Posted on October 29, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s amazing how fast momentum can change in the World Series. After George Springer broke up Alex Wood’s no-hitter and shutout with a home run, the Houston Astros looked poised to take a 3-1 series lead. But a brutal collapse by the Houston bullpen gave the game to the Dodgers, who were able to even the series 2-2. The pressure once again shifts to the Astros in Game 5, who don’t want to head back to Los Angeles knowing they need to win two in a row on the road.
Same Old Story
This is not the first time we’ve seen this storyline play out for Houston’s bullpen. For the second straight start, Charlie Morton gave an inspired performance. However, one runner getting into scoring position was enough for A.J. Hinch to pull the plug and go to his bullpen. Will Harris couldn’t prevent an inherited runner from scoring and then Ken Giles had a complete meltdown while trying to preserve a tied game in the 9th. It’d be crazy to think that Hinch or Houston fans have any confidence in the team’s bullpen at this point. The Astros are going to need to find a way two more games without their late-game relievers, because they simply aren’t getting the job done.
The Astros are hoping that Dallas Keuchel can help them avoid their bullpen in Game 5. Keuchel took the loss in Game 5, victimized by a pair of home runs. Of course, that was his first lackluster start in the playoffs, so he’s obviously capable of being much better. Plus, after he gave up the lead-off home run to Chris Taylor, he was able to settle down and pitch well. Keuchel should also benefit from pitching at home, where he’s pitched better than he has on the road for much of the season.
Of course, the Dodgers are sending Clayton Kershaw back to the mound. Kershaw is coming off his best start of the postseason, striking out 11 in seven innings while allowing just one run in Game 1. He only needed to throw 78 pitches to get through those seven innings, so he should be plenty fresh on Sunday night. Also, with this being his final start of the season, Dave Roberts may be willing to push Kershaw a little bit and see if he can go the distance. At the very least, Roberts may try to go right from Kershaw to closer Kenley Jansen.
Springer continues to be the biggest X-factor in this series. He’s been outstanding the last three games and a big reason why the Astros won two of those games. But he was 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in Game 1, striking out against Kershaw in all three at-bats against the lefty. He needs to do better if the Astros are going to get anything off Kershaw in Game 5. With Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa a combined 2 for 16 the past two games, the top and bottom of Houston’s lineup needs to step up, and it starts with Springer in the leadoff spot.
In every start during the playoffs, Kershaw has been better than he was in the previous start. If that trend continues, the Astros are going to have a tough time doing anything against him. Even with Keuchel on the mound, it’ll be tough to match Kershaw at his best. In Game 4, it was the Los Angeles lineup that started to wake up while the Astros were stifled. That will continue in Game 5. Dodgers win 4-1.