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Dodgers/Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers (Yu Darvish) at Houston Astros (Lance McCullers), 8:20 PM ET

It’ll be hard for Game 3 to top Game 2, which was an instant classic. The Dodgers were three outs away from a commanding 2-0 series lead as they headed to Houston. Instead, the series is tied at one game apiece and Los Angeles’ bullpen no longer has the sheen of invincibility that is has carried throughout most of their playoff run. If momentum exists, the Astros have it.

PECOTA odds of winning: 54% Astros, 46% Dodgers

Projected Starting Lineups

Dodgers vs. McCullers (R) Astros vs. Darvish (R)
Chris Taylor (R), CF George Springer (R), CF
Corey Seager (L), SS Alex Bregman (R), 3B
Justin Turner (R), 3B Jose Altuve (R), 2B
Cody Bellinger (L), 1B Carlos Correa (R), SS
Yasiel Puig (R), RF Yulieski Gurriel (R), 1B
Logan Forsythe (R), 2B Josh Reddick (L), RF
Austin Barnes (R), C Evan Gattis (R), DH
Joc Pederson (L), LF Marwin Gonzalez (S), LF
Enrique Hernandez (R), DH Brian McCann (L), C

Injuries/Availability

The last game went 11 innings, so both teams went deeper into their bullpens than they have so far in the playoffs. The fact that Game 2 was followed by a scheduled travel day mitigated the risk of either team using any individual pitcher for a long appearance, but neither manager ended up stretching anyone. The Dodgers used eight relievers after pulling Rich Hill, but none of them threw more than 1 1/3 innings except for Kenley Jansen, who threw two innings. The Astros used four relievers, none of them throwing more than 1 2/3 innings. Every bullpen arm on both rosters should be rested and available for Game 3.

Beyond the bullpens, neither team has any injuries or availability concerns except for players who had already been expected to miss the entire playoffs. For the Dodgers that means Adrian Gonzalez, and for the Astros that means Jake Marisnick. The emergence of several young players has minimized the impact of Gonzalez’ absence, but the Astros could have used Marisnick as a platoon partner for Josh Reddick with the lefty-heavy rotation his team is facing.

Outlook

The Dodgers and Astros combined for eight home runs in Game 2, accounting for all but three of the 13 total runs scored. The two teams also combined for 19 strikeouts, making this game a good proxy for the current league-wide environment: lots of homers and lots of strikeouts. With the series moving to Minute Maid Park, a more offense-friendly environment than Dodger Stadium, home runs are likely to account for the majority of runs scored once again.

For Houston’s relievers, the story through Game 1 of the World Series was their struggles and manager A.J. Hinch’s reluctance to use any of them except for Ken Giles. For Los Angeles’ relievers, the story through Game 1 of the World Series was their invincibility, especially for Jansen and setup man Brandon Morrow.

In Game 2, Hinch turned to Will Harris, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Devenski, and was rewarded with solid performances (note that Giles allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings), while Dave Roberts watched Jansen and Morrow combine to blow a late-inning lead, something that had not done in the playoffs to date. Hinch showed that he was willing to trust the heart of his bullpen in a tight game while Roberts will have to contend with the idea that his relievers, while excellent, are not perfect.

Three of the first four starting pitchers in this series have won Cy Young awards. The starters in Game 3 aren’t slouches, but they are likely to be pulled from the contest earlier than Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, or Justin Verlander were. Yu Darvish is the first righty starter the Dodgers will throw at the Astros, something that should make Josh Reddick happy. Lance McCullers is the first starting pitcher the Dodgers face who might throw mostly curveballs, something he did in Game 7 against the Yankees in the ALCS while allowing only one hit and one walk with six strikeouts in a dominant four-inning performance.

If McCullers leaves the game early and the Astros need innings in bulk, expect them to turn to either Brad Peacock or Collin McHugh since McCullers’ tandem start partner from ALCS Game 7, Charlie Morton, is currently scheduled to start Game 4.

With the series tied 1-1, Game 3 effectively becomes Game 1 of a five-game series with the added wrinkle that both teams will be unable to throw their top two starters in this game or the next. Both teams will have to balance the need to win Game 3 against the fact that there are no off days until after Game 5, making it a little less likely that either manager will ask any of their relief options to exceed their customary workloads by more than a batter or two.

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