No Bull Here: Astros Too Much For The Dodgers
Orbit needs no traditional bullpen, with three starters ready to go long. Photo by Jim Whitaker / Flickr / edited
Game 7 of the 2017 World Series may have been the closest 5-1 game in the history of baseball. But, the Houston Astros won it and the series over the Los Angeles Dodgers four games to three. The series was won largely without the use of a conventional bullpen.
With relievers flaming out left and right during the postseason, Astros manager AJ Hinch decided to bring back long relief in a big way. Instead of Joe Musgrove, it was Brad Peacock. Instead of closer Ken Giles, it was Charlie Morton. The starters threw 50 pitches and so it did the relievers. Somehow, it all worked.
It helped, however, that Dodger starter Yu Darvish imploded in his final two starts of the year. By failing to get out of the second inning, he helped overtax what had been a perfect bullpen in the postseason.
What had been the greatest strength of the team turned into a weakness.
Little credit will go to Yuli Gurriel for the win, but his 14-pitch at bat in the first inning, may have won the series for the ‘Stros. By the time he was done fouling off pitches, Darvish had thrown 24 in the first inning. Credit also to a sheepish Gurriel who took time to publicly tip his cap to the man he had insulted with an inappropriate gesture in Game 3, following a home run he had hit off of Darvish.
As for Darvish, his stuff was just as electric in Game 7 as Game 3, but he could again never control it for more than a few pitches at a time.
It wasn’t like Houston’s Lance McCullers was Cy Young, but he did have a curve ball he threw where he wanted about 50-percent of the time. That won the early innings as the Dodgers Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger took turns missing the curve. In alternating at-bats, McCullers struggled with control of the fastball, hitting Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig.
Bellinger would leave a quarter of the team on base as he struggled to even make contact throughout the game. For the series, he set the all-time record for strikeouts.
Still, it wasn’t like L.A. didn’t have chances. Joc Pederson smoked a liner to second and Chris Taylor lined one to short that could have scored runs had they been three feet in any direction.
Comparatively, there was too much George Springer and his record-setting five home runs in a World Series and third baseman Alex Bregman’s flawless defense and clutch hitting.
Sure, McCullers chopper shouldn’t have scored world’s slowest catcher, Brian McCann from third because the infield shouldn’t have been playing so far back. But, did that really cost the Dodgers the series?
Manager Dave Roberts, really, shined in the postseason and showed an acumen for strategy including a masterful turn having his own starter-turned-long-reliever Clayton Kershaw walk Marwin Gonzalez to bring up JJ Reddick’s spot and then having Kershaw walk Evan Gattis to get to Cameron Maybin who popped out in the pitchers spot.
One decision took three Astros out of the game. It’s a pretty good argument as to why the National League is a better brand of baseball, just by a little, without the designated hitter.
Regardless, the Astros were the better team, had better at-bats, and more clutch pitching when they needed it.
Tip of the cap, fellas.
You earned it.