Astros-Dodgers: LA dominates late, forces Game 7

Astros-Dodgers: LA dominates late, forces Game 7
Astros fans were dejected after Tuesday's loss. Bob Levey/Getty Images

There will be a Game 7 in the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers were able to get rare runs off of Justin Verlander and backed it with great pitching to fight off elimination and force a winner-take-all game for the championship tomorrow night.

George Springer homers to give the Astros an early lead, but the Dodgers get two runs off of Justin Verlander with RBIs from Chris Taylor and Corey Seager in the sixth and add another off of Joe Musgrove with a solo home run from Joc Pederson in the seventh to beat the Astros 3-1 in Game 6.

Game 6 started with Rich Hill working around a one-out single by Alex Bregman by getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve and a groundout by Carlos Correa to end the top of the first. Justin Verlander had a quick bottom of the inning, retiring the Dodgers in order on seven pitches with a strikeout and two pop outs.

Things remained mostly quiet in the second. In the top of the inning, Hill was able to get a 1-2-3 inning with a fly out, foul out, and ground out. Verlander worked around a one-out single from Yasiel Puig in the bottom of the inning with a strikeout and fly out to keep the game scoreless going into the third.

In the top of the third, George Springer started the scoring with a two-out solo home run to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Verlander worked well with the lead in the bottom half, getting two strikeouts and a groundout to end the inning and hold the 1-0 lead headed into the fourth.

Both pitchers combined for another quiet one in the fourth, making it a six up, six down inning including two more strikeouts for Verlander, bringing his total to seven as the Astros held on to their 1-0 lead after four.

Brian McCann led off the fifth with a single into right field off of Hill, then moved to third on a double by Marwin Gonzalez. They stayed put after two strikeouts by Hill, followed by an intentional walk to Springer to load the bases before the Dodgers called on their bullpen to bring out Brandon Morrow to face Bregman, who grounded out to end the Astros' threat. Verlander had another great inning in the bottom of the fifth, retiring the Dodgers in order on 11 pitches including another strikeout.

Brandon Morrow was back out in the top of the sixth and was able to get two outs before allowing a single to Yuli Gurriel, resulting in another call to the bullpen, this time for Tony Watson. Watson hit McCann to put runners on first and second, but both were stranded after a lineout by Gonzalez to end the half inning. The Dodgers got their second hit of the night from Austin Barnes to leadoff the bottom of the inning, followed by Verlander hitting Chase Utley with a ball in the dirt to put runners on first and second. Barnes would come around to score on an RBI double by Taylor to tie the game 1-1. The Dodgers would get their first lead of the night on a sac fly from Seager, making it a 2-1 game before Verlander was able to get out of the inning.

Josh Reddick worked a leadoff walk to start the seventh, ending Watson's night as the Dodgers brought in Kenta Maeda. Reddick was thrown out at second on a fielder's choice hit by Evan Gattis, then Gattis moved to second on a one-out single by Springer. Derek Fisher came in to pinch run for Gattis and moved to third tagging after a flyout by Bregman, but was stranded on a groundout by Altuve. Musgrove was first out of the Astros' bullpen in the bottom of the inning and allowed the Dodgers to extend their lead with a solo home run by Pederson to make it 3-1 before getting through the inning and sending the game into the eighth.

Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers' closer, came in for the top of the eighth looking for a six-out save. The top of the eighth put it within reach for him after he retired the Astros in order on just seven pitches. Luke Gregerson went out to the mound for the bottom of the inning and allowed a leadoff single by Charlie Culberson who advanced to second on a groundout for out number one. Gregerson was able to get a strikeout but then walked Justin Turner, resulting in a call to bring in Francisco Liriano, who was able to get a strikeout for the final out of the inning.

Jansen completed the six-out save in the top of the ninth, getting two strikeouts and a pop out to end the game and get the save in the 3-1 victory.

Game 7: The Astros will once again play a Game 7, but this time it will be on the road in enemy territory. First pitch of Game 7 is scheduled for 7:20 PM Central tonight and can once again be seen on Fox. The Dodger's will start Yu Darvish, who the Astros were able to drive out early in Game 3 with a four-run second inning. The Astros have not yet named a starter but it will likely be Lance McCullers Jr. Of course, the starters will have short leashes as both teams will have nearly all their pitchers available for at least some amount of work in an attempt to do whatever it takes to win this ultimate decisive game.

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It's not time to panic, yet. Composite Getty Image.

