Monday, October 30, 2017

Astros Leverage Home-Field Advantage for the Win...

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
2017 World Series
Astros 13, Dodgers 12...
Astros lead Series, 3-2

You certainly do not expect a slugfest to develop for a game that featured frontline aces Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel. That game was as wild as any I have ever seen in the World Series. The YES Network was showing replays of the 2001 World Series yesterday, and Game 4 (a home run by Tino Martinez to tie it and Derek Jeter's homer to win it) might be the closest to the drama and excitement we saw in the Astros' big win. 

The win certainly puts the Astros in the driver's seat as the series will now shift back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday night.  

The game started very positively for Dodgers fans. Chris Taylor led off the game with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out, but then Dallas Keuchel walked both Justin Turner anKiké Hernandez to load the bases. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out and it looked like Keuchel might find a way to emerge unscathed. Logan Forsythe made Southern California sports bars erupt when he singled to left, driving in both Taylor and Turner when the ball booted off the glove of left fielder Marwin Gonzalez.  Hernandez took third. Then, the Dodgers picked up their third run of the inning when Logan Forsythe took off from first too early.  It looked like the Astros would get out of the inning but first baseman Yuli Gurriel's throw to second was wide which pulled second baseman Jose Altuve away from the bag.  It was just enough for Forsythe to safely slide into second (which the Replay challenge confirmed) and the run scored by Hernandez on the play counted.  

With Kershaw breezing through the first few innings, it appeared that the Dodgers were going to have their way. They picked up another run in the top of the 4th inning. After Bellinger struck out again, Forsythe doubled to deep center with a one-hopper off the wall. Yasiel Puig struck out for the second out but Austin Barnes singled to left, with the ball dropping in front of Marwin Gonzales which brought Forsythe home to score. The Dodgers were up, 4-0, and appeared to be in control of the game. Charlie Culberson subsequently reached on an infield single to shallow right when he beat Jose Altuve's throw, moving Barnes to second. That was all for Dallas Keuchel as Astros manager A.J. Hinch made the call to the pen and brought in Luke Gregerson. A wild pitch moved Barnes to third but Gregerson struck out Chris Taylor to limit the damage for the Astros. 

In the bottom of the 4th, the craziness ensued. George Springer led off with a walk. Following a fly out to left by Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve reached first on a solid hit to left. Springer moved to second. Carlos Correa smashed a double to left to score Springer. Altuve advanced to third, with Correa sliding into second under the throw (the replay challenge review showed Correa's heel touched the bag ahead of Charlie Culberson's tag). Yuli Gurriel then jumped on Kershaw's first pitch to send it very high over the left field wall for the game-tying three-run homer.  

The Dodgers quickly answered Gurriel's shot in the top of the 5th. Corey Seager and Justin Turner led off the inning with walks off Astros reliever Collin McHugh. Kiké Herandez had the first opportunity to bring the runners home but he struck out looking (in disbelief at the call). Cody Bellinger was next and he showed the World why he will be the NL's Rookie of the Year when he blasted a three-run shot to right a few feet above the wall to restore the Dodgers lead at 7-4.  

Credit:  LA Times - Robert Gauthier
Unfortunately, Clayton Kershaw did not survive the bottom of the 5th. He got two quick outs when Marwin Gonzalez flied out to left and Brian McCann struck out. But it unraveled from there. George Springer battled Kershaw through eight pitches before working a walk, and then Alex Bregman used a 10-pitch at-bat, down at one point to 1-2, to also walk.  Two outs, two runners and Kershaw was done.  

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
Kenta Maeda entered the game and was promptly greeted by a three-run homer to left center by Jose Altuve to tie the game at 7.

Credit:  AP - Charlie Riedel
The Dodgers were able to recapture the lead in the 7th. Brad Peacock was on the mound for the Astros. Justin Turner led off the top of the inning with a double to right center off the top of the wall (bummer, if it had only been a few inches higher). Kiké Hernandez bunted back to the pitcher, but the Astros were able to erase Turner at third with a quick throw from Peacock to third baseman Alex Bregman. Hernandez safe at first. Cody Bellinger's triple to center, which bounced past George Springer, scored Hernandez. The Dodgers were unable to bring Bellinger home but they had taken a 8-7 lead.   

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought reliever Brandon Morrow into the game for the bottom of the 7th. Morrow has generally been a lockdown pitcher for the Dodgers but not this time. George Springer led off with a massive Aaron Judgian home run to left to tie the game once again. Alex Bregman, swinging on the first pitch, singled to left center and he scored when Jose Altuve doubled to left center over the head of Joc Pederson.  A wild pitch advanced Altuve to third, but it didn't really matter when Carlos Correa launched a blast over the left field wall while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts could only shake his head. The Astros had their first lead of the game, 11-8. 

