David Shovein

Baseball Daily Dose

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Postseason Dose: What.A.Game.

Monday, October 30, 2017

What. A. Game.

To say that this World Series has been entertaining would be a massive understatement. It has been unbelievable.

The Dodgers and Astros traded blows through the first four games, each team one-upping the other with the balance of the series shifting on heroic play after heroic play.

After the Astros won Game 3, many thought that they had taken control of the series and that the Dodgers were on life support. After the Dodgers rallied against the Astros’ bullpen to take Game 4, most believed that the series had shifted in their favor. After all, they had star left-hander Clayton Kershaw taking the hill for Game 5 on Sunday night.

So with Kershaw and Astros’ left-hander Dallas Keuchel on the bump, the critical Game 5 would surely be a pitcher’s duel for the ages, right?


Kershaw opened the game by shutting the Astros down in order in the top half of the first inning. The Dodgers bats then immediately went to work against Keuchel. Chris Taylor got things started with a leadoff walk. After Corey Seager went down on strikes, Justin Turner and Enrique Hernandez drew walks to load the bases with one out.

Keuchel was able to battle back, striking out the vaunted Cody Bellinger. He wasn’t out of the woods though. Logan Forsythe ripped a two-run single into left field to get the Dodgers on the board. Forsythe then swiped second base, but pickled himself long enough there to allow Hernandez to race home from third base with the game’s third run.

Facing an early 3-0 deficit and tasked with battling Kershaw, the outlook for the Astros was very bleak from the get-go.

Keuchel rebounded to keep the Dodgers off the board for the next two innings, but they were back at it in the fourth. Forsythe smashed a one-out double to left-center and came around to score on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Austin Barnes. Charlie Culberson followed that knock with a single, which was the end of the line for Keuchel.

Kershaw meanwhile, looked absolutely dialed in. He faced the minimum nine batters through the first three innings. The only baserunner he allowed, an Evan Gattis single in the third inning, was erased on a double play.

The Astros wouldn’t be going quietly into the night however. George Springer opened the fourth inning by drawing a walk. After Alex Bregman flew out, Jose Altuve lined a single into left. Carlos Correa then broke the seal, lacing an RBI double into left to get the Astros on the board. Yulieski Gurriel then clobbered Kershaw’s next pitch for a mammoth three-run homer that tied the game at 4-4. It was the eighth home run that the left-hander has allowed this postseason, setting a new MLB record.

Armed with a new lease on life, Astros’ skipper A.J. Hinch sent Collin McHugh to the hill to start the fifth inning. The right-hander struggled to find the strike zone. Seager worked a six-pitch walk to start the inning, and Turner drew his own base on balls on five pitches. That set the stage for the rookie sensation, Bellinger. The 22-year-old smashed a 2-2 offering deep into the seats in right-center field for a go-ahead three-run homer that completely erased Gurriel’s game-changing blast from the previous half-inning.

With his home run, Bellinger is the youngest player to go deep in the World Series since Miguel Cabrera did so as a 20-year-old in 2003.

McHugh rebounded to retire the next two hitters, but the damage had been done. The Dodgers once again had a three-run advantage and still had the benefit of having Kershaw on the hill.

Kershaw set down the first two Astros’ hitters to start the home half of the fifth inning, but Springer was able to set the table again by drawing an eight-pitch walk. Bregman followed with an epic 10-pitch at-bat that resulted in another free pass. Rather than leaving Kershaw in to face the potential American League MVP as the game’s tying run, Roberts decided to summon Kenta Maeda from the bullpen.

Altuve worked the count full against Maeda, then got ahead of a slider and crushed a long, towering fly ball that hooked foul down the left field line. He didn’t miss the next one. Altuve hammered the next pitch for a game-tying three-run homer, closing the book on Kershaw and once again injecting new life into the Astros and Minute Maid Park.

