LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers beat Houston’s best and in doing so, L.A. made good on Yasiel Puig’s promise that there will be a Game 7 at Dodger Stadium.
After managing just one baserunner in five innings against the Astros’ Justin Verlander, the Los Angeles Dodgers scored twice on the Houston Astros‘ ace in the sixth and held on for a 3-1 win on Tuesday to force a seventh game to decide the World Series.
Rich Hill pitched effectively in a short outing, holding Houston to George Springer’s solo home run in the third in 4 ⅔ innings. It was the same scenario as in Game 2. Hill pitched well. So did Verlander, but he ultimately departed with his team behind. In Game 2, the Dodgers’ bullpen couldn’t nail it down.
In Game 6, it did.
Brandon Morrow, who gave up four runs and failed to retire a batter during Houston’s thrilling 13-12 win in Game 5, inherited a bases-loaded, two-out jam when he came in for Hill. He responded, getting Alex Bregman to ground out to shortstop Corey Seager. Morrow has pitched in all six games of the series.
That left it to L.A. closer Kenley Jansen to get the last six outs, just as he aimed to do in Game 5 when he allowed a run for a third straight outing, matching a career high. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game that he preferred to limit Jansen to a conventional three-out appearance, but he opted to go with his stopper early once again.
The fevered crowd at Chavez Ravine exploded when the opening notes of “California Love” blasted from the ballpark’s formidable sound system, signaling Jansen’s entrance. It’s a ritual the fans have shared with their closer countless times over the years, but never has it meant more than it did on Tuesday.
Jansen said moments after he took the loss in Game 5 that he had already moved on and was “looking forward to Tuesday.” He pitched like it.
Jansen dispatched the Astros with just seven pitches in the eighth. Then he got the last three outs in order as well, this time on 12 pitches, finishing up with three strikeouts among his six outs.
Verlander mowed down the Dodgers for five innings, allowing only Puig’s second-inning single while striking out eight. Out of nowhere, the L.A. offense came to life in the sixth. Austin Barnes greeted Verlander with a solid single. Chase Utley, who entered the game 0-for-14 in the postseason, was hit in the foot by a pitch. Chris Taylor flipped an opposite-field double to score Barnes. And Seager drove Houston right fielder Josh Reddick to the fence to drive in Utley with a sacrifice fly.
Just like that, the Dodgers had the lead and Verlander was done after he was replaced by a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning.
Joc Pederson gave the Dodgers a precious insurance run in the seventh, taking Astros reliever Joe Musgrove deep with an opposite-field shot to left. He became the first Dodger with extra-base hits in five straight World Series games.
Besides Springer’s homer, Hill mostly matched Verlander pitch for pitch on a cool evening when the ball wasn’t jumping out of the park as it did last week when the games were starting with temperatures in triple digits.
After the Dodgers’ devastating Game 5 loss, Puig stood before reporters and said, “This is not going to be finished Tuesday. There’s going to be Game 7.”
Puig singled in his first at-bat on Tuesday but otherwise had a quiet night. Nevertheless, he proved to be more soothsayer than braggart after his team returned to the sort of stifling run prevention that got them 104 wins during the regular season and 10 more — so far — in the playoffs.
The Dodgers have lost all six World Series in which they trailed 3-2. They haven’t won a championship in 29 years. Franchise pitcher Clayton Kershaw has never won a championship.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers have a chance to erase all of that bad history on the first November game ever played at Dodger Stadium. Just as Puig said they’d have a chance to do.