LA Dodgers down Houston Astros to keep World Series bid alive and force game seven decider
The Dodgers knot the best-of-seven championship series at three games apiece
The Los Angeles Dodgers rallied for a 3-1 victory over Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros on Tuesday to force a game seven showdown for the 2017 MLB World Series.
The Dodgers, seeking a seventh title and their first since 1988, knotted Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship series at three games apiece, pushing the Astros to the brink in their bid for a first title since their inception in 1962.
George Springer’s solo home run off Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill in the third inning staked the Astros to a 1-0 lead.
It was Springer’s fourth homer of the series and the 14th for the Astros – tying the World Series record set by the San Francisco Giants in 2002.
With Verlander rolling through five one-hit innings it looked for a time as if that might be enough.
But the Dodgers finally broke through against the Astros ace with two runs in the sixth.
Austin Barnes led off the bottom of the frame with a single.
Chase Utley, part of a double substitution by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, reached first when he was hit by a Verlander pitch that hit the dirt and rolled up Utley’s leg.
That brought Chris Taylor to the plate with no outs and two on. Taylor belted a double down the first baseline and Barnes scored from second to tie the game with two runners in scoring position and still no outs.
Corey Seager’s high fly looked like it might be headed for the left-field seats.
It was caught at the track but gave Utley plenty of time to reach home plate and give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
Verlander limited the damage, retiring Justin Turner and striking out Cody Bellinger to end the innings.
The Astros threatened in the top of the seventh against Dodgers relief pitcher Tony Watson.
Josh Reddick led off with a single, and pinch-hitter Evan Gattis grounded into a fielder’s choice, reaching first as Reddick was out at second.
George Springer singled before Alex Bregman’s fly out to centre sent pinch runner Derek Fisher to third. Jose Altuve then grounded out as the Astros left runners on for the third straight innings.
The Dodgers extended the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh on Joc Pederson’s one-out homer off relief pitcher Joe Musgrove.
Closing pitcher Kenley Jansen came on in the top of the eighth and retired the Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and Brian McCann on seven pitches – Gurriel continuing to draw deafening boos from Dodgers fans angered by his racist gesture toward Los Angeles’ Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish in game three.
Jansen set down Marwin Gonzalez, Reddick and pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran in order in the ninth to end it.
The Astros will have to regroup before Wednesday’s game, when Darvish again takes the mound for Los Angeles.
Swept in their only prior World Series appearance in 2005, they came into game six bullish about their chances with Verlander on hill.
Verlander, a former Cy Young award-winner who arrived in a trade from the Detroit Tigers on August 31, had been 4-0 in four prior post-season starts for the Astros.
He ran into trouble in the second inning, needing 23 pitches to work around a one-out single by Yasiel Puig.
He then retired 11 straight batters before giving up the single to Barnes in the sixth.