In the franchise’s 56th season, the Houston Astros are finally champions after closing out the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 5-1 win in Game 7 of what was a thrilling World Series from start to finish.
It was a Series defined by relief pitching and home runs, and Game 7 had both. Neither starting pitcher made it out of the third inning, with the teams combining to use eight relievers. On offense, the Astros were powered to victory by George Springer, the team’s center fielder, who homered for the fourth consecutive game, and tied Reggie Jackson and Chase Utley for the most home runs in a single World Series with five.
That the game had just one home run was almost an upset in a Series that included a record-setting 25 home runs, which shattered the previous mark of 22 set by the Anaheim Angels and the San Francisco Giants in 2002.
For all of the drama of the previous six games, the winner-take-all Game 7 was relatively quiet after Houston exploded for five runs in the first two innings against starter Yu Darvish and then simply held on to win.
Lance McCullers started for Houston, and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings before Manager A.J. Hinch turned things over to his bullpen, with Brad Peacock, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski and Charlie Morton combining to close out the win.
The Dodgers, who won a Major League-best 104 games this season, eventually got one run in the sixth inning on a run-scoring single from Andre Ethier off of Morton, but otherwise they were almost comically incapable of capitalizing on base runners, stranding 10 over the course of the game.
With the Astros finally winning a championship, there are seven teams left that have yet to win a World Series: The Tampa Bay Rays, the Seattle Mariners, the Texas Rangers, the Washington Nationals, the Milwaukee Brewers, the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies.
Here’s how the Astros won World Series Game 7, inning by inning:
Top 9th: Wood keeps Astros’ lead at four.
Alex Wood was able to prevent the Astros from tacking on any insurance runs in a scoreless ninth. He struck out Charlie Morton on three pitches, Cameron Maybin on five pitches and then finished the half-inning by getting George Springer to fly out to center.
The Astros are three outs away from the first championship in franchise history.
Bottom 8th: Morton blanks Dodgers again.
Charlie Morton has successfully atoned for the run he allowed in his sixth inning by following it up with two scoreless innings. He struck out Joc Pederson, got Logan Forsythe to fly out to right, and sent the game to the ninth inning when he got Austin Barnes to fly out to center.
Top 8th: Dodgers’ bullpen keeps rolling.
Alex Wood replaced Kenley Jansen and pitched a 1-2-3 inning, retiring Yulieski Gurriel, Brian McCann and Marwin Gonzalez. The Dodgers’ relievers have been incredible since Yu Darvish came out of the game in the second inning, but the offense has yet to offer them much help.
Waldstein: Strange only using Jansen for one inning. If that were the case, then why not save him for later in case you get a lead? Meanwhile, Charlie Morton was on deck swinging with a jacket on. He would have been the fourth pitcher to hit in this game, and only one was a starter, Lance McCullers, Jr., who collected a run batted in. Clayton Kershaw and Brad Peacock also batted.
Bottom 7th: Dodgers can’t build any momentum.
Charlie Morton had an incredibly quiet seventh. The right-hander got Justin Turner to pop out to first, struck out Cody Bellinger and then ended things with a groundout to short by Yulieski Gurriel.
Top 7th: Jansen comes in early and gets job done.
It is all hands on deck for the Dodgers, with the team’s closer, Kenley Jansen, coming in for the seventh inning. It is an open question how long he can go, but he worked around a two-out walk to pitch a scoreless inning.
Jansen got the first out on a long fly ball to center from George Springer that a sliding Chris Taylor was able to track down. He struck out Alex Bregman on seven pitches, but walked Jose Altuve. Altuve got Houston’s second stolen base of the Series by taking second on a first-pitch ball to Carlos Correa, but he was left there when Correa popped out to short.
Bottom 6th: Dodgers finally get a runner across.
Charlie Morton became Houston’s fifth pitcher of the day and he was immediately in trouble. Joc Pederson singled, Logan Forsythe walked and after Morton got an out on a pop-up by Austin Barnes, the Dodgers got on the board with a run-scoring single by pinch-hitter Andre Ethier, making it 5-1. Morton did not allow any further damage, striking out Chris Taylor and inducing a grounder to short by Corey Seager, which means the Dodgers have now stranded ten runners in six innings.
With Ethier having pinch-hit for Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ bullpen will have to try to follow the example he set with four scoreless innings of relief.
Waldstein: Charlie Morton is making just the second relief appearance of his career and first since his rookie season of 2008 with the Braves. But he has the temperament for it. Astros people say he is very calm and has the ability to slow things down. He certainly looked calm with that shard of Corey Seager’s bat coming at him at about 50 miles per hour. He stepped aside to avoid it, but the bat still clipped him in the leg. Unfazed, he turned and watched Carlos Correa scoop up the ball and throw Seager out for the final out of the sixth inning. Calm, indeed.