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
Tony Cingrani replaced Morrow to retire the next three batters in order and send the game to the 8th inning.

With Brad Peacock still pitching for the 'Stros, Joc Pederson hit a one-out double off the top of the wall in left. Chris Taylor was hit by a pitch in the ribs. The Astros pulled Peacock and brought in Will Harris.  Harris promptly gave up a double to left center by Corey Seager. Pederson scored and Taylor moved to third. After Justin Turner flied out to right, Harris was pulled in favor of Chris Devenski. The Dodgers sent Andre Ethier (that's a name I haven't written in a very long time) up to pinch hit foKiké Hernandez.  Ethier grounded out to first to leave Taylor stranded at third.  11-9, Astros.

In the bottom of the 8th and Cingrani still pitching for the Dodgers, Brian McCann went deep with a solo blast to right. The Astros had increased their seemingly safe lead to 12-9.

But the Dodgers weren't done yet. Cody Bellinger led off the top of the 9th with a walk. Devenski struck out Logan Forsythe for the first out.  Yasiel Puig was up next and his homer to left, which just cleared the wall, made it a one-run game. 

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
Austin Barnes followed Puig with a double to center.  Joc Pederson grounded out to short, but Barnes advanced to third on the play.  Chris Taylor's single up the middle scored Barnes and the game was tied yet again.

The Astros had a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the 9th when Yuli Gurriel doubled (very nearly a home run) but they were unable to bring him home so it was off to extra innings with the 12-12 deadlock.

The Dodgers had a runner on base in the top of the 10th when Andre Ethier singled to left with one out, but they were unsuccessful in moving the runner.

It opened the door for the dramatic bottom of the 10th. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, pitching his second inning, retired the first two hitters before hitting Brian McCann with a pitch on the elbow. Next, George Springer walked. The Astros replaced the slow-footed and elbow-hurting McCann at second with pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman, jumping on the first pitch from Jansen, singled to left center well over the shortstop's head. Fisher raced around third to score the winning run for the Astros ahead of Andre Ethier's throw to the plate.  

Credit:  LA Times - Robert Gauthier
It was a nice touch by the Houston Astros to have former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush on hand for the ceremonial first pitch.  I am not sure how many more times we'll see the elder Bush in public but it was good to see that he was healthy enough to participate.

Credit:  Pool - Getty Images
A tough loss for the Dodgers but now the series heads back to Los Angeles and away from the raucous Houston crowd. They face an uphill battle but at least they'll be able to continue the fight on home turf.  

Editor's Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends...

Dave Martinez was one of my favorites, among current coaches, for managerial opportunities. As Joe Maddon's long-time chief lieutenant, I felt that Martinez was ready to run his own show. I didn't really expect him to get consideration for the Yankees job with no prior connection to Yankees GM Brian Cashman. So, I was not surprised that word leaked yesterday that Martinez is the new manager for the Washington Nationals, signing a three-year deal. It's a good hire by the Nats and makes the best of a bad situation after they axed former manager Dusty Baker.

There were also reports yesterday the Philadelphia Phillies are close to naming Gabe Kapler as their manager.  Kapler, currently, Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, does not have managing or coaching experience.  If Kapler gets the job, he'll beat out Phillies Triple-A manager Dusty Wathan, son of John Wathan, to do it.

As for the Yankees, Mark DeRosa is an intriguing name.  I know that like Kapler (above) or Jerry Hairston, Jr, he does not have any coaching experience.  An Ivy Leaguer (he graduated from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania), DeRosa may not have any past connections with the Yankees or GM Brian Cashman, but he's a Jersey guy (born in Passaic and raised in Carlstadt).  I respected DeRosa during his playing career and by all accounts he was a great teammate.  He was versatile playing all positions except catcher, pitcher and center field.  Listening and watching DeRosa, 42, on MLB Network shows he is a very  smart, talented guy and he would mesh perfectly with the New York media as well as the team's core of Baby Bombers.  I know you need more than a New York accent to manage the Yankees, but I could easily get behind DeRosa as a potential manager.  After watching the Nationals and Phillies (apparently) make very inspired choices for their field generals, I would like to see the Yankees do the same.  Nothing against Rob Thomson but he represents the old guard to me.  It's time for a fresh, new voice of leadership for the Pinstripers as they embark into the dawn of a new era.

Credit:  MLB.com  
Have a great Monday! It's an off day so if there will be baseball news before the end of the World Series, it happens today. Go Yankees!  

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