WORLD SERIES GAME 3

McCullers, Peacock combine for 5-3 win; Astros lead series 2-1

Yuli Gurriel had a big night for the Astros. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Astros returned home to Minute Maid Park and took advantage of an early offensive explosion to edge out the Dodgers in Game 3 and take a 2-1 lead in the World Series.

Yuli Gurriel homered, followed by RBIs from Marwin Gonzalez, Brian McCann, and Alex Bregman as the Astros jump all over Yu Darvish in the second inning, ending his night early and riding the early lead to a 5-3 victory in World Series Game 3. Lance McCullers pitched a decent start and was followed by Brad Peacock who finished with a strong three and two-thirds inning relief appearance to seal the win.

McCullers started Game 3 with a pop out of Chris Taylor for the first out of the game. McCullers got the next two batters on a groundout and long flyout near the wall in center field by Justin Turner. George Springer led off the bottom of the inning with a double to right-center off of Yu Darvish but was unable to score as Darvish fought back to retire the next three Astros in order to end the scoreless inning.

The big inning was the second. Logan Forsythe recorded the first hit for the Dodgers in the top of the second with a two-out single but was stranded as Lance McCullers got a groundout to end the half inning. Gurriel gave the Astros the lead in the bottom of the inning, putting the first run on the board with a solo home run to the Crawford Boxes off of Darvish, making it 1-0 Houston. Josh Reddick followed with a double into the left-field corner, followed by a walk to Evan Gattis, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Gonzalez added to the Astros' lead with an RBI single off the left-center wall, making it a 2-0 game. McCann was next up and added another no-out run, hitting a single into right-center to make it 3-0. Bregman added one more, scoring Gonzalez from third on a one-out sac fly, extending the lead again to 4-0. Jose Altuve was the eighth batter of the inning and hit a two-out double to put runners on second and third, and prompted a call to the bullpen to end Darvish's brief, rough night. Kenta Maeda entered the game for the Dodgers and was able to get the third out to end the four-run inning.

McCullers struggled to start the top of the third, walking the first three batters to load the bases with no outs. He battled back from it, though, getting a double play which scored a run to make it a 4-1 game, then a groundout for the third out to get out of the jam with just one run. Kenta Maeda worked around a two-out walk of Gattis in the bottom of the inning to end the inning and send the game to the fourth.

In the top of the fourth, McCullers rebounded from the rough third inning to get a quick half inning thanks to Yasiel Puig being thrown out at second trying to advance after a single got past Bregman into left field. Maeda allowed a leadoff single to McCann in the bottom half but then retired the next three in order to end the inning.

McCullers allowed a one-out double to Joc Pederson in the top of the fifth but was able to strand him after some stellar defense behind him to get the next two outs. Maeda got the leadoff out in the bottom of the inning, then was pulled as the Dodgers moved on to Tony Watson from the bullpen. Reddick hit a two-out single, then came all the way around to score as Watson made an errant throw to first on a ground ball from Gattis, extending the Astros' lead to 5-1 before Watson was able to end the inning.

In the top of the sixth, Lance McCullers allowed a leadoff walk to Corey Seager who then moved to third on a no-out double by Justin Turner. McCullers struck out the next batter before A.J. Hinch made the call to the bullpen to bring out Brad Peacock. Peacock allowed a run to score on a groundout for the second out, then another to score on a wild pitch, making it a 5-3 game before Peacock could end the half inning. Tony Watson recorded the first out of the bottom of the inning before the Dodgers went to their bullpen again, this time for Brandon Morrow. Morrow ended up with runners on first and second with one out after an error by Justin Turner and walk to Bregman, but was able to leave them there by getting back-to-back strikeouts of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to leave the game at 5-3 going into the seventh.

Peacock returned to the mound for the top of the seventh and worked around a two-out walk of Andre Ethier to get through the half inning and preserve the 5-3 lead. Gurriel led off the bottom of the inning with a double off the scoreboard wall, prompting another pitching change for Los Angeles, bringing in Tony Cingrani. Cingrani was able to get two outs around an intentional walk of Gattis before McCann reached on an infield single to load the bases with two outs, resulting in yet another call to the Dodgers' bullpen, this time to bring out Ross Stripling, who was able to get Springer to fly out to the center field wall to end the inning.

Peacock pitched his best inning to that point in the top of the eighth, getting a 1-2-3 inning including two strikeouts to put the Astros 3 outs away from the win. Ross Stripling was able to work around a two-out single by Correa in the bottom of the inning to send the 5-3 game to the ninth inning.

A.J. Hinch, much like in Game 7 of the ALCS, allowed the hot hand to stay in the game, sending Peacock back out for the top of the ninth. It proved to be the right call as Peacock sat down the Dodgers in order to wrap up the Game 3 win.

Game 4: First pitch of Game 4 from Minute Maid Park is scheduled for 7:20 PM Central tonight and can be seen on FOX. The Astros will send Charlie Morton to the mound who had an amazing start in Game 7 of the ALCS giving up just two hits and no runs in five innings of work. The Dodgers are likely to send out Alex Wood who despite a terrific 16-3 regular season has only made one playoff start in which he went four and two-thirds innings while giving up 3 runs in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs in the NLDS.

