Well, well, well. Here we are, knotted at two games a piece with the final game in Houston to be played tonight.
This series has been riveting, to say the least, and just when you thought it couldn’t get better we get a rematch of Game 1.
Couple of things to look for tonight as these two pitching giants go head to head in a pivotal game in the series.
1) If this Series goes to 7 games, this is the pitching matchup we should see.
How can it not be? Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game, and Keuchel’s the best option Houston has. The thing to note is that Kershaw has never started a game on 3 days rest, with 1 inning of relief in his career, and Keuchel has only 4 relief appearances with a 10.13 ERA. Interestingly enough, Keuchel has started a game on 2 days rest, going 6 innings of 5-hit, 2 run, 3 strikeout baseball.
If the Astros lose, Verlander goes Game 6 to keep them in it. If the Dodgers lose, they have to go Hill/Darvish Game 6, with Kershaw in the wings for game 7. If this series goes 7 games, then we’re in for something rare.
2) Don’t expect either pitcher to go deep in this game.
If this game tips in either team’s favor, look for them to get into the bullpen while pitch counts are still low. Dave Roberts has not let a pitcher throw more than 83 pitches this series, sometimes causing him to overwork his bullpen. In last night’s contest, Alex Wood took a No-Hit bid into the 6th when George Springer smashed a 2-out solo home run to left field. That will happen. No big deal. Dust yourself off and face the next hitter. Not in this case. Dave Roberts takes Wood out after only 84 pitches, and goes back to his gassed bullpen.
A.J. Hinch did the same thing, with admittedly stronger reasoning. Charlie Morton, who has been the unsung hero in key spots for Houston this postseason, was tossing a gem against the Dodgers through 6.1 innings. Giving up only 3 hits and getting out of a serious jam in the top of the 6th, Morton had only thrown 76 pitches (51 for strikes) when Hinch got the hook. While I understand the move on the surface, when you dig into Hinch’s reasoning, I think he could have stayed in. The bullpen has been Houston’s Achilles heel this postseason, taking out a starter who’s on fire is putting your pen in harm’s way. Don’t believe me? Ask Ken Giles.
3) Ken Giles sits this one out.
Expect to see Brad Peacock out of the pen in a jam tonight. I would also move to Gregorson, who has a 1.32 ERA in his career during October.
4) Dallas Keuchel goes after Dodgers hitters.
Dallas Keuchel gave up 6 hits in Game 1, the first of them on hsi very first pitch. So Iw ent back and took a look at each individual hit give up by Keuchel and the surrounding circumstances.
Two of the six hits came on the first pitch of the at-bat, and there’s not too much you can do about that. Especially in the case of Chris Taylor’s dinger, there’s nothing you can do, but tip your cap to the guy.
Only one of the hits came after Keuchel started the at-bat with a strike. Remember this. It’s important.
Three of the hits surrendered, otherwise known as half, came after Keuchel got behind in the count on the first pitch, this includes Justin Turner’s two-run dinger. This is the main thing to watch for tonight from Keuchel. When the Dodger batters are ahead in the count, they are hitting 79 points higher (.283) than when they are behind (.204). That’s gotta change and it starts with first pitch strikes. Keuchel has to go at these Dodger hitters and shut them down. Plain and Simple.
5) Clayton Kershaw’s Legacy can change tonight.
There was so much talk about Kershaw and his postseason record going into Game 1. Hell, I even talked about it.
Seeing Clayton Kershaw pitch in a World Series is something I have been dreaming about. If you don’t think that Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of 2010’s, you’re an idiot. The guy has a closet of awards that he has rightfully deserved and his ability to control strike zones, at-bats and a slew of pitches is baffling. Clayton Kershaw is borderline witchcraft on a pitchers mound. However, in the postseason he’s been less than his usual self.
In the regular season, Kershaw holds the 3rd best Win-Loss percentage for a pitcher, holding a 144-68 career record and 2.36 career ERA. By 3rd best, I quite literally mean, 3rd best of all pitchers of all time. The closest modern era starter? Pedro Martinez. With his 2.36 Career ERA, Clayton doesn’t have a better seat, but he’s the only modern player besides Mariano Rivera to crack the top 25. Kershaw is pitching in a completely different class.
In the postseason? Completely different story. Kershaw is 6-7 with a 4.40 ERA through 17 postseason starts and three relief appearances. When you look at his career stats versus his postseason stats, Kershaw pitches like his rookie season, and it’s not something to write home about. Since 2009 Kershaw hasn’t thrown a season where is WHIP is above 1.25. In the postseason, he averages 1.129. He’s a completely different guy in October. Here’s hoping he can change that.
Clayton Kershaw had a lot of haters coming into Game 1. There were the people talking about Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS, when the Cubs went to town on him, knocking the Dodgers out of the playoffs. There was talk of his struggles against Daniel Murphy and the New York Mets in 2015, dropping the very important Game 2 of the NLDS to the eventual National League Champs There was more trash being talked about the 2014 and 2013 Postseason endeavors against the St. Louis Cardinals, where Kershaw was all but none existent, posting a combined 7.15 ERA in those two series… both of these years he took home Cy Youngs. There was a lot of negative speech towards Kershaw and the big question for Game 1 was “What Clayton Kershaw will we get?”
We got the baddest, meanest, most ruthless, vengeful version of the Dodgers Southpaw. We got Cy Young Clayton Kershaw and it was AMAZING. 11 Ks, 3 hits, and 1 earned run.
The guy was on fire. Plain and simple. There was no way Kershaw wasn’t going to win the game. The other amazing thing to remember about this game is that not only did Kershaw annihilate the Juggernaut that is the Houston offense, he did it with only 83 pitches. Kershaw could have finished this game, but his removal from this gem just goes to show how little Dave Roberts is playing around here. If this series gets to Game 7, Kershaw gets the ball. The Dodgers are going balls to the wall.
If he wants to cement that reputation he has to suffocate the Astros tonight. That’s going ot come down to control and command.
Kershaw’s 11 strikeouts were a thing of beauty. Just painting corners, hitting spots, dropping balls of tables, etc. He was the Sandy Koufax version of Kershaw we’ve grown to marvel at, but there’s always this dark cloud just behind him in the postseason, and he’s gotta shake that. Kershaw has to control this game from his first pitch to his last.
Remember Chris Sale in the ALDS? A dominant pitcher comes in with unhittable stuff and fails to his footing, gets shelled and takes the L. Other examples? Look no further than Yu Darvish.
Darvish was pitching out of his mind against the ‘Stros in his career, with a 3.44 ERA against Houston, and Astor’s hitters only hitting .199 against him. However, at Minute Maid Park Darvish is even better. In Houston, Astros were hitting .139 against him and his 2.16 ERA, and 0.744 WHIP.
Darvish didn’t get through two innings in Game 3.
If Kershaw shuts down the Astros tonight he can hand the series over to the capable hands of Rich Hill and Yu Darvish at home, but he’s gotta get this W first. If he wants to erase his postseason legacy and rewrite the past, Kershaw has to start tonight in a tough ballpark to pitch in.
God, I’m so f***king excited.