Top 6th: Kershaw keeps it clean.
Clayton Kershaw gambled to get a matchup he liked better, and the risky move paid off, resulting in a fourth scoreless inning.
Carlos Correa led off with a single to left and he advanced to third base on a pair of groundouts. Marwin Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Evan Gattis were both intentionally walked, and with two outs and the bases loaded, Kershaw ended the inning by getting Cameron Maybin to pop out to third.
Bottom 5th: Dodgers leave two more runners on base.
It took three pitchers, but Houston got through another scoreless inning, with the Dodgers stranding two more runners — bringing them to an ugly eight for the game.
Brad Peacock got the first out, but after a walk and an infield single his day was done. Francisco Liriano was summoned to face Cody Bellinger, and got him to hit into a force-out, and then Chris Devenski was brought in to face Yasiel Puig, who hit a line drive right to first baseman Yuli Gurriel to end the inning.
Waldstein: It has been amazing how the Dodgers have been unable to break through with men on base, even when hitting the ball hard. In the second inning they had runners at first and second with one out, but Chris Taylor lined into a double play. In the fifth, Yasiel Puig lined out to first with runners at first and third with two outs. How long can the Astros keep escaping these predicaments?
Top 5th: Kershaw finally silences Springer’s bat.
Clayton Kershaw has pitched three scoreless innings and it is pretty clear that he would have been a better option at starter than Yu Darvish was. He started the fifth by becoming the first Dodgers pitcher of the day to retire George Springer when he got the red-hot hitter to strike out on a slider up in the zone. He struck out Alex Bregman as well and then ended the inning by getting Jose Altuve to fly out to Cody Bellinger in foul territory.
Waldstein: I spoke to former Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green before the game and he said the rule of thumb at Dodger Stadium is that when there is moisture on the grass, outfielders should take five steps in, because that means there is moisture in the air, which tamps the ball down. Yasiel Puig’s fly ball to center earlier might have been an example. Astros center fielder George Springer took a few steps back and then had to run in to catch it.
Bottom 4th: Peacock just what the Astros needed.
After three innings of the Dodgers getting on base, Brad Peacock threw Houston’s first 1-2-3 inning of the day. He got Logan Forsythe to ground out to third, Austin Barnes to pop out to third, and then struck out Clayton Kershaw, who was allowed to bat because there were two outs.
Top 4th: Kershaw pitches two clean innings.
Clayton Kershaw worked around a one-out single to Marwin Gonzalez to pitch a second scoreless inning. He is due up to bat in the bottom half of the inning, so his day could be done.
Bottom 3rd: Astros turn to their bullpen to get out of trouble.
Both teams are into their bullpens as Lance s once again started the inning by allowing a pair of base runners and was removed after getting one out. Brad Peacock got Houston out of the jam and the Dodgers have yet to score despite having had seven players reach base in the game.
Corey Seager hit a ball to right-center that looked like it might be a double, but Seager wisely pulled up to stay at first when he realized George Springer had tracked the ball down quickly. McCullers reacted to the base-runner by hitting Justin Turner with a pitch for a second time — it was McCuller’s World Series record-setting fourth hit batter — but he got some help from Cody Bellinger when the rookie struck out on five pitches.
Looking to keep the game scoreless, A.J. Hinch decided McCullers, who had thrown just 49 pitches, was done, and he brought in Peacock who got a long flyout from Yasiel Puig and then got out of the inning by striking out Joc Pederson.
Waldstein: Gone are the days of Jack Morris and Sandy Koufax going the distance in a Game 7. Both of the starting pitchers are gone from this game in only the third inning. This is the first time in a World Series Game 7 that both starters did not pitch at least three innings.
I expected A.J. Hinch to go longer with McCullers, but he hit four batters (Justin Turner twice) and it seemed like the Dodgers were on the verge against him during his two and one-third innings. Brad Peacock was brilliant in Game 3, but the stakes are much higher now.
Top 3rd: Dodgers give the ball to Kershaw, who delivers.
With their backs against the wall, the Dodgers went to their biggest gun early, and brought in Clayton Kershaw as a reliever to start the third. He needed just 10 pitches to get three outs.
The left-hander got Jose Altuve to fly out to center, Carlos Correa to fly out to right, and then caught Yulieski Gurriel looking at a 95 mile-per-hour fastball that was low in the zone but high enough for home plate umpire Mark Wegner to call strike three.
