It could be a night of firsts for both the Astros and their ace pitcher, as Houston tries to win the first World Series title in their 56-year history and Justin Verlander attempts to record the first World Series win of his career. In a rematch of Game 2, the Dodgers will counter with southpaw Rich Hill in the hopes that they can force the first World Series Game 7 in the history of Dodger Stadium.
Verlander cruised for five innings in Game 2, but then allowed a two-run homer to Chris Taylor in the sixth before being pulled for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Manager A.J. Hinch will probably try to coax more out of Verlander than the 79 pitches he delivered in Game 2. The same is likely true for Hill and Dave Roberts. Much has been made of Roberts pulling Hill early, not just Game 2 but other postseason games, but Hill is certainly capable of going deeper, having thrown 80 or more pitches in 21 of his 25 regular-season starts.
In a game featuring both maxed-out relievers and National League rules, Hinch and Roberts will both feel the pull of sticking with their starting pitchers versus trying to maximize run-scoring opportunities whenever possible.
PECOTA odds of winning: 53% Dodgers, 47% Astros
Projected Starting Lineups
|Astros vs. Hill (L)||Dodgers vs. Verlander (R)|
|George Springer (R), CF||Chris Taylor (R), CF|
|Alex Bregman (R), 3B||Corey Seager (L), SS|
|Jose Altuve (R), 2B||Justin Turner (R), 3B|
|Carlos Correa (R), SS||Cody Bellinger (L), 1B|
|Yulieski Gurriel (R), 1B||Yasiel Puig (R), RF|
|Brian McCann (L), C||Joc Pederson (L), LF|
|Marwin Gonzalez (S), LF||Logan Forsythe (R), 2B|
|Josh Reddick (L), RF||Austin Barnes (R), C|
|Justin Verlander (R), P||Rich Hill (L), P|
Game 5 marked the last time we’ll see the designated hitter in 2017. Evan Gattis DH’ed for all three games in Houston; he’ll be back on the bench for Game 6. In case you’re wondering if Hinch would consider swapping out the lefty McCann for the right-handed Gattis, the latter has caught only one game in the postseason.
The Dodgers used Pederson at DH and Enrique Hernandez in left field for Games 3 and 4 when Houston started a righty, so either Pederson or Hernandez will ride the pine in Los Angeles. Dodgers pinch-hitters were third in the majors in OPS, but this is one of those misleading stats that fails to account for the fact that their best in-season pinch-hitters will either be in the lineup or are not on the World Series roster. Chase Utley was 9-for-33 with nine walks off the bench during the regular season, while both of Andre Ethier’s pinch-hits were home runs.
A day of rest should help everyone in the bullpen, but this has been a grueling series that has taxed nearly every pitcher on both sides. Collin McHugh (49 pitches on Sunday) and Brad Peacock (39 pitches Sunday, 53 on Friday) could be limited tonight, while Kenta Maeda (25 Sunday, 42 Friday) and Kenley Jansen (33 Sunday, 14 Saturday) bear watching for the Dodgers. Ken Giles is rested but will Hinch use him if needed?
PECOTA sees Los Angeles as a slight favorite, giving them a 53 percent chance to beat Houston and take what has already been a memorable series to a Game 7. If there is a player on either team who could flip those odds, it is Verlander. A signature performance like he had in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Yankees would tip the scales significantly in the Astros’ favor.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now