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After a "qualifying round" of playoffs, the actual Stanley Cup playoffs are here. In a weird hockey world that saw two 12 seeds win in round one and the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference finish last in the round robin and get a four seed, things appear wide open. The lower seeds may actually have a bit of an advantage at the beginning of these series, as they have already gone through an actual elimination round, while the top four seeds played a less intense round robin. As teams still adjust to a long layoff, more upsets could be in order. It should be fun. Here is a look at the matchups:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Philadelphia Flyers (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8)

The Flyers were dominant in the round-robin phase and look very much like a team that can make a deep run. Montreal was the lowest seed in the qualifying tournament, but stunned Pittsburgh, and were the better team throughout the series. Philly, however, is playing much better hockey than their Pennsylvania counterparts. The Canadiens will need a big effort from goalie Carey Price, who is capable of stealing games. Young Flyers goalie Carter Hart was outstanding in the two round-robin games he played and is an emerging star. Philly has more talent, but a goalie like Price can win a series.

Prediction: Flyers in 5.

Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (7)

Tampa is as talented a group as you will find in the NHL. They have depth on all lines, terrific defensemen and an elite goalie. Yet they have a checkered playoff past. Last season, they were dominant in the regular season and looked like a Cup lock. They were promptly swept out of the first round by the Jackets. Columbus outplayed a similarly talented team in Toronto in round one and are a tough matchup. Can the Lightning be struck down twice? Absolutely.

Prediction: Jackets in 7.

Washington Capitals (3) vs. New York Islanders (6)

The Caps still have Alex Ovechkin and a recent Stanley Cup, and have to be considered a contender against whoever they play. But the Isles play terrific defense, grind you down and get just enough scoring to win games. Plus they have the coach who won the Cup with the Caps, Barry Trotz, which gives them another edge. The Isles are a long shot Cup contender and could pull off the upset.

Prediction: Islanders in 7.

Boston Bruins (4) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (5)

The Bruins were the best team in the league in the regular season, but played flat in the round robin, winding up with a fourth seed. It seems a little unfair that they dominated all year but three games determined their fate, but that's life. By now they should have figured things out again and should be able to advance. They are a tricky team, because if they play as poorly as they did last week, Carolina could knock them out. But the Bruins should get better the deeper they get in the playoffs. The Hurricanes have a rising star in Andrei Svechnikov, who had a hat trick in the first round against the Rangers. The Bruins, however, are deeper, more talented and have the more tested and reliable goalie in Tukka Rask.

Prediction: Bruins in 5.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Las Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (8)

The Golden Knights were impressive in the round-robin, and looked like they did not miss a beat from the break. They were on a 8-2 run before the Rona interruption and swept the three seeding games since. But the Blackhawks are a scary matchup. They dominated Edmonton in the play-in round, winning 3-1 despite being the last team to qualify. They are young and shaky on defense, but still have proven Cup winners like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. It would be foolish to count them out, but the Oilers were a much better matchup for the Hawks. If Crawford dominates in net, they have a fighting chance. But the Knights are on a different level right now.

Prediction: Las Vegas in 6.

Colorado Avalanche (2) vs. Arizona Coyotes (7)

This might be one of the more intriguing matchups of this round. The Avs look like a Cup contender, and Nathan MacKinnon is an MVP candidate and might be one of the most underappreciated superstars in the league. The Coyotes, however, are going to be a tough out. Goalie Darcy Kempner faced a ton of shots against the Predators and held up well. He will have to do the same here. Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel provide top end forward play, and Arizona matches up OK here. The Avs should win, but don't be shocked if they are pushed hard.

Prediction: Avs in 6.

Dallas Stars (3) vs. Calgary Flames (6)

Dallas is an interesting team. The Stars have Stanley Cup-level talent, but they struggle to score at times, which could be a problem in a seven-game series. They play strong D and have great goaltending, but have issues with quicker teams, which bodes well for Calgary. The Flames are also a bit of an enigma, but they seem built for the playoffs. They have two young American-born stars in Johnny Gaudreu and Matthew Tkachuk, solid depth up front and on the back end and can hold their own with most teams. Cam Talbot is the key, however. If he can consistently man the goal the way he did in the series win over Winnipeg, they have a big shot. He finished off the series with a 31-save shutout.

Prediction: Flames in 7.

St. Louis Blues (4) vs. Vancouver Canucks (5)

The defending champs were not very good in the round-robin, hence the four seed. But it will probably work out; the Canucks are an easier matchup than what they would have faced with Calgary as a 3 seed. Vancouver is an interesting young team. Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are two up and coming stars, but the rest of the lineup is bolstered by gritty vets. Defensemen Quinn Hughes is another young star in the making. Goalie Jacob Markstrom was solid against Minnesota, but he will need to be better in this round. The Canucks could have made a run against Dallas, but hard to see them beating the champs.

Prediction: Blues in 6.

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