Dodgers: Game 2 of the World Series is the Dodgers Toughest Test

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HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 20: Justin Verlander
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 20: Justin Verlander /
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Dodgers
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 20: Justin Verlander /

Last night was like a dream. Everything from Chris Taylor’s first-pitch home run to Clayton Kershaw’s dominant performance. Maybe it feels like a dream because it was the fastest World Series game in 25 years. Whatever the reason was, it was great to see the Dodgers win a World Series game in nearly three decades.

As masterful as last night’s game was, the Dodgers job is not over. They still have three more wins to go and face their toughest task yet tonight. Justin Verlander.

Justin Verlander is doing his best Madison Bumgarner impersonation this postseason. In case you didn’t know, Bumgarner is the best starting pitcher to ever pitch in the postseason. To see just how crazy dominant Bumgarner is in the postseason, check out these ‘absurd stats.’

Verlander may not be dominant as Bumgarner, but he’s looking pretty damn close. This postseason, Verlander is a perfect 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings pitched. He’s holding hitters to a .200/.258/.294 slash line and has only given up one home run in a postseason where the long ball has decimated pitchers.

Verlander’s pitching excellence can be traced back to his very first start with the Astros. During the regular season, Verlander was a 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 34 innings lifting the Astros to 100+ wins on the season. Cumulatively, that brings Verlander’s numbers to 9-0 with a 1.24 ERA in 58 2/3 innings in 8 starts with the Astros. That’s scary good.

So the Dodgers are left with the challenge of facing the hottest pitcher this postseason to take a commanding 2-0 lead over the Astros. This game because increasingly important because of the 2-3-2 format in the World Series. After game two the Dodgers are heading to Houston for two, possibly three games. If the Astros can edge out a win tonight, they could close the series out in their home ballpark. While I don’t think that will happen, it has me on edge.

Keys to stop Verlander.

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Verlander likes to pitch up in the zone and overpower hitters. The problem for Verlander is that the Dodgers are one of the best teams at getting on top of balls up in the zone and driving them out of the park. Verlander has a live arm and could reach upwards of 99MPH, so the Dodgers can’t be swinging blind.

They need to work the counts and drive up the pitch count on Verlander. Verlander is your definition of a workhorse ace. Verlander threw a season-high 124 pitches in a complete game in the NLCS against the Yankees, so getting him out of the game won’t come easy. I don’t expect A.J. Hinch to go to the bullpen early in the game, but the Dodgers have to force his hand. The Dodgers are not only going to need to drive up the pitch count but also put together collective hitting streaks that we’ve seen them do before. I expect the lineup to be very patient the first time through the order. This forces Verlander to throws strikes and could put the Dodgers in a hitter’s count.

Play small ball. This is a style of play that is slowly dying in today’s modern baseball. But this is something Dave Roberts should consider implementing tonight. Verlander will be stingy when it comes to giving up runs so when the Dodgers have runners on, they need to score any way possible. Bunts. Sacrifice Fly. Ground Balls to the right side of the infield. Whatever it takes to advance the runner.

This year is Verlander’s third time in the World Series and his most recent start since 2012. Up until this point, he hasn’t fared well in his three starts in the World Series. Verlander has a 0-3 record with four home runs allowed in 15 innings pitched. He has an ERA of 7.20, giving up 12 runs on 18 hits. Verlander, like Kershaw last night, could be looking to change his narrative.

Next: Brandon McCarthy's Role

Tonight is going to be a grind for the Dodgers offense. Verlander is by far been the best pitcher they’ve faced this postseason. If the Dodgers can get anything more than three runs off Verlander, they should have a good shot to win tonight. Verlander is getting all of the spotlight tonight, but it could very well be Rich Hill who is the biggest factor in the game. If Hill can match Verlander for the first six innings, the Dodgers are still in a prime spot to go up 2-0.

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