The good news: This World Series gets to a Game Seven, after all, for the second straight season and the third in four seasons. Depending on your point of view, the bad news: As this Series has gone, Game Six was just a little too full of something resembling normalcy.
With this Series mostly playing like The Twilight Monty Elsewhere, there was just something wrong with getting a mere Mike & Molly Tuesday night. Game Six was pleasant. Amusing. Sometimes revealing. That about exhausts it.
Maybe the only thing worthy of the previous extraterrestrialism was Dodger starter Rich Hill lending the crowd a hand when they wanted to give Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel a bath of vitriol, with him playing in their house for the first time since his slant-eyed insult toward Yu Darvish in Game Three. Hill stepped off the mound both times Gurriel came up to face him. Let the home folks have their fun.
The last couple of times we got as far as a seventh World Series game they tended to make up for any Game Six letdowns or top any Game Six surrealities. Three years ago, we got The Madison Bumgarner Show. Last year, we got Suspense. What will we get come Wednesday?
Maybe we’ll get Ernie Kovacs’s Wild Kingdom. We can dream, can’t we?
We can only hope the Dodgers and the Astros throw everything including the kitchen sink, the walk-in cooler, the confectionery oven, and every available meat cleaver at each other in Game Seven. What the hell was Tuesday night’s mere 3-1 Los Angeles win, after Sunday night’s soiree at the Ringling Brothers and Dodgers and Astros Circus?
For one thing, it was played on at least a cooler Los Angeles night than Game One, and in a steady mist that took almost six innings to dissipate, meaning balls less likely to fly into orbit.
But it was Astros center fielder George Springer, padding a solid bid for World Series MVP, opening the scoring with an opposite-field drive into the right field bleachers in the top of the third. And it was Dodgers left fielder Joc Pederson providing the Dodgers their only insurance run with a launch over the left field fence in the bottom of the seventh. Dodger Stadium could have been on the South Pole and these two teams would have found someone to hit for distance.
It was also Justin Verlander hung with a loss for the first time since becoming an Astro at the end of August. He pitched five near-classic Verlander innings, including a streak of twelve straight first-pitch strikes and one hit, never mind assorted Dodgers playing true to form and making him work for several of his outs.
“We had to grind him down,” said Pederson. “He didn’t make very many mistakes.”
But then it was Chris Taylor hitting one down the line in the bottom of the sixth to send home Austin Barnes, who led off with a single right over Astros shortstop Carlos Correa’s head.
Right afterward, it was ancient Chase Utley—inserted at second base in the top of the inning, in a then-dubious double switch that took young Logan Forsythe out of the game—taking one for the team and off his foot for first and second, and Corey Seager sending Astros right fielder Josh Reddick up against the fence with a sacrifice fly that missed being a three-run homer by about a quarter of a foot.
It was also Dodgers manager Dave Roberts living a little dangerously, after Hill put Springer aboard on the house to load the pads in the fifth, after he twisted Marwin Gonzalez into a pretzel with a big, swinging strikeout on a voluptuous, swinging curve ball. Roberts lifted Hill for Brandon Morrow, maybe Game Five’s most surreal victim and still somewhat gassed, to deal with Alex Bregman.
The Dodger Stadium booing in that moment must have sounded like a wind tunnel testing a jet engine from the freeway behind the ballpark and its parking lots. But when Morrow got Bregman to ground out up the middle, Seager from shortstop making a deft pick and throw to get him for the side, that was Harry Houdini leading the cheers with a thumbs up down through the mist from the Elysian Fields.
You could forgive Hill if he waited until after the game to appreciate the escape acts. Or, that he’d actually hung right there with Verlander until he was lifted after only four and two thirds with a single run against his ledger. Those five icy Gatorade cups he winged at the dugout’s back wall didn’t stand a chance.
Morrow rid himself of Jose Altuve and Correa to open the top of the sixth, before Gurriel lined one up the pipe for a base hit. That’s when Roberts double switched, sending out Utley and bringing in lefthander Tony Watson.
The boo birds forgave Roberts and maybe even Utley himself when, after Watson opened by plunking Brian McCann, Gonzalez shot one right on a line to Utley, and Utley clapped his glove around it just as quick and hard for the side.
It was also Kenta Maeda relieving Watson in the top of the seventh following a leadoff walk, and Evan Gattis pinch hitting for Verlander (in Minute Maid Park, that doesn’t happen and Verlander gets a seventh inning), beating the ball into the ground, but not beating it hard enough that he couldn’t beat a double play. But a base hit, a fly out, and a ground out to third, and Maeda escaped. Houdini wasn’t just applauding by now.
“There’s more than one way to win a game,” said Taylor. And more than one way to make a prophet out of Yasiel Puig, who predicted rather rashly that the Dodgers would force a seventh game, though he didn’t necessarily predict it would necessarily need another wild and crazy game to get there.
Finally, it was Roberts reaching for Kenley Jansen, almost defiantly asking him for another try at a six-out save. You could taste Astroland starting to salivate. We sure showed him he’s a mere mortal in Games Two and Five, didn’t we? He’s what? Trying for six outs? Get the parade grounds ready, Houston.
Not quite. This time, Jansen needed a measly nineteen pitches to get that six-out save, and with three strikeouts while he was at it. Dodger fans who were ready to measure Roberts for a straitjacket now pondered that maybe Jansen would be good for three outs Wednesday night.
(Oh, yes. It was also Francisco Liriano, the absolute forgotten man in the Astros’ bullpen, making his first World Series appearance at last, relieving Luke Gregerson when the Dodgers made one more insurance push in the eighth, and getting the last out on a swinging strikeout. Well, somebody has make the uncredited cameo.)
Unless maybe Alex Wood or even Clayton Kershaw get there first, after the first signs of trouble at scheduled starter Darvish’s expense. Or, unless the Astros pretend they’re still in Houston, with Lance McCullers, Jr. starting and maybe Brad Peacock in long, stingy relief. (Peacock only pitched an inning and a third in Game Five, two days after his magnificent Game Three save, and should be available and good to go a little long.)
And, if the bats not named Springer who joined him in powering these Astros here in the first place start swinging for whatever they can get and getting just enough.
“This has been a great Series,” said Verlander. “I don’t think anybody’s really shocked that it’s going to Game Seven. These are two great teams going back and forth.”
“You talk about Game Seven so much that it becomes a cliche,” said Morrow, “but the idea that it’s now a real thing? Surreal.”
Said Dodgers infielder Charlie Culberson, a late Game Six insertion who’s been having a fine Series in a utility role, “Well, it’s win now or go home. Wait a minute. I guess we go home either way.”
By bus? By plane? By crazy train?
Berra’s Law: “It ain’t over until it’s over.” Andujar’s Law, named for the late Joaquin Andujar, pitcher, character, sometimes human time bomb: “In baseball, there’s just one word—you never know.” In this World Series, they’ve become the Eleventh and Twelfth Commandments.