After what has been described as the most exciting baseball game in history, the Houston Astros hold a 3-2 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers as they head back to California. Game 6 is a must-win for both teams, not just the currently trailing Dodgers. If Los Angeles were to come out on top, it could kill Houston’s winning momentum.
Pitching will be a key factor in the upcoming game, especially as both teams’ bullpens begin to tire.
#ThisTeam will not go down without a fight.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 30, 2017
The Dodgers bullpen has been going for 23 innings this World Series, and it began to show in Game 5. Brandon Morrow pitched four innings in the first four games and was used again in the seventh inning. He pitched to only four batters but gave up four earned runs, earning a blown save. The extra day of rest will help the Dodger bullpen, but it may not be enough to bring them back to regular season strength.
National League reliever of the year Kenley Jansen has pitched in four of the five games and has given up three home runs to the Astros. His lights out performances from the regular season and earlier in October have not transferred to the World Series, which could pose an issue for the team. If he is given the ball to close the game, can Dave Roberts trust that he will earn another blown save or loss?
The answer is to trust their starter, Rich Hill. The veteran pitcher was yanked by manager Dave Roberts after only four innings and one run on 60 pitches. It’s understandable that potentially leaving an injury-prone player on the mound too long will draw criticism, but it may be wise to trust Hill more than that depleted bullpen.
The main thing Dodgers batters will have to worry about is Justin Verlander. Set to start Game 6, Verlander is one of the best to play the game, and it is unlikely that the Los Angeles lineup will be able to do much damage. What they can do is take pitches, take long at bats, and try to get his pitch count up. Everybody can agree that the Astros’ main weakness is their bullpen, and the sooner that the relievers come in, the more likely it will be that Los Angeles will be able to get some runs.
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 30, 2017
Although not on the same level as Los Angeles, the Astros bullpen is tired. They might end up coming down to either Brad Peacock, who has been on his game most innings this postseason, or Ken Giles- who has been far from reliable this October with an Earned Run Average above 11. It may be most advisable to let Giles in and keep him on a short leash. It is undeniable that he has had trouble, but the team and fans should not be quick to forget his regular season accomplishments. Ultimately, it would be foolish to have Giles taking up a roster spot without even considering using him.
As for the Astros offensive play, their hitters need to keep on mashing. In Game 5, they became the third team to hit five home runs in one game. With relief pitching as poor as Houston’s, it is very important that they continue to bring a similar performance. In such a high scoring series where no lead has been safe, it is important for both teams to keep firing on all cylinders.
The history book:
Teams that have finished the League Championship Series second have won the World Series every year since 2006 (excluding the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008). Houston finished the ALCS a few days after the Dodgers won the NLCS.
Since 2009, the team that won Game 1 went on to win the series every time (excluding last year’s Cleveland Indians).
Teams up 3-2 in a 7 game series heading out onto the road, like the Astros are, have went on to win the series over 62% percent of the time.
The teams in the previous scenario have won Game 6 only 39.2% of the time, so according to history, Game 7 may be on its way.