This is not a column for fanboys or sugarcoating. To this point in the season the Astros stink like rotten eggs. They stink like Angel Hernandez’s umpiring. They stink like Bill O'Brien's general manager skills. The Astros are a bad team right now. That’s notably different from being a bad team. Their 4-10 record is well-earned and it is definitely possible that the Astros’ run of high quality and annual playoff appearances crashes and burns this season. But it’s laughable to declare so after just 14 games of the 162 scheduled have been played.

Last June the Astros had a lousy window in which they went 3-10. In August they had a 4-8 funk. In September it was a 3-9 stretch of collapse. The 2022 World Series Champions had a 3-8 hiccup in April, and a 2-6 blotch overlapping July and August that included getting swept in a three-game series by the then and now awful Oakland A’s.

Now the Astros are back home (Oh No!) for six games, three vs. the Rangers then three with the Braves. The Rangers lead the American League West but are just 7-6, so despite their cellar-dwelling status, the Astros are just three and a half games out of first. A winning homestand is obviously the goal. No, really. 3-3 would be ok, even though that would just about clinch a losing record heading into May.

Mandatory aside: spectacular weather is the Friday night forecast. Stop being stubborn and lame, Astros. Open the roof! I don’t mean just for the postgame fireworks.

On the mend?

The Astros’ track record of downplaying pitching injuries that turned out to be major certainly causes angst as we await Framber Valdez’s return from a sore elbow. If Valdez ultimately winds up out for months, the Astros’ starting rotation is in deep trouble. Even more so if upon the approaching delayed start to his season, 41-year-old Justin Verlander pitches to his age in terms of results and/or durability. However, if Valdez is ok within a month and JV is solid, those two, and Cristian Javier can stabilize the rotation quite nicely.

The Astros started three guys in the last four games who belong in the minor leagues. It was a sad sign of the times that the Astros were reduced to calling up Blair Henley to make the start Monday in Arlington. Except for Rangers fans and Astros haters, it grew uncomfortable watching Henley give up four hits, walk three, record just one out, and wind up charged with seven earned runs. But it’s not Henley’s fault that he was thrust into a role for which he was utterly unqualified.

Last season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Henley’s earned run average was 5.06. Because of the crummy state of the Astros’ farm system, Henley failed up to Triple-A Sugar Land to start this season. After one not good start for the Space Cowboys, “Hey, go get out big leaguers Blair!” Henley turns 27 next month, he is not a prospect of any note. If he never again pitches in the majors Henley forever carries a 135.00 ERA.

But you know what? It was still a great day for the guy. Even if undeserved, Henley made “The Show.” For one day on the Astros’ 26-man roster, Henley made over four thousand dollars. To make him eligible for call up, the Astros first had to put Henley on their 40-man roster and sign him to a split contract. That means that until/unless the Astros release him, Henley’s AAA salary jumps from approximately $36,000 for the season to over 60K.

Lastly, while Henley’s ERA could remain 135.00 in perpetuity, at least he’s no Fred Bruckbauer. In 1961 Bruckbauer made his big league debut and bade his big league farewell in the same game. He faced four batters, giving up three earned runs on three hits and one walk. Career ERA: Infinity! Bruckbauer is the most recent of the more than a dozen pitchers to retire with the infinity ERA.

Spencer Arrighetti’s debut start went much better. For two innings, before it unraveled in a seven run Royals third. Arrighetti has good stuff, but not great stuff. Control has been an issue for him in the minor leagues. Without better command Arrighetti cannot be a plus starter in the majors.

Then there’s Hunter Brown. We could go decades without seeing another pitcher give up nine runs and 11 hits in two-thirds of an inning as Brown did Thursday. It had never happened in MLB history! To this point, Brown is an overhyped hope. ERA last July: 5.92, August: 6.23, September 1 on: 8.74. Three starts into 2024: 16.43.

Jose Abreu watch

It's still early enough in the season that even just a couple of big games can markedly improve a stat line but Jose Abreu continues to look washed up at the plate. Three hits in 37 at bats (.081 batting average), with the most recent hit a questionable official scoring decision. Manager Joe Espada has already dropped Abreu from fifth in the lineup to sixth, then seventh, then eighth. Two more slots down to go, Joe! Continuing to act like Jon Singleton could be a competent bat in the lineup is just silly though.

Catch the weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week now generally goes up after Sunday’s game (second part released Tuesday, sometimes a third part Wednesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTubewith the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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