After an epic Game 2 extra-innings showdown, which the Dodgers unfortunately found themselves on the wrong side of, the World Series now shifts to Houston for three games with the series tied 1-1.
This may worry some Dodger fans, as Houston has yet to lose in the postseason at home, and where they have outscored their opponent 31-7. But there are a few differences between the games that they played there previously and the games they will play against the Dodgers.
While they are undefeated at home in the postseason, that wasn’t the case over the whole year. They had a notably better road record winning percentage, .654, than a home wining percentage of .593. The Dodgers had a .580 winning percentage on the road during the regular season. Houston will be using every home town amentity to their advantage, including keeping the roof closed for maximum crowd noise. JJ Watt of the Houston Texans will be throwing out the first pitch, fresh off of raising $37M for hurricane relief.
The Astros will pit Lance McCullers against the Dodgers on Friday night. McCullers last pitched four innings of relief in Game 7 of the NLCS, where he finished the Yankees off with 24 consecutive curve balls. He has the highest usage of curve balls in the majors this season at 47.2%. Astros manager A.J. Hinch describes McCullers as a “challenge-first type of guy.” Houston had a 4-0 lead when McCullers took the field last time, and he fed off the crowd. The Dodgers are the best team in the MLB against the curveball. If the Dodgers can attack and neutralize McCullers’ plan, they could jump out to an early lead and negate the crowd involvement.
Los Angeles will counter with righty Yu Darvish. He is 4-0 with a .88 ERA in his last five starts, and 4-1 with a 0.74 WHIP in six starts at Minute Maid Park. He faced the Astros twice this year while with the Rangers, allowing three runs in five innings in Arlington, and then only allowing one run in seven innings in Houston 10 days later. Darvish is coming off a dominant Game 3 start against the Cubs in the NLCS. George Springer is the only Astro that has seen consistent success against him.
The momentum appears to be in the Astros favor, as they won a thrilling Game 2, knocked the Dodgers’ bullpen around for the first time this season, and are now headed home to their friendly confines. But as we all know, momentum can switch in a moment’s notice. The Dodgers have shown incredible patience at the plate this postseason, and will not be as susceptible to chasing curve balls outside the zone. The Dodgers will have one more chance to keep the lineup moving, since the DH will take the bat of Darvish’s hands and into the hands of a more capable batter. The Dodgers have seen most of their runs come off is home runs this postseason, and according to some reports, batters, especially Yasiel Puig, were enjoying how the ball was flying out during batting practice yesterday.
Who knows if the Astros themselves have given the Dodgers some bulletin board material, taking issue with how some Dodger players celebrate their home runs.
As the first two games have shown, these are all going to be hard-fought, close games played by two very good baseball teams. Even with the momentum and the bullpen meltdown on Wednesday night, I still think the Dodgers have the slight advantage. They beat the Astros’ Game 1 starter, and they hit a few home runs off of ALCS MVP Justin Verlander in Game 2. There is no quit in this team, and there won’t be just because the stadium has changed.
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