World Series Takeaways: Tired Dodgers bullpen forces Game 7 vs. Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers' Kenley Jansen. (David J. Phillip/AP)

After six games this close, it seems fitting that the 2017 World Series will go to the brink.

Facing elimination, the Dodgers got 4.1 scoreless innings from a heavily-taxed bullpen to out-duel Justin Verlander and force a seventh game. It’ll be Yu Darvish against Lance McCullers Jr. on Wednesday, but realistically everyone from Collin McHugh to Clayton Kershaw will be available in relief.

Before we turn our focus to Game 7, though, let’s linger a little longer on the moments that stood out from Game 6…


The biggest question facing the Dodgers Tuesday wasn’t whether Rich Hill would pitch well but how the Dodgers’ bullpen would perform afterwards. There’s ample talent in the Los Angeles bullpen, of course, but Brandon Morrow, Kenta Maeda and Kenley Jansen have all been heavily taxed this month. Lately, that workload has seemingly diminished their effectiveness.

For one day at least, those concerns were allayed. Morrow and Maeda pitched scoreless innings, and Jansen closed the game out with two clean frames of his own. That allowed the Dodgers to win without using Kershaw, who was technically available, but it means Dave Roberts’ most trusted relievers could again be tested on consecutive days in Game 7.



Roberts had already faced criticism for removing Hill too early. He had already faced criticism for relying on Morrow too much. So when Roberts replaced Hill with Morrow in the top of the fifth inning he would have been well aware that second-guessers were ready.

Some of the fans at Dodger Stadium booed the decision on the spot, and yet the move worked. Pitching for the sixth time in six World Series games and for the 13th time in 14 Dodgers playoff games, Morrow recorded three outs. The outing allowed Morrow some redemption after a rough Game 5 outing that saw him allow four earned runs on just six pitches.


Meanwhile, the Astros’ search for answers in the bullpen continued without resolution Tuesday after Verlander exited. Having watched Ken Giles and Chris Devenski struggle, Houston manager A.J. Hinch turned to Joe Musgrove in the seventh inning.

Musgrove was a useful pitcher this year, logging 109.1 innings as a swingman, but he posted a 4.77 ERA and his peripheral numbers were pretty ordinary, too. Hardly sounds like the ideal arm for a high-leverage moment in Game 6 of the World Series, but that perfect option simply hasn’t existed for Hinch of late (on paper, Will Harris looked like one preferable option).

Joc Pederson responded by homering against Musgrove and extending the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1. (The homer, Pederson’s third of the World Series, comes after a slow finish to the season that saw him collect just six big-league hits from July on.)

Later, Hinch asked Francisco Liriano to make his World Series debut in a surprisingly big spot. This one actually worked out perfectly as Liriano struck out Cody Bellinger to end the eighth, but it highlighted the lack of dependable options in Houston’s bullpen — particularly from the left side.


In the bottom of the sixth inning, Chris Taylor stepped up to the plate with runners on first and second and nobody out. With the Dodgers trailing by one in a must-win game, old-school baseball orthodoxy called for a bunt. By advancing the runners, Taylor would position Corey Seager to tie the game with a sacrifice fly.

Instead, the Dodgers asked Taylor to swing away and he delivered with the lone extra-base hit Verlander allowed, an RBI double that tied the score 1-1. An impressive performance in a huge spot from a player who didn’t even crack Los Angeles’ opening day roster.


The more Verlander pitches, the more he looks like a pitcher still in his prime and the better Houston’s summer trade looks. After acquiring Verlander for Daz Cameron, Franklin Perez and Jake Rogers with seconds remaining before the Aug. 31 deadline for adding playoff-eligible players, the Astros saw their new acquisition post a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts.

As it turns out, that production was just the beginning for Verlander, who has now pitched more playoff innings than regular season innings with Houston. In 36.2 post-season innings, he has a 2.21 ERA with 38 strikeouts compared to just eight walks. The latest outing wasn’t enough to deliver Houston its first World Series title, but Verlander pitched well Tuesday, allowing just two runs in six innings on a day he topped out at 98 m.p.h. and struck out nine.


It’s easy to overlook in a game Houston lost, but George Springer continued to display impressive power Tuesday. The centre fielder hit his fourth home run of the World Series and is now batting .375/.483/.958 through six games against the Dodgers.


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