Bottom 2nd: Double play ends Dodgers’ rally.
Lance McCullers put two more runners on base, but once again got out of the inning without allowing a run.
Logan Forsythe singled to left to start things off and he advanced to second on a groundout by Austin Barnes. With a runner in scoring position and one out, Dave Roberts sent up Kike Hernandez to pinch-hit for Brandon Morrow, and he reached base on a walk. But Chris Taylor lined out to short, and Carlos Correa was able to throw behind Forsythe to double him off at second after making the catch.
With Morrow out of the game, the reliever’s World Series is complete, and he became just the second pitcher to appear in seven World Series games in a single season, joining Darold Knowles of the 1973 Oakland A’s. Morrow had a disastrous appearance in Game 5, but recovered with scoreless appearances in Games 6 and 7.
Waldstein: Well, even though Mark Teixeira kind of talked me out of it, Kershaw is going to pitch early in this game, as many of us thought he would. But this is not how the Dodgers envisioned it. They wanted to see Darvish go four, or so, innings and leave with a lead before handing it over to Kershaw, who would then give the ball to Kenley Jansen. Now the task is for Kershaw to keep the Astros at bay until the Dodgers can crack McCullers. They’ve been close to breaking through in the first two innings. It’s looking like a matter of time. The question remains, though, how much?
Top 2nd: Springer chases Darvish with a two-run homer.
The Astros stretched their lead to 5-0 thanks to a surprising R.B.I. groundout from their pitcher and a mammoth two-run home run from the front-runner for World Series M.V.P., George Springer, who became the first player in Series history to homer in four consecutive games.
Brian McCann started the inning by drawing an eight-pitch walk. Marwin Gonzalez, who has been in a terrible slump for most of the World Series, followed that by hitting a double to the wall that would have scored any runner on the Astros beyond McCann.
With runners on second and third and no outs, Darvish got the first out of the inning on a soft grounder to second from Josh Reddick, but that brought up McCullers and the American League pitcher was swinging away rather than trying to bunt the slow-footed McCann home, and that strategy worked just fine as he hit a soft grounder to second that gave his battery-mate plenty of time to score.
Darvish would last just one more batter, as Springer worked a full-count before getting a fastball he liked, and then he gave it a ride for his fifth home run of the World Series.
In what should surprise absolutely no one, Brandon Morrow, who had pitched in each game of the World Series, and 13 of the Dodgers’ 14 playoff games, got the call to replace Darvish, and he struck out Alex Bregman on just three pitches.
Bottom 1st: McCullers gets out of a tight spot.
Handed a two-run lead before throwing a pitch, Lance McCullers loaded the bases with two outs, but he was able to escape unscathed with the lead intact.
Just like the Astros, the Dodgers started things with a double when Chris Taylor launched a ball to the wall in right-center. Corey Seager struck out, but McCullers hit two batters with pitches, sandwiching Cody Bellinger’s latest strikeout between the beanballs. But McCullers stayed cool with the bases loaded and induced a grounder to second by Joc Pederson to end the inning.
Top 1st: Astros waste no time scoring.
Game 7 was underway at 8:22 p.m. Eastern when Yu Darvish threw a first pitch ball to George Springer of the Astros. Things went downhill fast for Darvish and the Dodgers are down, 2-0, before they’ve had a chance to bat.
On Darvish’s third pitch, Springer, who has been Houston’s most consistent hitter, laced a double into the left field corner. Alex Bregman followed that up by hitting a grounder to first that looked like it would be an out, but Cody Bellinger’s throw to Darvish, who was covering the bag, went wild, allowing Springer to score.
Bregman had advanced to second on the error, and he showed some aggressiveness by stealing third. The move paid off, as he was able to score on a groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-0.
Darvish, who lasted just five outs in his Game 3 start, was able to get out of the inning by retiring Carlos Correa on a grounder to first and winning a 13-pitch battle with Yulieski Gurriel, who flew out to right. It could be another short night for Darvish if he does not improve considerably in the second inning.
Waldstein: All that pumping up by the fans, the P.A. and the Dodger players came to a crashing thud when the Astros plated a run before there was an out. A lot of people expect to see Clayton Kershaw come into the game early.
I spoke to Mark Teixeira on the field before the game and he had an interesting point. He thinks Kershaw was only so-so in Game 5 and if he gets into this game it will be the third time the Astros have seen him. Too risky. Teixeira also thought Darvish was rusty from a long layoff before game 2 and should be sharper tonight. Someone, maybe Kershaw, was jogging around and loosening up in the bullpen in the first inning, and at one point Darvish looked up and saw it.
