Pitching in the biggest game of his decorated career, Astros starter Justin Verlander dominated the Dodgers' lineup for the first five innings of the game. Entering the sixth, the fireballing righty owned a 1-0 lead and had allowed only one hit and no walks with eight strikeouts.
But things unraveled for the former Cy Young Award winner that inning. After an Austin Barnes single to lead off the inning, Verlander hit Chase Utley in the foot to put two runners on with no outs. A Chris Taylor double plated Barnes, then a Corey Seager fly ball to the warning track scored Utley from third to give Los Angeles a 2-1 lead. Verlander retired the next two batters to end the inning, but not before throwing his 93rd pitch of the night.
Verlander left for a pinch-hitter in the next inning, leaving the beleaguered Houston bullpen to cover three frames in a tight game against the big-swinging Dodgers. A Joc Pederson homer off Joe Musgrove in the seventh padded Los Angeles' lead.
The Astros' lone run came on George Springer's homer off Verlander in the top of the third. Houston chased starter Rich Hill after only 4 2/3 innings, but a contingent of Dodgers' relievers combined to keep Houston off the board.
Manager's special: After Brian McCann singled and Marwin Gonzalez doubled to give the Astros a threat in the top of the fifth, Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, then intentionally walked leadoff hitter George Springer. Ever cautious about using his starters for a third time through the opposing lineup, Dave Roberts pulled Hill and brought on reliever Brandon Morrow to face Alex Bregman. Morrow, who has worked every game in the series, endured a wildly ineffective outing in Game 5. But the right-hander got Bregman to ground weakly to shortstop, keeping Houston off the board in the inning.
Man of the moment: Roberts. The Dodgers' manager caught plenty of criticism for going to Morrow in Game 5 of the series, especially after Morrow needed only six pitches to allow four earned runs. But where many might have been tempted to try to ride Hill into the late innings, Roberts stuck to the script that got his team within two wins of a championship and pulled his starter after only 4 2/3 innings. This time, with the benefit of one day of rest, Morrow rewarded his manager's faith. Using many of the same relievers that faltered in Sunday's game, Roberts negotiated the final 4 1/3 innings to force a Game 7.
Pivot point: Though the Dodgers already led, 2-1, by the top of the seventh inning, the Astros looked certain to at least tie the game when they put two runners on with only one out and two of their hottest hitters -- Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve -- due up. But Los Angeles reliever Kenta Maeda got Bregman to fly out to deep center field then, with the tying run on third, induced a ground out from Altuve that ended the inning and kept the Houston offense at bay.
What you missed on TV: A sold-out Dodger Stadium crowd banding together to boo Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel relentlessly every time he came to the plate. Broadcast cameras caught Gurriel in the dugout in Game 3 making a racist gesture that mocked Japan-born Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. And while Darvish seemed eager to move on from the incident before Game 6 starter, the Los Angeles crowd was unwilling to let Gurriel forget about it. Dodgers starter Rich Hill seemed to take extra time before both of Gurriel's first two at-bats to allow the crowd time to jeer.
State of the series: The clubs will play a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium starting at 5:08 p.m. PT. Yu Darvish is set to start for the Dodgers against Lance McCullers of the Astros.
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