TODAY'S PAPER
44° Good Morning
44° Good Morning
SportsBaseball

Dodgers beat Astros ace Justin Verlander to force Game 7

Dodgers' Kenta Maeda reacts against the Astros during

Dodgers' Kenta Maeda reacts against the Astros during Game 6 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 31, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Harry How

LOS ANGELES — Kind of had to be this way, right?

After what took place the first five games of the 113th World Series, it just had to — had to — go seven games.

The Dodgers made it happen Tuesday night, rallying against Justin Verlander and beating the Astros, 3-1, in front of a loud Dodger Stadium gathering of 54,128 who rarely sat down.

“Only fitting,” Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger said. “This is just pure entertainment. Two 100-win teams and this is what you get. We knew coming into this it was going to be crazy.”

Game 7 is back here Wednesday night as the Astros will try for their first World Series title and the Dodgers will go for their first since 1988.

“This series has been back and forth,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “Two incredible teams, trying to get to the finish line.”

Verlander, the Astros’ horse all postseason and in whom they had every confidence Tuesday night, retired 15 of the first 16 he faced, taking a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning.

But the Dodgers got to the 34-year-old, scoring twice, the first on a double by Chris Taylor and the second on Corey Seager’s sacrifice fly that made it 2-1. Verlander, who allowed two runs and three hits, and struck out nine, took his first loss as an Astro.

“He’s really good for a lot of reasons,” Seager said of Verlander. “He didn’t make very many [mistakes] tonight but we scratched some runs off him. He’s tough.”

Joc Pederson’s homer off Joe Musgrove in the seventh — which the leftfielder punctuated with an arm-waving trip around the bases that made any of the bat-flipping exercises by both sides in this homer-happy Series seem tame by comparison — gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.

Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts, who before the game said his plan was to ask for no more than three outs from tank-nearing-empty closer Kenley Jansen, asked for six.

He got them as Jansen, roughed up a couple of times in the series, most recently in Houston’s wild 13-12 Game 5 victory when the righthander took the loss, retired six straight for the save.

Roberts, hammered by many for his bullpen moves in Game 5, came up aces in Game 6. He pulled Rich Hill, who allowed one run and four hits in 4 2⁄3 innings, and replaced him with Brandon Morrow. The righthander, torched for four runs in Game 5, pitched a scoreless inning, his most important moment retiring Alex Bregman with two out and the bases loaded to end the fifth, keeping it a 1-0 deficit.

“Every guy on our staff wants the baseball,” Roberts said. “This is what they train for.”

Tony Watson stranded two in the sixth and Kenta Maeda, who allowed Jose Altuve’s three-run homer that tied Sunday’s game at 7, retired the Astros second baseman with two on in the seventh on a groundout, a bang-bang play at first that kept the tying run from scoring from third. Bellinger was actually the hero of the play, scooping Justin Turner’s throw out of the dirt.

“In that situation, just make sure you catch it,” Bellinger said. “That’s why I take so much pride in my defense.”

It, overall, was the most unexpected of pitchers’ duels after much of what preceded it in the series.

Verlander, 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA this postseason coming in, did not go to a three-ball count until two outs in the fifth against Logan Forsythe. He struck him out swinging at a 96-mph fastball.

George Springer’s fourth homer of the series, a shot in the third, provided the 1-0 lead.

Austin Barnes opened the sixth inning with a single. Verlander got ahead of Chase Utley, batting in the ninth spot after a double switch, 1-and-2 but hit him on the right foot. Verlander again got ahead 1-and-2 but Taylor poked a 97-mph fastball to right for a double.

The pitcher hung a 1-and-2 breaking ball to Seager, who missed a homer by mere feet in right, the sacrifice fly making it 2-1.

“That’s how it’s been all year,” Taylor said. “At some point in the game, it seems like everybody plays a huge part. Whether it’s defense, offense, getting a guy over, a big baserunning play. There’s more than one way to win a game. And I think our team shows that.”

New York Sports