The Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series game in 29 years by a score of 3-1 over the Houston Astros. Clayton Kershaw was the winning pitcher, Dallas Keuchel was saddled with the loss, and Kenley Jansen converted the save, the 12th straight save to start a postseason career, longest streak in MLB history. Some takeaways from the game:
-This game only took 2 hours and 28 minutes. As Joe Buck pointed out, it was the shortest World Series game since Game 4 of the 1992 World Series. Somewhere, Rob Manfred is trying to blame all the “ectoplasm” on a “spooky ghost.”
-Only 3 players on either World Series roster combined had ever played in a World Series prior to Tuesday night (Justin Verlander and Carlos Beltran for the Astros, Chase Utley for the Dodgers) and none of them started in this game (Beltran had a pinch hitting appearance in the 8th). Only Utley has a World Series ring.
-Can’t start much better than the Dodgers did. First pitch thrown by Keuchel to Chris Taylor nearly left Dodger Stadium.
Taylor is only 6’1 195 pounds, he should not be hitting a baseball that freaking far. That’s Stanton territory. Granted, the fact that it was 103 degrees probably helped (hottest World Series game ever).
-Can’t say enough about Clayton Kershaw. He was a machine all night. Not only did he strike out 11 batters, but he was also able to do it with minimal energy spent. He only threw 83 pitches over 7 innings of work. He easily could have gone all 9 had Dave Roberts not decided to play it safe and use his all-world bullpen. He’d had his struggles in the postseason in past years but they were non-existent tonight. The Astros, particularly George Springer, had no answer for him.
-Except maybe Alex Bregman.
This was the one mistake Kershaw made all night. A 1-1 93 mph fastball right down the middle isn’t going to miss too many bats, no matter how good you are and Bregman was able to tie the game up in the fourth. Bregman was the only hitter all night who seemed to have any semblance of success against Dodgers pitchers, as he also had a long at bat against Kenley Jansen before hitting a line drive to center that stayed in the air just a little too long. Also one thing to note about this home run. After it was hit, Kershaw had to face the heart of the Astros order in Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel. He struck them all out. The great ones respond when adversity strikes.
-The Dodgers got a lot of contributions out of the leadoff spot. Taylor was hitting the ball hard all night, even on his outs, and he drew a 2-out walk to set up this Justin Turner go-ahead home run in the sixth.
-The Astros did not have the same luck. George Springer was 0-4 with 4 strikeouts in his World Series debut. 3 of which were against Kershaw.
-Kershaw’s final line was 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, 11 strikeouts. As I said before, he totally could have gone the complete game, but you can’t really fault Roberts for playing it safe.
-The Dodgers relievers were almost as impressive. Brandon Morrow was untouchable in the 8th inning, consistently hitting 98-100 mph on his fastball. Kenley Jansen looked a little wild at times in the 9th, but he didn’t allow any baserunners so you can’t really complain if you’re a Dodgers fan.
-You can complain if you’re an Astros fan, though. Brad Peacock had to have been frustrating you, as he kept trying the same pitch over and over and over and over again (slider low and away). Dodgers hitters never swung at it once yet he still kept going to it. He only faced two hitters, walking Logan Forsythe and getting Austin Barnes to fly out, but his pitch locations left a lot to be desired.
-Chris Devenski, on the other hand, was dynamite. He pretty handily struck out pinch hitter Charlie Culberson and Justin Turner. It took a nice running catch by Springer to retire Taylor, but otherwise Devenski’s performance had to be encouraging for AJ Hinch
-Lost in all this was the performance of Dallas Keuchel. A lot of guys making their World Series debut would cave when they serve up a home run on the very first pitch. But Keuchel kept his cool. After that home run, the Dodgers couldn’t seem to get a good swing off the Astros ace. He only finished with 3 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work, but from Justin Turner’s at bat in the first inning until his home run in the 6th, Keuchel was forcing weak contact and ground balls left and right. In fact, the Astros turned 3 double plays in the first 6 innings. But that won’t be remembered because of the two home runs, which didn’t even come on bad pitches, they were just better swings by the hitters.
-Corey Seager looked like it hurt him more emotionally to not play in the NLCS than the physical pain he felt in his back because he was swinging early and often, and it seemed to work for him. He went 2-3 with 2 hard-hit singles. I was a little surprised to see him in the starting lineup given the injury, but there he was batting 6th. I wonder if this performance has Roberts considering moving him up in the lineup for Game 2 against Justin Verlander.
-Home Plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was consistently giving the low strike all night, even if it was a little bit too low, such as on Altuve’s strikeout or on one call against Cody Bellinger. That plays into both pitchers’ strengths, which John Smoltz pointed out several times throughout the broadcast. Cuzzi’s zone might have been a little low, but he was consistent with it and called it fairly both ways. If an umpire is going to have a strikezone that’s too big or too small, I want him to be consistent with it so I know what to expect. Cuzzi did just that, so I don’t mind the calls. I thought the umpiring crew had a solid game, though there weren’t really any hard calls to make.
-Dont expect the Astros offense to get shut down in Game 2 like they did in Game 1. Dodgers Game 2 starter Rich Hill is a good pitcher, but he isn’t Kershaw. He throws a LOT of curveballs so the Astros will have to be a lot more patient with Hill than they were with Kershaw. The Astros were the number 1 offense in baseball in both runs scored and batting average this season so I don’t expect they’ll be down for too long.
-Don’t sleep on Hill, either. He went 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA in the regular season and has an ERA of 3.00 in the playoffs this year. He’s got one of the best curveballs in the Majors and he uses it a lot.
-Astros will send out Justin Verlander, who is coming off an absolutely dominant ALCS, where he went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA. This will be his third Fall Classic, so I don’t think he will have the jitters that some of these other guys will. I expect him to continue his postseason dominance.
Game 2 Prediction:
I think we’re going to get another low-scoring affair with a fast pace. However I think this time it will go in the Astros’ favor. Sure both teams are unbeaten at home this season, but the World Series is a whole different kind of animal and nobody will be more ready for this than Justin Verlander. There wasn’t a whole lot of action on the bases in Game 1 (not counting the three home runs hit between the two teams, I don’t think either team ever once had a runner standing on third base) as all scoring was done via the long ball. We may see that again in Game 2. I’m going to pick the Astros to knot up the series with a final score of, oh I don’t know…..2-1.