Astros right-hander Charlie Morton was masterful under pressure once again. He extended his scoreless streak with six more shutout frames before Cody Bellinger led off the seventh with an opposite-field double (the Dodger first baseman’s first hit in 14 at-bats in the World Series).
Keeping the ball down in the strike zone, Morton allowed just three hits, while striking out seven and walking none. However, the scoreless streak came to an end when reliever Will Harris gave up a two-out RBI single to Logan Forsythe that tied the game 1-1.
Forsythe’s single was just the second for the Dodgers in 18 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the World Series, a .111 average.
Manager's special: It’s always a difficult decision to remove a pitcher when he’s throwing a no-hitter, but the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts has plenty of experience in those situations.
In April 2016, he removed Ross Stripling after 7 1/3 no-hit innings – in a game the Dodgers went on to lose in the 10th.
And then this past August, Hill tossed nine no-hit innings, but the Dodgers failed to score. Roberts sent him back out to the mound for the 10th and saw him give up a walk-off home run.
In Game 4, Wood was untouchable for 5 2/3 innings – going through the Astros order twice without giving up a hit. But facing the top of the order for a third time, George Springer got the green light on a 3-1 knuckle curve and hammered it into the box seats in left field for Houston’s first hit – and the game’s first run.
State of the Series: There’s a reason Game 4 is seen as the most important one in a best-of-seven series. The difference between one team leading 3-1 and the series being tied is enormous.
Ten of the last 11 teams to take 3-1 leads in the World Series have won the title. The exception, however, came last year when the Chicago Cubs rallied to defeat the Cleveland Indians.
The situation isn’t dire for the Dodgers because they’ll have their ace on the mound. Clayton Kershaw, who allowed one run in seven innings in a Game 1 win over the Astros, will be rested and ready. But he’ll be in a different environment in Houston.
“I don't think you can change anything based on where you're at. It's just a matter of making good pitches to these guys,” Kershaw said before Game 4. “As long as you're making your pitches, you might hit one off the wall that you're not supposed to or something, but other than that you can't really change.”
Kershaw has a career postseason ERA of 4.21 in 21 starts and one relief appearance.
The Astros will counter with a Cy Young-winning left-hander of their own in Dallas Keuchel. He won his first two starts this postseason, but has lost his last two, including the Game 1 matchup with Kershaw in which he gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Keuchel has a career postseason ERA of 2.84 in seven starts.
What you missed on TV: The first pitch for Game 4 was thrown out by young baseball fan from Nevada who has made it her goal to be part of the opening ceremony at every major league park.
Hailey Dawson, 7, was born with a rare birth defect that left her with only three fingers. But researchers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas were able design a prosthetic hand, which they created by using a 3-D printer.
Using that hand, she threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 4 to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
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