Astros aim to close out World Series behind Verlander (Oct 31, 2017)

October 30, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- The Houston Astros can end one of the more entertaining World Series come Tuesday, while the Los Angeles Dodgers are in position to continue the fun.

If the Astros' 7-6 Game 2 victory last week was an instant classic, Houston's 13-12 win in Game 5 on Sunday might have actually topped it. It put the Astros one game away from their first title in club history.

In fact, the Astros had not even won a World Series game in their history before taking Game 2. Now they have two of the more memorable triumphs in the 113-year history of the Fall Classic.

Nobody can be sure what will unfold in Game 6 on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, but the Astros are feeling confident sending Justin Verlander to the mound. The right-hander gave up three runs in six innings in a wild Game 2, but what signified the quality of his performance was the fact he allowed only two hits.

The Dodgers will counter Tuesday with left-hander Rich Hill, who is about as fresh as possible after throwing just 60 pitches in four innings of Game 2. Both bullpens have been stretched thin, with Hill in position to help the cause if he can go deep Tuesday and force a Game 7 on Wednesday.

For the Astros, it will be all about riding the momentum of their walk-off victory in Game 5 while looking to close out a championship Tuesday. What they won't concern themselves with is anything to do with a potential Game 7 on Wednesday.

"I think when you consume yourself with too much 'what-ifs' in the future, it will only complicate matters," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "So I'm going to proceed just trying to win Game 6. And if that means I have to use guys in a unique way, that's fine. If the game warrants any decision to try to win the game, I think you have to try to win the game that you're playing that day and not concern yourself with a lot of unknowns."

The Dodgers have no choice but to push for a Game 7 while brushing aside the heartbreak of the Game 5 defeat. After a crushing defeat in Game 2, they did not rebound quickly, losing Game 3 as well. The plus for the Dodgers as they attempt to rebound this time is that they will play the next game in front of a passionate crowd that will be over 50,000 strong.

"We obviously enjoy playing at home in front of our fans, and we've had a lot of success here this year," Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. "And I know that everyone is excited for (Tuesday) and excited for Game 6. And our fans are behind us a hundred percent and no one is counting us out. And we're going to be ready to go, and they're going to be full of energy."

Just how much energy is left to give for Game 6 is up for debate, especially in a series that has been physically and emotionally draining already. The combined 25-run outburst Sunday was tied for the second largest in a World Series game, trailing only the 29 runs scored between the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies in 1993.

And the 22 combined home runs already are the most for a single World Series. The seven-game 2002 World Series between the Anaheim Angels and the San Francisco Giants had the previous record of 21 home runs.

While temperatures for Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles were sizzling, with a 103-degree reading at the first pitch of Game 1, the forecast in southern California for the first pitch of Game 6 will be 65 degrees with a 15 percent chance of precipitation.

Dodger Stadium is known for being a pitchers' park, especially at night when the air is cool, a fact Verlander referenced after Game 2.

"It's going to be a lot cooler here than it was for the first two games, and it might be a different ballgame than you've seen in the first five games," Turner said.

If something is to slow the offensive onslaught, by the look of it, it won't be the pitching.

"I think we realize on the pitching side, both teams are at the very end of their rope when it comes to the season, when it comes to high-leverage situations, the intensity of their innings, and their mistakes are getting hit," Hinch said. "But the volume is certainly record-setting and certainly the intensity of the moments that are ending in home runs is hard to fathom."

Also hard to fathom is a series like this not going the limit. But the Astros aren't about to apologize if they stop the show a day early on Tuesday night.

"We're not getting ahead of ourselves, we're trying to win ballgame to ballgame," Houston catcher Brian McCann said. "So we're going to show up (Tuesday) and we're going to prepare for Game 6 and we're going to do our best to win that game. That's our mindset."