Since 1985, when the League Championship Series expanded to seven games, the Dodgers were the 29th team to head home trailing 3-2 in a best-of-seven series. Of the previous 28 teams in that situation, 16 won Game 6 and 14 of them also won Game 7 (including the Astros in this past ALCS against the Yankees). The Dodgers will send Yu Darvish to the mound against Lance McCullers Jr. of the Astros in Game 7.
"It's a dream come true to be part of it. We couldn't get the job done today, so we're going to go out there tomorrow and win the last game. It's the last game of the season for sure, so we want it to be the best."
Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill kept the game close, a bullpen freshened by a travel day shut down the mighty Astros lineup and Los Angeles' offense scraped enough runs, with Chris Taylor's RBI double keying a two-run sixth inning off Verlander and the rejuvenated Joc Pederson lofting his third homer of the Series, this one off reliever Joe Musgrove.
"We grinded the entire game," said Hill, removed after 4 2/3 innings when manager Dave Roberts again wouldn't let him face Houston's lineup for a third time. "That's the makeup of this team the entire year. Anybody who has come to games throughout the regular season has seen the way this team has performed, saw pretty much everything tonight. We're very excited looking at Game 7 tomorrow."
Although he had starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood in the bullpen standing by for duty, Roberts turned the game over to the same relievers who allowed seven of the 13 Astros runs in Sunday night's Game 5 loss. Brandon Morrow, who allowed four runs on six pitches in that game, took over for Hill with a scoreless inning. Kenta Maeda, who allowed a three-run homer to Jose Altuve in Game 5, pitched a scoreless inning.
And closer Kenley Jansen, who took the walk-off loss on Sunday and had allowed two homers in the Series, retired all six batters he faced (three on strikeouts) for the biggest save of his life. Jansen used 19 pitches, so he likely has something left for Game 7. Tony Watson pitched one-third of an inning and was credited with the win.
"When you see you get hit in the mouth and you see the guy respond by wanting the baseball again and wanting another chance for redemption or whatever you want to term it, that's a good thing," said Roberts. "So our guys aren't afraid of the moment. And we've put a lot of time into this moment right here. So we're not done yet."
Verlander, previously unbeaten in 10 decisions since Houston acquired him, had allowed only one hit and was clinging to a slim lead provided by George Springer's homer in the third inning, his fourth of the Series and the 14th for the Astros, tying the 2002 Giants for the most in a Fall Classic.
"That's a good offensive team over there," Springer said. "One run is probably not going to hold up. It doesn't matter who's in the game. That's a good feeling right there to strike first, and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Verlander struck out nine and allowed two runs on just three hits in six innings to take his first defeat as an Astro. He said at no point during Tuesday's game did he allow himself the opportunity to think the Astros were going to finish it off.
"Absolutely not. No chance," Verlander said. "Not the way this Series has gone, not the way these guys' lineup is. If we could have squeaked across one or two more, I might have changed my mentality a little bit. I've played this game too long. What happened, that can happen to anyone. The best-hit ball that inning was a flyout to right field. That's why it's so hard to limit offense, especially in this Series."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cody scoop: The defensive play of the game for the Dodgers came in the top of the seventh, with two outs and runners on the corners with a 2-1 L.A. lead. Facing Maeda, Altuve hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Justin Turner, whose throw in the dirt was scooped by Cody Bellinger, atoning for his second four-strikeout game of the Series.
"That's the thing about Cody and a lot of our guys, where tonight the bat wasn't there, but he made some very huge defensive plays," said Roberts. "Altuve's at-bat was a game changer. When you get a young player that isn't there with the bat but can still have the presence of mind to still play defense and impact the game, that's what we get in Cody. Can't say enough about the pick that Cody made. That was huge." More >
Leave 'em loaded: The Astros threatened in the fifth inning on a leadoff single by Brian McCann and a double to left by Marwin Gonzalez, putting runners at second and third with no outs. Hill struck out Josh Reddick (after falling behind 3-0) and Verlander before issuing an intentional walk to Springer to load the bases. Morrow took over and got Alex Bregman to ground out to shortstop to escape the jam unscathed. Houston was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
"He got me today," Bregman said. "I had gotten him on a pitch away for a double earlier in the Series, and I got him on a slider up the middle. He got me out and I give him a lot of credit."
Hit them where they are: After leaving the bases loaded in the fifth, the Astros put runners on first and second base with two outs in the sixth for Gonzalez, who hit a laser right to a jumping Utley near second base for the final out of the inning. The ball had a 65-percent hit probability, per Statcast™, but Utley -- who had just entered the game -- was positioned perfectly.
"Obviously small margin here in this game and these two teams, and obviously credit to them, and we wish we would have had a little bit of a breakout," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "I thought Marwin in the sixth had a line drive, but Utley is playing right up the middle."
"It's what you live for. Game 7. We're excited. It's going to be fun and we can't wait to get out there." -- Bregman
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Pederson's homer marked the fifth time a Dodgers player has hit three home runs in a World Series, joining Duke Snider in 1952 and '55, Reggie Smith in '77 and Davey Lopes in '78. Thus, he's the first Dodger to accomplish the feat in 39 years.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Dodgers challenged Reddick's slide into second base with no outs in the seventh inning, but the call was confirmed, with Reddick out on a fielder's-choice grounder by Evan Gattis.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros:McCullers will start Game 7 of the World Series for the Astros when they face the Dodgers on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. McCullers' only postseason win came when he beat Los Angeles in Game 3 on Friday, allowing three runs, four hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings.
Dodgers: L.A. will start Darvish in Game 7 on Wednesday. The righty, who got only five outs when he started Game 3 in Houston, allowed four runs, including a homer to Yuli Gurriel.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.