The MLB season lasts half the year, and it can be hard for the average fan to keep up. That’s where we come in. Every day during the 2017 regular season, Beyond the Box Score will be recapping all the biggest action from the previous day — with a sabermetric slant, of course — and looking ahead to what today will bring.
Yesterday’s biggest play
Chris Taylor puts the Dodgers on the board with a double — +.108 cWPA
With runners on first and second and nobody out in the bottom of the sixth, John Smoltz told the viewing audience that he thought Chris Taylor should bunt. The Dodgers were trailing 1-0 and Justin Verlander had been rolling, but Smoltz maintained that it was more important for the LA to put that first run on the board than play for a big inning. In Game 5, Dave Roberts had an ill-advised sacrifice bunt backfire, so with that fresh in his mind and Verlander finally in a bit of a jam, the Dodgers disagreed. They weren’t about to give the Astros ace a free out; a fact made abundantly clear by the rip Chris Taylor took against Verlander’s first-pitch, 95 mile per hour fastball.
Taylor was on the pitch, but missed and fouled it back to the screen. Verlander followed his first offering with two consecutive sliders; the first missed high and the second was located perfectly to garner a whiff from the Dodgers lead-off man. With the count now in his favor, Verlander decided to go back to the high-heat and threw a 97 mile per hour fastball in nearly the exact same spot as the first pitch that Taylor fouled off.
Taylor saw a four-seam fastball from Verlander in the third inning during his second at-bat that was in the exact same spot as the two fastballs from this at-bat; at the top of the zone but over the middle of the plate. It seems like Taylor caught on, was looking fastball, and had a decent idea of it’s probable location. He was a little late and didn’t square the pitch up perfectly — the ball had an exit velocity of just 72 miles per hour — but Taylor made solid enough contact to line it over Yuli Gurriel’s head and down the right-field line.
Austin Barnes scored easily from second on the hit, Chase Utley strolled from first to third, and Taylor’s speed allowed him to make it to second base before the throw in from Josh Reddick could pose a threat. After tying the game with no outs, the Dodgers would only be able to cash in Utley to take a 2-1 lead, but the seal had been broken, and the sixth wound end up being Verlander’s final inning.
Good thing he didn’t bunt.
Yesterday’s best pitching performance
Part of me is inclined to give this to Justin Verlander despite the Astros’ loss. As we just discussed he allowed two runs in the sixth inning, but prior to that looked dominant, collecting nine strikeouts and issuing zero walks en route to a game score of 73. But he did allow those two runs, which proved the difference and thus prevents him from being featured here today.
Instead we turn to the best closer in the business, who’s had a shaky World Series overall, but came up big for his team when they needed it the most in Game 6. The Dodgers’ bullpen was undeniably their biggest advantage over the Astros heading into the series, but they’ve been worked to the bone, and appeared to be running on fumes in Houston. The day off as the series moved back to Los Angeles seemed to have helped as Brandon Morrow, Kenta Maeda, and Kenley Jansen all were able to pitch well in Game 6.
Morrow and Maeda delivered one inning each, and I think the assumption was that that is all Jansen would be asked to do as well. He entered in the eighth with Carlos Correa, Yulieski Gurriel, and Brian McCann on tap and proceeded to retire all three of them on seven pitches. The ease of Jansen’s first frame surely gave Dave Roberts the confidence to run his big closer out there for the ninth inning with the seven, eight, and nine spots in the Astros’ lineup on tap. It took Jansen a few more pitches — 12 to be exact — but he again retired the Houston batters in order to send the World Series to Game 7.
Two innings, six outs, three strikeouts, 18 pitches, and only one ball. Yes, you read that correctly, Kenley Jansen only threw one ball on Tuesday.
Before the game, Roberts said that he was hoping to only use Jansen for three outs, but his dominance in the eighth made the decision to give him an extra inning a no-brainer. The Dodgers could not have possibly dreamed of a better scenario. They got to use their closer to wrap up a tight, must-win game; and since it wasn’t a stressful outing, Jansen is surely good to go for Game 7.
Yesterday’s biggest home run
George Springer — 389 feet
In a series chock full of dingers, the chilly Los Angeles air for Game 6 saw just two balls leave the yard. Both were impressive opposite-field blasts, but it was George Springer’s 389 foot blast in the third inning that bested Joc Pederson’s 373 foot shot in the seventh to capture the game’s longest home run.
Springer began the game with a four-pitch strikeout in which Rich Hill only threw the Astros’ lead-off man fastballs. In his second at-bat against Hill, Springer again saw only fastballs, but this time he was able to drive one of them into the right-field bleachers. Hill didn’t leave the pitch over the middle of the plate, but by this point it’s safe to assume the Springer had the fastball timed pretty well. He reached out and put a picture-perfect swing on Hill’s pitch to put Houston on the board first in Game 6.
It was the only run that the Dodgers’ pitching staff would allow on the night, but Springer’s blast put Dodgers fans on edge early. After all, on any given night one run is all the support that Justin Verlander might need, so the Dodgers are fortunate that it didn’t hold up.
After scuffling through the ALCS, and posting a Golden Sombrero in Game 1 of the World Series, Springer has come alive. From Game 2 through Game 6 on Tuesday night, he has collected nine hits and four dingers. Let that be a lesson to Dodgers pitching for Game 7, maybe don’t throw George Springer six straight fastballs.
- One of the more interesting things about Game 6 was Rich Hill stepping off of the mound to allow the crowd at Dodger Stadium more time to boo Yuli Gurriel. Bill Shaikin of the LA Times took a closer look at the reason behind the gesture from the veteran southpaw.
Tonight’s best pitching matchup
Lance McCullers (3.11 projected ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (3.60 projected ERA)
Lance McCullers spent all of Game 6 in limbo, unsure of whether he would be called upon to close things out or if he would be saved for a potential Game 7. With the Astros unable to grab a late lead, he got his answer, and proceeded to throw in the outfield after the game to prepare.
That’s Lance McCullers getting his arm loose in right field just minutes after Game 6 ended. He’s starting Game 7 tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/TkSDTJPUpF— Matt Young (@Chron_MattYoung) November 1, 2017
Opposing McCullers will be Yu Darvish, fresh off of the worst start of his MLB career. After lasting just 1 2⁄3 innings in Game 3, Darvish surely has plenty left in the tank, but he’ll need to demonstrate much better command of all of his pitches to get the chance to go deep in Game 7. For Darvish, this is the ultimate redemption game.
McCullers and Darvish will start, but we’ll also likely see Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel. It’s all hands on deck and you’d have to assume that every pitcher on each roster is available, even Justin Verlander or Rich Hill for an inning if need be. These two 100-win juggernauts have given us an incredibly memorable World Series, so it’s only fitting that it come down to a winner-take-all Game 7. Buckle up, folks.
Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @MrChrisAnders.