Given their positions and last year's history, one would expect the Dodgers might be motivated to sweep the depleted Astros in Los Angeles this weekend. However, the Astros still had Justin Verlander and the former league MVP can still get up for big games.
Verlander: Posts 11th Win
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Verlander took a gut punch from Joc Pederson by way of a home run to begin his Friday night then bore down and struck out 14 Dodgers over 7-2/3rd innings to lead Houston over Los Angeles, 2-1, in the opener of a three-game "World Series rematch" at Dodger Stadium. The 14-K gem matched a career high.
Meanwhile, George Springer returned from sitting out with a sore shoulder to get the key two-run double that accounted for all of the Astros runs. This happened in the second off lefty Alex Wood.
Two men who didn't play in last year's Series set up Springer. Martin Maldonado walked then Jake Marisnick punched a single to left. Verlander, as vocal a critic of the Designated Hitter as he is abusing women, failed to get down a bunt in striking out.
Wood fed Springer a series of changeups to get ahead in the count, 1-2, until last year's World Series MVP spanked a double into left center that was also misplayed by Cody Bellinger for an error as both Maldonado and Marisnick scored.
The offense mostly took the rest of the night off while Verlander did the same to the Dodgers. The Big V allowed just four hits and a walk as he lasted into the eighth. Hector Rondon took care of the final four outs in order, including two strikeouts. That meant a total of 16 Dodger whiffs led by cleanup hitter Yasmani Grandal who sported the "golden sombrero" for fanning four times.
Pesky Chris Taylor had two of the four Dodger hits, including the single that chased Verlander in the eighth. He then stole second off Rondon only to be stranded.
A crowd of 53,598 witnessed parts of the game at Chavez Ravine (this is L.A., after all, where the customers arrive late and leave early). Saturday's middle game will be at 8:10 pm Central time as Lance McCullers (10-6) squares off with righthander Kenta Maeda (7-6). It would be advisable to caution Yuli Gurriel about any gestures just in case.
Oakland remains five games off the pace in the A.L. West while Seattle has dropped four straight to sit 6-1/2 behind 70-41 Houston and out of the second wild card position.
- Bob Hulsey