Posted on October 28, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
As many would have expected, the Houston Astros were excited to return home in Game 3 of the World Series, and it showed. The Astros were quick to jump on the previously untouchable Yu Darvish, turning a 4-run 2nd inning into a 5-3 win and a 2-1 series lead. After the way the Dodgers started the series, they are no doubt surprised to have lost two in a row and trail in a series for the first time all postseason. However, the Dodgers still have two more chances to steal a game on the road and force the series back to Los Angeles.
A New Formula
The Astros appear to have found a formula to winning games without their bullpen. In Game 3, Lance McCullers Jr. pitched well for 5.1 innings before being replaced by Brad Peacock, who was a starter for much of the regular season and provided 3.2 shutout innings to get the save. Houston did something similar in Game 7 of the ALCS when McCullers came on in place of Charlie Morton, as the two combined for a shutout. This is a formula that can work for the Astros, at least when they don’t have Dallas Keuchel or Justin Verlander starting. Look for Collin McHugh to be a candidate to come out of the bullpen and pitch multiple innings in Game 4.
Morton will get the start for the Astros in Game 4. He was uneven during his first two starts of the postseason, but Morton came up huge for Houston in Game 7 of the ALCS. He somehow managed to shutout the Yankees for five innings, giving up just two hits. It will be tough to replicate that kind of performance against the Dodgers. However, Morton was much better when pitching at home this year, going 10-3 with a 3.34 ERA. He’s clearly the weak link in Houston’s playoff rotation, but he showed in Game 7 of the ALCS that he’s capable of performing on the biggest stage.
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Meanwhile, the Dodgers will hand the ball to Alex Wood in Game 4. Wood has only started one game during the postseason, taking the loss in Game 4 of the NLCS. He didn’t pitch all that poorly, as he struck out seven in 4.2 innings. However, he was victimized by three solo home runs. That’s something to look out for in Game 4. Houston’s lineup has plenty of power and only a couple left-handed hitters, which could pose problems for Wood. Of course, he was also 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA during the regular season, so he’s capable of shutting down quality lineups.
Look for Chase Utley to be a potential X-factor in Game 4. There’s no guarantee that he starts Game 4, but Dave Roberts could consider it. Utley is 5 for 10 with a triple and a home run against Morton in his career. He also has a rich history of success in the World Series despite being 0 for 14 in the current playoffs. The likes of Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Yasiel Puig have gone cold, so Roberts may be looking to switch up his lineup, hoping a veteran like Utley, who has seven home runs in 44 career World Series at-bats, can provide a spark.
Momentum and confidence mean a lot, and right now, everything is working in Houston’s favor. After getting to Darvish in Game 3, the Astros will feel like they can hit any pitcher the Dodgers put on the mound. The Dodgers may be able to strike back against Morton and the Houston bullpen, but the Astros aren’t afraid of getting into another slugfest. Houston wins 7-5.