LOS ANGELES: The Los Angeles Dodgers rallied for a 3-1 victory over Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) to force a game seven showdown for the 2017 World Series.
Corey Seager’s sacrifice fly put the Dodgers ahead for good in the sixth inning and Joc Pederson added a solo homer in the seventh as the Dodgers knotted Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship series at three games apiece.
The Dodgers host game seven on Wednesday, seeking a seventh title and their first since 1988. The Astros are bidding for a first title since their inception in 1962.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a battle,” said Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor. “Two teams that really want it.”
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 Astros starting pitcher 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 brought Taylor to the plate with no outs and two on. Taylor’s double down the first base line scored Barnes to tie the game with two runners in scoring position and still no outs.
“I was just focused on staying short and finding a way to put the ball in play,” Taylor said. “(Verlander’s) got electric stuff. That fastball up and really good slider. So I wanted to be as short as possible, not try to do too much or overswing.”
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 race home and give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
The Astros threatened in the top of the seventh against Dodgers relief pitcher Tony Watson, but left runners on base for the third straight inning.
“The fifth inning, sixth inning, seventh inning, we had pressure on them and they just made pitches or made plays,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “Obviously small margin here in this game and these two teams.”
The Dodgers extended the lead to 3-1 on Pederson’s one-out homer off relief pitcher Joe Musgrove in the seventh.
It was Pederson’s third homer of the Series and his fourth of these playoffs.
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 three straight in the ninth to end it.
Houston will have to regroup before sending Lance McCullers to the mound against Darvish on Wednesday.
Swept in their only prior World Series appearance in 2005, the Astros came into game six bullish about their chances with Verlander on hill.
The 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.
“I thought he was good, especially early,” Hinch said of Verlander, who retired 11 straight batters after allowing a one-out single to Yasiel Puig in the second inning, striking out nine and giving up two runs in his six innings.
“He had the one hiccup in the middle of the game, but that was about it.”