Dodgers: Recent Luck in LA has the Pressure on the Astros in Houston
Game 2 of the World Series was an instant classic that saw the Houston Astros steal home field advantage from the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the series now in Houston for the next three games, one would think all the pressure is on the Dodgers, but that’s not exactly the way I see it.
Kenley Jansen and the Dodgers should not hang their heads on a tough-luck loss on Wednesday night. While they have the uphill battle of playing three of the next five games on the road, they should still be feeling good about the series. Now that the Astros have home-field advantage, all the pressure is on them to finish the deal because they gave the Dodgers their best punch on Wednesday and escaped with a victory by sheer luck. They must now replicate the feat of playing their absolute best and summoning Lady Luck three more times.
Superman almost saved the day. In the 8th inning, a ground-rule double by Alex Bregman to lead off the inning that Yasiel Puig almost reeled in with a superman diving catch will always leave Dodger fans asking, what if he would’ve caught it? The ball went off the tip of Puig’s glove and bounced into the stands. This cause Roberts to bring Jansen in for a six-out save. Bregman ended up scoring on a Carlos Correa base hit that brought them within one run. That set the stage for Marwin Gonzalez to tie the game with a solo bomb off Jansen in the top of the 9th. The Astros were very fortunate that Puig uses missed the ball by a matter of inches.
Loudest out ever. Bottom of the 9th, two outs, tied game, and the Dodgers had 2017 NL Rookie of the Year and MVP candidate, Cody Bellinger up to bat. He has admitted to pressing during the playoffs, trying to do too much. What better way to redeem himself, than with a walk-off homer, right? Astros closer Ken Giles served up a 98 mph meatball down the heart of the plate, a pitch Bellinger has crushed all season long. With the heroics perfectly set-up, the ball jumped off his bat into the hot LA sky with a beautiful launch angle, looking like all his other homers. But somehow, that ball died at the warning track; he just missed it, three outs.
Umpire almost got a cup check. After a two-out clutch base hit Kike poked into right field that scored the Logan Forsythe to tie up the game, Kike stood at second with Chris Taylor up. Reliever Chris Devenski was then brought into the game and was instantly feeling the heat of the moment with Kike getting a big lead off at second. Devenski spun and threw to second to try and pick off Kike, but it was a wild throw that Jose Altuve couldn’t reach. Off the ball goes into…the upper thigh of umpire Laz Diaz who couldn’t get out of the way. Kike exercised good awareness and stood at second after Altuve quickly retrieved the carom off the umpire. Now, this may not have affected Taylor’s at-bat, but with a runner on third, you always have to think of the possibility of a wild pitch or a passed ball. Devenski had two wild pitches during the regular season by the way.
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Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. An inch here, an inch there, baseball is always reliant on little things that ultimately affect the big picture and results. There were so many pivotal plays during the game on Wednesday that not only swung momentum in the way of the Astros, but produced runs in their favor, or denied runs for the Dodgers. The Astros will need the ball to continue to bounce in their favor this weekend to improve their chances of winning.
Gotta slay the dragon again. The Astros looked demoralized during game one. Facing Clayton Kershaw is never fun (he dominated them with 11 Ks in 7IP), and neither has been facing the Dodger bullpen all season. They had the NL’s best ERA at 3.38. During the playoffs, the team pitching has been the best with a 2.57 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. But the Astros exploited the one weakness in the staff, giving up the long ball. The Dodger bullpen had arguably been the team playoff MVP up until game two. With the worst possible timing ever, the bullpen gave up four dingers during innings nine through eleven, willing the Astros, the best hitting team in the majors, to victory. All of a sudden the Dodgers relievers don’t seem so bullet-proof.
Face the aces at least twice more. Tonight the Astros must go up against the Dodgers’ trade deadline acquisition Yu Darvish. This is exactly why he was traded for, to be another force on the mound to cool off hot bats. Darvish just so happens to own the Astros at Minute Maid Park lifetime, with a 4-1 record resulting from a line of 41.2 IP, 56 Ks, 11 BBs, 2.16 ERA and 0.74 WHIP. This postseason he has been stellar as well, winning both his starts with 14 Ks in 11.1 IP and a 1.59 ERA. Let’s not forget that Kershaw will start game five on Sunday.
Bats haven’t been quiet. The Dodgers have been the highest scoring team this postseason, even scoring more than the Astros in three fewer games. Dodgers bats have also hit more home runs too. The Astros already threw their best two pitchers, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, and the Dodgers homered twice off each of them. The body language of each of their best pitchers wasn’t good after they got bombed, the grinding at-bats clearly deflated them. So even if the Dodgers have to face this dynamic duo, the bats have shown they are up for the challenge.
Next: Darvish is Ready for HIS Moment
The Astros face a tall task in games three through five. Taming the LA beast that has been the most dominant team this postseason, and had the best record during the regular season, will be tough. Houston needs more luck in their favor, more big hits, and some great pitching to line themselves up for a chance to win. The Dodgers are taking the record-setting LA heat from games one and two with them to Houston and filling the Astros domed stadium this weekend. If the Astros can’t take the heat for even one game, the series is coming back to LA. Houston needs everything to break right, or they might have a problem…no pressure Astros.