It was the sixth home run that Altuve has hit at home during this postseason, tying Jayson Werth for the most in MLB history in a single postseason. In total, Altuve has swatted seven long balls this season, which is one shy of the MLB record.

For the most part, the sixth inning was uneventful, with each side trading zeroes.

Brad Peacock relieved McHugh to start the seventh inning, and he immediately put himself against the ropes by allowing a leadoff double to Turner. Hernandez then attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but Peacock sprinted off the mound and fired to third base, nabbing Turner instead. Just as momentum shifted back to the Astros however, it would change again just as quickly.

Cody Bellinger crushed a screaming line drive toward George Springer in center field, putting the defender in no-man’s land. Rather than ease up and play the ball on a hop, Springer made the fateful decision to dive for the ball, coming up empty, allowing it to roll all the way to the wall in center field. Hernandez raced around to score from first base, with Bellinger checking in with a go-ahead RBI triple. To his credit, Peacock battled back nicely, striking out Logan Forsythe and getting Yasiel Puig on a fly ball to strand Bellinger at third.

If the Astros were going to win this ballgame, they would have to engineer at least a third comeback against Dodgers’ pitching.

To protect their new-found advantage, Roberts turned to right-hander Brandon Morrow. He had stated before the game that he didn’t want to use the right-hander for a third straight day (for the first time in his career), but desperate times call for desperate measures. It was Morrow’s 11th appearance in 12 games this postseason and the fifth time that he had worked in the past six days.

George Springer was there to greet him, looking to atone for his mishap that gave away the lead in the top half of the inning. He wasted no time, obliterating Morrow’s first pitch for a titanic 447 foot blast to tie the game. Alex Bregman followed by lining the next pitch into center field, bringing Altuve to the dish again. After a taking a strike, Altuve laced a double into the gap in left-center field giving the Astros their first lead of the ballgame. Altuve then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Carlos Correa followed him with a towering fly ball to left field that seemingly never came down. It traveled just 328 feet, but carried the wall and landed in the Crawford Boxes in left field to increase the Astros’ advantage to 11-7. The ball had a launch angle of 48 degrees according to Statcast, the highest on any home run hit in MLB this season.

That was all she wrote for Morrow, four batters, four earned runs, zero outs recorded.

Tony Cingrani came on in relief of him and retired all three hitters that he faced, but the damage had been done. Now it was the Dodgers’ turn to see if they had any postseason magic.

Hinch elected to stick with Peacock to start the eighth inning, given his lack of trust in the other options in his bullpen. After getting the first out though, Joc Pederson doubled off of the left field wall and Peacock then drilled Chris Taylor in the ribs, bringing the tying run to the plate with the heart of the Dodgers’ order coming up.

That’s when Hinch pulled the plug, calling for Will Harris to face Corey Seager. The star shortstop showed that the Dodgers weren’t ready to roll over just yet, lining the first pitch he saw for an RBI double into the gap in left-center field. That put the tying runs in scoring position with playoff hero Justin Turner striding to the plate. Turner hit the ball hard, but right at Josh Reddick in right field, and despite third base coach Chris Woodward appearing to send Taylor, he (probably wisely) held at third.

With Andre Ethier announced as the pinch-hitter for Enrique Hernandez, Hinch again went to his bullpen. This time it was right-hander Chris Devenski called upon to stop the bleeding. While he had been a disaster for most of the postseason (7.11 ERA), he did work a perfect inning in Game 4 on Saturday. This time, an Astros’ reliever won the battle, coaxing a weak groundout from Ethier to end the threat.

The Astros added onto their lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Brian McCann launched a solo homer to right off of Cingrani. That would mean the Dodgers would have to score at least three times in the ninth inning to keep the game going.

Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch said prior to the game that he likely wouldn’t use closer Ken Giles in a save situation, should one arise on Sunday. Having already used all of his trusted arms in the bullpen, it seemed likely that he would leave in Devenski to get through the ninth.