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Koufax and Newcombe throw out first pitch.
Game 7 of the 2017 World Series is about to begin and Dodger Stadium is rocking, thanks to 50,000 blue-clad fans going nuts, and a P.A. system on overdrive trying to pump them up. Message to stadium operations: Fake noise is not necessary. Just wait until they announce Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe are throwing out the ceremonial pitch and it will get plenty loud.
The weather seems a bit warmer than it was for Game 6, which could translate to more offense. This could be a really fascinating game. Yu Darvish will start for the Dodgers and he was lit up in Game 2 and many expect to see Clayton Kershaw in relief.
Lance McCullers will go for the Astros, and he demonstrated incredible determination in relief of the A.L.C.S. Game 7 against the Yankees and boasts a 2.95 earned run average in the postseason.
This is the 39th best-of-seven World Series to go to a Game 7. It is also the second straight and the third in four years. Yuli Gurriel was announced and the boos came down hard.
For the final game of 2017, it’s time for baseball.
Here are the top story lines for Game 7:
■ The Astros’ Lance McCullers Jr. and Dodgers’ Yu Darvish are expected to be the starting pitchers for Game 7, but in a World Series defined by home runs and quick hooks on pitchers, it would not be surprising for both teams to go to their bullpens early, with Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Dallas Keuchel of the Astros presumably available for at least a few innings.
■ While neither would have likely made a top-five list for World Series M.V.P. before Game 1, George Springer of the Astros and Joc Pederson of the Dodgers have each made a compelling case. Springer has a Series-leading four home runs and a .375 batting average, while playing solid defense in center field. Pederson, despite sitting out one game, leads Los Angeles not only in home runs, with three, but also in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
■ Both teams are sticking with the same lineup as the previous game, with the exception of the starting pitchers, who are batting ninth. In Game 6, the Astros moved up hot-hitting Brian McCann from No. 8 into the No. 6 spot, and they’re sticking with him there. On the other side, the Dodgers are staying put with Cody Bellinger batting cleanup, even though he struck out four times in Game 6 and doesn’t have a hit at Dodger Stadium in this series.
George Springer, CF (9 for 24)
Alex Bregman, 3B (7 for 26)
Jose Altuve, 2B (6 for 28)
Carlos Correa, SS (7 for 25)
Yuli Gurriel, 1B (6 for 24)
Brian McCann, C (5 for 22)
Marwin Gonzalez, LF (3 for 21)
Josh Reddick, RF (4 for 22)
Lance McCullers, P (0 for 0)
Chris Taylor, CF (5 for 22)
Corey Seager, SS (5 for 23)
Justin Turner, 3B (3 for 23)
Cody Bellinger, 1B (4 for 24)
Yasiel Puig, RF (4 for 24)
Joc Pederson, LF (5 for 14)
Logan Forsythe, 2B (4 for 15)
Austin Barnes, C (4 for 19)
Yu Darvish, P (0 for 0)
■ The World Series has had 38 winner-take-all games — the 1912 World Series was decided in Game 8 rather than Game 7 because Game 2 ended in a tie — and home field advantage is not as important as you might think. The home team is just 19-19 and the visitors have won the last two, with Chicago winning in Cleveland last year and San Francisco winning in Kansas City in 2014.
■ With two more home runs in Game 6, there have now been 24 in the Series, which is three more than the previous record. It is a fitting statistic since during the regular season, a record-setting 6,105 home runs were hit, which broke the previous record by 412.
■ The bullpens for both teams had been atrocious in recent days, but in Game 6 the Dodgers’ seemed rested and effective. Four relievers combined for 4 1/3 shutout innings. As a group, they allowed two hits, struck out four and allowed one walk. Going into Game 7, all of them should be available — Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen threw 19 pitches and the other three pitchers threw 14 or fewer.
■ The city of Houston has quite a bit of experience winning championships. The Rockets won back-to-back N.B.A. finals, the Comets won four consecutive W.N.B.A. titles, and the Dynamo went back-to-back with M.L.S. titles. But the Astros, a team that has been in the city longer than any of them, are still seeking the franchise’s first title. The good news for Astros fans is that based on Houston championship history, once they win one, they will probably win another one the next year. Even the Houston Oilers, who left the city in 1997, were back-to-back A.F.L. champions in 1960 and 1961.
■ The Dodgers have six World Series titles, but only the 1963 team won it at home. That year they swept the Yankees, winning Games 3 and 4 at Dodger Stadium. Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax won the games in front of back-to-back sellout crowds of 55,912 and in stark contrast to how Game 7 is likely to be handled, neither pitcher required a reliever, as they both threw complete games.