Houston is now 3-3 on the year

Dodgers and Astros go deep into extras, Los Angeles comes out ahead to sweep series

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Things escalated quickly in the first game of this series with benches clearing and emotions running high after Joe Kelly made his feelings known about the Astros with erratic pitches flying over Astros' heads. After more than enough opinions and statements made by fans and voices of the sport, things finally returned to the field on Wednesday between the Dodgers and Astros. Here is a quick rundown of the second of two games between Houston and Los Angeles:

Final Score (13 innings): Dodgers 4, Astros 2.

Record: 3-3, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Dennis Santana (1-0, 4.15 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Cy Sneed (0-1, 2.08 ERA).

Javier shines in his first career start

In his first start at the major-league level, Cristian Javier was fantastic. He made just one mistake through his first five innings of work, a pitch that resulted in a solo home run by Corey Seager in the top of the second to put Los Angeles up 1-0.

Javier was otherwise dominant, recording all other Dodgers in order through the first five frames, including eight strikeouts over that span. He returned in the top of the sixth, in a 1-1 game, and after a walk and single with one out, would get one more out before Dusty Baker would make the call to the bullpen. Blake Taylor would come in and get the final out to make Javier's line final: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR.

Slow offensive night for both teams as game stays tied 1-1 late

Houston's run that tied the game came in the bottom of the second. Michael Brantley led off the inning with a ground-rule double, moved to third on a groundout for the second out, then scored as Myles Straw legged out an infield single for the RBI to tie the game 1-1.

After Taylor would get the final out for Javier in the sixth, he would continue on the mound for a scoreless 1-2-3 seventh then remain in the game for the top of the eighth. He would allow a one-out double but would erase the runner with a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.

Dodgers pull ahead in extras to sweep the mini-series 

Still knotted up at 1-1 going to the top of the ninth with the Dodgers back around to the top of their lineup, the Astros moved to closer Roberto Osuna. He was able to get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros a chance at a walk-off. Houston would strand two runners in the bottom of the ninth against Kenley Jansen, sending the game to extra innings to test out the new rules for 2020, where each inning would start with a runner on second base.

Osuna came back for a second inning in the top of the second and was able to keep the free runner on second with a 1-2-3 inning. In the bottom of the inning, Kyle Tucker would be the runner on second, but he too would be erased after an inning-ending double play. Moving on to the eleventh, Cy Sneed would be next out of the bullpen, and he would allow an RBI-single to Mookie Betts to break the tie in favor of Los Angeles at 2-1.

The Astros would respond in the bottom of the eleventh, starting with a leadoff single by Yuli Gurriel to put runners on the corners with no outs. That brought Carlos Correa to the plate, and he would deliver with an RBI-single to tie it at 2-2. Later in the inning, a botched review should have loaded the bases with one out, but instead had runners on the corners with two outs and would result in the game continuing to the twelfth.

Sneed was able to once again erase the free runner in the twelfth, retiring Los Angeles in order. George Springer, who pinch-hit earlier in the game and would be the final out of the eleventh, was on second to start the twelfth but would stay there as the Astros came up empty again, sending the game to the thirteenth. In that inning, Los Angeles would finally get to Sneed, getting a leadoff two-run homer to jump ahead 4-2, a score that would go final.

Up Next: The Astros will have their first day off of the 2020 season on Thursday as they travel to Los Angeles to start a weekend series with the Angels on Friday. The first of the three-game series will begin at 8:10 PM Central on Friday, and while Lance McCullers Jr. is the expected pitcher for Houston, the Angels have not yet named their starter for the game.

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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