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LOS ANGELES — Of course the 113th World Series is going to a seventh game. As if anything else would have sufficed in this wild, action-packed series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros.
The Dodgers forced a winner-takes-all showdown on Wednesday at 8:20 p.m. ET with a 3-1 victory in Game 6 on Tuesday, beating Astros ace Justin Verlander and giving baseball its second consecutive Game 7 to decide a World Series after last year’s extra-innings madness in which the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians.
The crowd of 54,128 at Dodger Stadium for Game 6 will swell for Game 7, not just in size but anxiety, hope, fear and, perhaps by the end, joy. The Dodgers have not won a World Series since 1988. The Astros haven’t won one in their 55-year history.
They blew a chance Tuesday with Verlander on the mound. After a feckless first 16 at-bats, in which the Dodgers mustered only a second-inning Yasiel Puig single, Los Angeles roared back in the sixth. Austin Barnes led off with a single. Verlander, whose difficulty gripping his slider this postseason prompted the pre-Game 5 slick-ball controversy, asked for a new baseball twice when he couldn’t get a good grip on the one he’d been tossed. With a desirable ball, he spun a slider that hit Chase Utley’s foot.
Chris Taylor, the Dodgers’ dynamic leadoff hitter, sliced a double down the right-field line to score Barnes and make it 1-1. Corey Seager’s long sacrifice fly plated Utley. And just like that, the Dodgers, for the second time in the series, had taken a lead in a game started by Verlander.
The first devolved into the sloppy, wonderful 7-6 victory for Houston in Game 2. This one held. The Dodgers’ bullpen turned in 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief after starter Rich Hill left in the fifth inning with two outs and the bases loaded. Brandon Morrow, who allowed four runs on six pitches in Game 5, induced an Alex Bregman groundout to avoid trouble.
Hill’s lone blemish came from a George Springer home run in the third inning, his fourth of the series. The Dodgers matched him when Joc Pederson took Joe Musgrove deep in the seventh, his third home run of the series and the 24th hit by both teams. Los Angeles led 3-1, and it turned to closer Kenley Jansen.
A goat in Game 2 and the losing pitcher in Game 5, Jansen, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, was available for only three outs. Roberts brought him on in the eighth inning anyway, and he cruised through it in just seven pitches. A spotless ninth saved him the game and the Dodgers their season.
Now, it comes down to one final matchup, Yu Darvish for the Dodgers and Lance McCullers Jr. for the Astros, but only so long as either is effective. Because Game 7 is an unpredictable, wild, do-whatever-you-can mess of every-pitch-counts baseball. Game 1 was a quick pitchers’ duel, Game 2 a compendium of comebacks, Game 3 a starting meltdown that affected those afterward, Game 4 a relief meltdown that did the same, Game 5 an insane classic and Game 6 pure survival. Game 7 may be one of those, maybe all six, maybe even more.
It will be exactly what a series like this deserves.
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