Posted on October 31, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros Justini Verlander

Image via washingtonpost.com

The 2017 World Series has had more twists and turns than any Fall Classic in recent memory. Game 5 by itself was an intense rollercoaster ride that saw the Houston Astros take a 3-2 series lead, putting them one win away from their first World Series championship in franchise history. However, they’re going to have to get that win on the road, as the series is moving back to Los Angeles for Tuesday’s Game 6. Plus, after the way the Dodgers have played for much of the postseason, it’s not far-fetched that they’ll be able to win the next two games and take home their first title in nearly 30 years.

Who Can You Trust?

After the two teams combined for 25 runs in Game 5, it’ll be difficult for both managers to discern what pitchers they can trust to come out of the bullpen moving forward. The Astros have had bullpen trouble throughout the playoffs, with closer Ken Giles being all but ruled out from pitching in a high-leverage situation. Outside of Luke Gregerson, who has pitched just three innings in four appearances all postseason, no one coming out of Houston’s bullpen has shown much consistency from one game to the next. It’ll be tough for the Astros to win one more game without someone in their bullpen coming up big, and at this point, all they can do is cross their fingers and hope for the best when that bullpen door opens.

Things are slightly better for the Dodgers, but not much. Brandon Morrow was brilliant early in the playoffs, but he appears to have hit a wall and may no longer be trustworthy after a disastrous outing in Game 5. Even closer Kenley Jansen has given up some big hits during the series, taking the loss in Game 5. The Dodgers are unlikely to experience another bullpen meltdown like they did in Game 5. However, they have no margin for error, so one bad day from one reliever could end up being the difference in the series.

Pitching Matchup

In hopes of avoiding their bullpen for as long as possible, the Astros will give the ball in Game 6 to Justin Verlander. He gave up just two hits in Game 2 against the Dodgers, showcasing how dominant he can be. Unfortunately for Verlander, both of those hits were home runs that ultimately chased him from the game after just 79 pitches. If he pitches that well in Game 6, the Astros may stick with him a little longer, knowing that their bullpen isn’t exactly trustworthy. At this point, Verlander going as deep as possible in Game 6 may be Houston’s best chance at winning either of the two games left in this series.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, will turn back to Rich Hill in Game 6. Hill has pitched well during the playoffs, but he’s not gone deep in games, totaling just 13 innings in three starts. In Game 2 against the Astros, Hill gave up one run in four innings, striking out seven. Los Angeles should be able to count him for four or five good innings in Game 6. But the question remains whether the Dodgers will stick with Hill beyond that, even if he’s pitching well, or once again put the game in the hands of their bullpen.

X-Factor

The biggest X-factor in Game 6 is Joc Pederson, who had one of the two home runs against Verlander in Game 2. That should be enough to earn him a start in Game 6, despite having just 11 at-bats during the series. In those 11 at-bats, he has two hits and two home runs. The best chance the Dodgers have in this game is to chase Verlander out as early as possible, and if Pederson can come through with another big hit, it can go a long way toward making that happen.

Prediction

This series seems destined to go seven games, and that would mean a Los Angeles win in Game 6. Hill is just as capable of pitching a gem as Verlander, it’s just a matter of the Dodgers trusting him enough to go deep in the game rather than go to their bullpen. After Game 5’s offensive explosion, things will balance out, with Game 6 being a pitchers duel. The Dodgers will eventually find a way to get a big hit. Los Angeles wins 3-2.

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