Tuesday gave us one of the quickest games in postseason history as Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers beat the Astros 3-1 in a tidy two hours and 28 minutes. Both starters, Kershaw and Houston’s Dallas Keuchel, were cruising throughout the majority of the game. They each surrendered solo home runs before Justin Turner’s game-deciding two-run blast in the sixth inning turned the tide in the favor of the home team.
It was 103 degrees at first pitch for Game 1, which was a new record for a playoff game. It won’t be quite as hot for Game 2, but it’s still expected to be in the upper-90s at Dodger Stadium once the game gets underway around 5 pm local time. The ball has a way of flying in these conditions, as we saw with Turner’s wall-scraping home run that likely would have been a deep flyout on a normal night.
While Keuchel put forth a solid start, the Astros will be hoping that Justin Verlander’s ALCS form translates into the Fall Classic. Verlander was essentially spotless in two ALCS starts against the Yankees, as he allowed just one run on 10 hits over the course of 16 innings along with 21 strikeouts. He earned ALCS MVP for those numbers, and justifiably so.
If you include the playoffs, Verlander is 9-0 in nine appearances since putting on an Astros uniform for the first time in September. He’s been every bit the horse Houston needed him to be when they made the last-minute acquisition prior to the waiver trade deadline. His fly ball tendencies could bite him tonight in another warm weather game, but it’s hard to give up home runs when you’re missing as many bats as Verlander has been.
The Dodgers will counter with a wily veteran of their own in Rich Hill. Kershaw and Yu Darvish have drawn the vast majority of the praise among Dodgers’ starters thus far in the postseason, but Hill has quietly put together a very solid run of his own. Dave Roberts has had a quick hook on Hill, but he’s allowed just three earned runs in nine total innings in two combined starts against the D’Backs and Cubs to this point. He’s also impressively amassed 12 strikeouts in that span.
The key for Houston will be putting together quality at-bats. Far too often in Game 1 the hitters were expanding the zone against Kershaw and trying to do too much. It’ll be interesting to see what manager AJ Hinch does with the lineup, namely leadoff hitter George Springer. Springer has really struggled at the plate since the beginning of the ALCS, and he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against L.A. on Tuesday. Springer is 3-for-30 with three singles since the beginning of the ALCS.
Hinch also has some decisions to make regarding his left fielder and his catcher. Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann started at those positions in Game 1 and struggled, too. McCann has caught every one of Verlander’s starts to this point, so it would make sense if he were in the lineup again tonight. Gonzalez may be replaced with speedster Cameron Maybin in an attempt to give the Houston lineup a breath of fresh air.
It’s a bit surprising to see the Astros, who are now 1-5 on the road in this postseason, favored in a road game at Dodger Stadium. That’s the power of Verlander, we suppose. While we love Verlander, it’s hard to buy into the Astros unless we actually see that their bats can show some signs of life away from Minute Maid Park.
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