One of the most intensely and evenly contested World Series ever will be decided on Wednesday night. The Los Angeles Dodgers forced a decisive seventh game in the 2017 World Series by rallying for a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night in front of a packed house at Dodger Stadium.
"I've never been part of a Game 7," said the Los Angeles manager, Dave Roberts, who played with the Boston Red Sox when they swept the St Louis Cardinals in four games during the 2004 World Series. "When you're a young kid, you're trying to play through all the heroes and heroics about a Game 7 in the World Series, and here we are."
Joc Pederson hit his third World Series home run for the Dodgers, who compiled just five hits. Tony Watson received the win in relief, and Kenley Jansen pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts for his second series save and his fifth of the post-season. Astros right-hander Justin Verlander took his first loss of the post-season after four victories. In six innings, Verlander amassed nine strikeouts and permitted just two runs and three hits.
With the series tied at three games apiece, right-hander Yu Darvish will take the mound for the Dodgers, while Houston will counter with Lance McCullers, who was seen throwing on the field minutes after Game 6 came to an end.
Five of the six games so far have been won by two runs or fewer, with two games going into extra innings. “This series was destined to go seven [GAMES]pretty much the whole time,” McCullers said. “We’re the two best teams in baseball, and I think that has been solidified by how amazing this series has been. No one is going to back down, which is what I think makes this series so great.”
Los Angeles overcame a 1-0 deficit by turning two hits, a hit batsman and a sacrifice fly into two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning against Verlander, who collected eight strikeouts and conceded just one hit while retiring 15 of the first 16 Dodgers – including 11 in succession between the second and fifth innings.
Austin Barnes started the rally with a single to left field, then took second base when Chase Utley was hit by a pitch and scored on Chris Taylor’s double down the right-field line. Utley moved to third on Taylor’s double and came home on Corey Seager’s sacrifice fly.
Houston put the potential tying run at third base with two out in the top of the seventh. Pinch-hitter Evan Gattis reached on a fielder's choice and moved to second on George Springer's single. Pinch-runner Derek Fisher then replaced Gattis and took third on Alex Bregman's deep fly out. But Jose Altuve grounded out to end the inning.
Pederson made the Astros pay for their failure to convert by hitting Joe Musgrove’s 97mph fastball into the first row of the left-field bleachers in the bottom of the seventh. Pederson traipsed around the bases, jumped up and down as he approached third and waived his hands to encourage the fans to yell louder as ran home. After hitting just .212 during the regular season and briefly being demoted to the minor leagues, Pederson has five hits in 14 at-bats – two doubles and three homers – and shares the team lead with five RBIs during the series.
“It was the first time being demoted,” Pederson said. “It was very humbling. I needed to learn how to hit, basically. I’ve been struggling all year trying to use the whole field, and I’m not very good at it. I’ve still got a lot of work to do but it’s encouraging to see all the hard work turn into some results.”
Springer gave the Astros a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning when he hit his fourth home run of the World Series and his fifth of the post-season. Springer propelled left-hander Rich Hill’s fastball over the right-field fence, despite Yasiel Puig’s last-second attempt to make a catch by climbing the barrier.
The Astros had a chance to expand their lead in the top of the fifth, when they put runners in scoring position with nobody out. Brian McCann began the inning with a single, then moved to third base on Marwin Gonzalez's double down the left-field line. But Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander before walking Springer intentionally. Brandon Morrow then relieved Hill and made Bregman ground out.
“Like we’ve talked about from the beginning, these two teams mirror one another,” Roberts said. “The fight in both teams is the most important thing I see.”
Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel received intense boos before every pitch of each plate appearance. Gurriel received a five-game suspension for next season after mocking Darvish’s Japanese ancestry during Game 3.