It’s never easy though.

Devenski started by committing the cardinal sin, walking the leadoff batter in Bellinger. After striking out Logan Forsythe, he served up a line drive two-run homer to Yasiel Puig that cut the lead to just one run. Austin Barnes followed with a hustle double to left center that put the tying run in scoring position. He advanced to third on a ground ball by Joc Pederson, leaving it up to Chris Taylor.

Down to their final strike and staring at a potential 3-2 deficit in the Series, Taylor delivered. He lined a sharp single right back through the box, scoring Barnes and tying the game at 12-12.

The Dodgers’ skipper wasn’t going to mess around in the night, giving the ball to his dominant closer Kenley Jansen to work through the heart of the Astros’ lineup. Jansen was able to retire Altuve and Correa without any difficulty, but Gurriel crushed a ball off of the wall in left center that wound up as a double. Jansen responded by retiring Josh Reddick to end the threat.

Bonus Baseball.

Two equally matched teams, both with high-powered offenses and over-worked bullpens, going back and forth with epic comebacks in a pivotal Game 5 of the World Series. To the winner, a commanding 3-2 lead as the series shifts back to Los Angeles on Tuesday. All to be decided on an inning by inning basis with depleted bullpens. Every pitch, every at-bat with magnified intensity and importance. This is where heroes are made.

With the heart of the Dodgers’ order coming up in the 10th inning, Hinch turned to his last semi-reliable horse in the bullpen, Joe Musgrove. The only other options available to him at the time were Ken Giles and Francisco Liriano, so it’s likely that Musgrove would be on for multiple innings if necessary. He did allow a one-out single to Andre Ethier, but nothing further came from it.

To the Astros’ half of the 10th, Roberts was clearly going to stick with Jansen. He retired the first two hitters that he faced in the frame without any trouble, but made a mistake when he clipped Brian McCann with a two-strike pitch. George Springer then worked his third walk of the game, pushing the winning run up to second base. Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch then made the decision to pinch-run Derek Fisher for McCann. In doing so, he risked losing his best defensive catcher should the game continue, but wanted to have more speed on the bases in the event Alex Bregman could come through with a single.

Well played Mr. Hinch. Bregman lined the first pitch that he saw from Jansen over the outstretched glove of Corey Seager at shortstop, allowing Fisher to race around the bases and slide in ahead of the throw with the winning run in a 13-12 victory that will be remembered for generations.

So what happens next?

The series now shifts back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday night. If the Dodgers want to survive and advance to a do-or-die Game 7 scenario, they’ll have to get past Justin Verlander who has yet to lose a game as a member of the Astros. Opposing him will be curveball-enthusiast extraordinaire, Rich Hill who delivered a dominant performance but was pulled after just four innings in Game 2 of the Series.

While the task may look daunting for the Dodgers, remember that 13 of the 34 home teams that have taken a 3-2 series lead have gone on to lose each of the next two games when the series shifted back to the road.

Editor’s Note: FanDuel is hosting the Rotoworld Beat the Writers Series, where you can play against five Rotoworld football writers for your chance at cash prizes and free entry into their Sunday Million. Put your knowledge to the test!


Quick Hits: According to multiple reports, the Phillies have decided on their next manager, Dodgers’ director of player development Gabe Kapler. While he has no managerial experience at any level, he’s very highly regarded in the game and reportedly wow’d the Phillies’ brass during his interview, giving him the edge over Dusty Wathan and John Farrell… The Nationals have also made their decision on a successor to Dusty Baker, tabbing Cubs’ bench coach Davey Martinez as their next manager, finalizing a three-year contract… Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts confirmed Sunday that Yu Darvish would pitch in a potential Game 7 if they are able to stave off elimination in Game 6 on Tuesday… Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell was arrested late Saturday for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly pulling a gun and pointing it at a female food delivery driver.

Dave Shovein is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveShovein.
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