Heading into the postseason, most observers figured the Houston Astros simply couldn’t just outscore everyone like they did in the regular season — no matter how excellent that excellent offense is. It’s simply not done in playoff baseball when the best of the best are playing each other in best-of-seven series.
And in Friday’s third game of the World Series, which the Astros took in a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Astros continued to find ways to win that don’t involve putting 10-plus runs on the scoreboard.
Pitching-wise, on Friday, the Astros repeated a strategy that worked to perfection in last week’s ALCS Game 7 win over the Yankees and that strategy was, frankly, hiding a bullpen that has been atrocious all postseason long.
Like in the ALCS’ deciding game, the Astros let two pitchers who were both in the starting rotation during the regular season team up to put together a combined complete-game win.
While in Game 7, it was Charlie Morton who got the start and Lance McCullers Jr. who got the four-inning save, on Friday, it was McCullers Jr. (5.1 innings, four hits, three earned runs, three strikeouts, four walks) getting the start and regular-season starter Brad Peacock (3.2 innings, no hits, no earned runs, four strikeouts, one walk) coming in for an extended save.
And after roughing up the Dodgers bullpen in their Game 2 win Wednesday, the Astros’ offense had to know that the outstanding Dodgers unit would bounce back, and it did. Five Dodgers bullpen arms combined to throw 6.1 innings, scattering six hits and three walks, recording six strikeouts and surrendering just one unearned run. But, it didn’t matter.
The Astros’ offense jumped all over Dodgers starter Yu Darvish in the second inning with a Yuli Gurriel leadoff home run, a pair of RBI singles at the bottom of the lineup from Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann, and an RBI sacrifice fly from Alex Bregman.
The performance delivered Houston its first-ever win at home in the World Series and a 2-1 edge in the series. The Astros are also now 7-0 at home in playoffs, joining the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies and 2015 Kansas City Royals as the only teams with seven-game home winning streaks at any point in the postseason.
Now with Morton set to get the start in Game 4, maybe it’ll be regular-season starter Collin McHugh on deck for an extended relief effort, as the Astros try to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series on Saturday and continue the buck the conventional use of bullpen arms to surprising success.