Everyone who isn’t pulling hard for one side or the other in this year’s World Series is in agreement: we want a Game 7.
Last night’s back-and-forth Game 6 was the latest classic in a series with no fewer than four games that will be replay-worthy in the year 2030 by my count and that doesn’t include Clayton Kershaw‘s gem in Game 1 that is looking more and more impressive with each and every ball that flies over the wall.
What may be lost in this morning’s assessment of Game 6 is that the Dodgers let a golden opportunity slip away last night. Had Kershaw held his 4–0 lead, or shut the door on the 7–4 advantage, the Dodgers would have two chances at their home yard to win number four. Now, they have to go runner-runner with significant challenges at both stages.
The obvious task in Game 6 is scoring runs against Justin Verlander. When the Astros made the move, post-deadline, to get Verlander I was sitting back on my uncle’s couch, beer in my hand, blabbing about how Verlander was no better than a third starter and that he didn’t worry me any more than Lance McCullers or Brad Peacock. The Red Sox would knock him around.
As it goes, Boston did hit Verlander harder than anyone else in Game 1 of the ALDS. The Sox got six hits and drew two walks in six innings and were a Jackie Bradley Jr. double away from chasing him from the game early. But now we’re getting into alternative history; as it happened, Verlander ended up giving up two runs in six innings and getting the win.
Those eight baserunners have been the most Verlander has allowed in two-and-a-half months. In 13 starts since August 15th, Verlander has gone 11–0 with an ERA around 1.50. Say what you want about anybody else, but taking circumstances into account, Justin Verlander has been the best pitcher in the world when it has mattered the most in 2017.
The three earned runs he gave up in the Astros’ Game 2 win were the most since his last loss on August 15 but he only gave up two hits — they just both happened to leave Dodger Stadium. AJ Hinch has refrained from bringing him back on short rest and as a result he starts Tuesday on a full five days or rest after throwing just 79 pitches in Game 2. Given the ineptitude of the Astros’ bullpen (which has been matched by the Dodgers) AJ Hinch will let JV empty the tank in his last outing of the season. So long as he’s still effective, Verlander could throw 125 pitches on Tuesday.
In a series that has taken its viewers on an unpredictable ride of twist and turns, the final surprise will be an unexpected wrinkle that won’t necessarily please anybody who’s even the least bit impartial: it stops short of the magical Game 7 we all want. The Houston Astros are your 2017 World Series Champions.
Free Pick: Houston +110