Posted on November 1, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Well, it’s all come down to this. For the second year in a row and for the first time in the history of Dodger Stadium, there will be a Game 7 of the World Series. After the way this series has gone, and really, with the way the entire postseason field was stacked with quality teams, it’s only appropriate that things get decided in a Game 7. You can make the argument that both the Astros and Dodgers have been the better team in this series and either would make for a suitable champion. But there can only be one. We’ll find out Wednesday night.
Feeling the Fatigue?
The Dodgers clearly benefited in Game 6 from having an off day on Monday. The bullpen that was a disaster in Game 5 got its act together in Game 6. Brandon Morrow looked like the pitcher he was earlier in the postseason. Kenley Jansen also looked rested and was dominant in a six-out save. However, how fresh will those guys be in Game 7? Both are key pitchers for the Dodgers, but both have struggled in this series when they’ve been tired. Can Jansen be relied on to pitch two innings for a second straight night if he has to? These are important questions that Dave Roberts will have to answer.
This may actually be less of a problem for the Astros. While Houston’s bullpen has been much maligned this series, the Astros will have every pitcher outside of Justin Verlander available, including starters Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton. Houston’s bullpen definitely isn’t better, but they may be better rested, which could make a difference.
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Despite getting roughed up in Game 3, the Dodgers will turn to Yu Darvish in Game 7. Before that outing, Darvish had been utterly brilliant during the playoffs. He also had great success against most of the hitters in Houston’s lineup before Game 3, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him bounce back and have a strong outing in Game 7. Darvish also has a little extra incentive following the Yuli Gurriel incident following Game 3. For Darvish, shutting down Gurriel and the Astros in Game 7 would feel like sweet justice.
On the other side, the Astros are going back to Lance McCullers Jr. for Game 7. He ran into a little bit of trouble in the 6th inning of Game 3 before A.J. Hinch pulled him. But before that, he gave the Astros five strong innings. In 18.1 innings during the postseason, McCullers has a 2.95 ERA. For the most part, he has pitched well during the playoffs. Hinch figures to be quick with the hook if he runs into trouble, but there’s no reason to think that McCullers can’t give the Astros at least four or five good innings. The good news is that the likes of Keuchel, Morton, and Brad Peacock are all options out of the bullpen rather than Houston’s traditional relievers.
You have to look at Clayton Kershaw as the biggest X-factor in Game 7. It’s unlikely that Darvish will pitch a complete game and there’s no way Roberts won’t find a way to use his best pitcher. Kershaw wasn’t himself in Game 5, but that won’t have an impact on Roberts going back to him. This could be Kershaw’s opportunity to do something akin to what Madison Bumgarner did in the 2014 World Series and silence his critics after a rough start in Game 5. Even if he just acts as the bridge between Darvish and Jansen, Kershaw could play an important part in Game 7.
How in the world can you predict how Game 7 will go after such a crazy series? Some games have been pitchers duels while some games have been slugfests. The three games in Los Angeles have all been low scoring, except for the one that went to extra innings. That trend will continue with both Darvish and McCullers pitching well. But the Dodgers will feed off the home crowd and get big hits when they need them. Los Angeles wins both the game and the series 4-3.