The game was over. The game was won. The series was over, too. Not so fast. Three outs from a Game 2 victory with a 3-2 lead, a runner on second and closer Kenley Jansen summoned to the mound for a six-out save, the Dodgers blew it, squandered it, lost it.
On a night when the Astros blasted missiles into the dark sky that exploded within seconds of launch, the Dodgers lost every ounce of momentum with the series heading to Minute Maid Park for the next three games. An army of Astros hitters launched a deadly attack on Dodger Stadium. In this age where the surge for home runs has inevitably become commonplace, as the Astros and Dodgers made evident by swatting a rash of homers over the fence, the two teams combined for eight, the most in a World Series game.
The destructive power of the long ball is that of a potent Houston lineup. It is little wonder that the explosion from the Astros’ solo blasts and two-run bombs was more powerful than the Dodgers’ and caused World Series damage. The end result was a 7-6 loss in the 11th inning that tied this series at one apiece. It was a game of craziness, a spectacularly wonderful home run derby, and a night filled with drama and plenty of excitement. This was a fairy tale almost too incredible to believe, a timeless story no one could have imagined. It was enough to make flying monkeys and pixies essentially seem real in Hollywood.
This was a game the Dodgers easily could have won, one they should have won but the bullpen crumbled in the late innings. Now this gives the Astros a further advantage to travel home to Houston, that will no doubt be the Dodgers’ toughest task. This is where the series could take a turn for the worse. But now, facing real expectations for the first time in five years, it seems likely that the Dodgers are in some serious trouble after a momentum-killing, heart-crushing defeat.
There’s clearly no telling whether the game would have played out differently if Dave Roberts didn’t replace starter Rich Hill. After only four innings of work, Roberts lifted his Game 2 starter. The former major leaguer himself knows as much as anyone that Hill was cruising. Hill’s performance had been plagued by Roberts’ decision-making and managerial moves that have drawn fire from those who scratched their heads and wondered what the heck was the skipper’s approach about. No harm done, except that he just allowed a run and three hits. He had seven strikeouts and had only thrown 60 pitches.
In the fifth inning, he was relieved by right-hander Kenta Maeda, who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief. Trailing 1-0 in the fifth, Joc Pederson crushed a homer to left field. That tied the game 1-1. And an inning later, the Dodgers went ahead in the sixth on a two-run blast by Corey Seager.
This was a familiar spot for them. It was nothing the Dodgers haven’t seen before. If there was one team that knew something about historic comebacks, it would be this 2017 club. But the aura of dominance had vanished. Then everything seemed to kind of unraveled a little bit, dredging up memories of the past after the Astros’ bats roughed up the Dodgers’ mighty arms. And that’s where a sense of foreboding emerged as mortal anguish greeted a team that makes a habit of coming up short in the postseason.
These Dodgers have endured postseason pain simply because a woeful bullpen surrendered leads in the late innings. This season, the Dodgers bullpen, once a weakness, was a strength as the relievers extended their scoreless streak to 28 innings on this night. The heavy workload has finally caught up with Dodgers relievers. But there’s a confidence around a bullpen that’s been missing in past postseasons, even though the relievers appear to be exhausted.
The bullpen, which had been so brilliant and sharp, imploded as it labored through four grueling innings. The workload took a toll on setup man Brandon Morrow, who pitched in the seventh inning and gave up a double to Alex Bregman. He’s been a reliable tool, therefore Roberts went back to Morrow. As Roberts went to the bullpen way too early, walking to the mound frequently and changing pitchers, the Dodgers’ execution waned. If not for the most recent hiccup by Roberts, they could have inched closer towards immortality.
It was uncharacteristically brutal for a bullpen that hadn’t lost in 98 games this season with a lead after the eighth inning. With a runner on second base, Jansen entered the game with the lead. He melted down on the mound against the Astros, giving up a run-scoring single to Carlos Correa in the eighth and then serving up a game-tying solo homer to Marwin Gonzalez in the ninth. The Astros slightly broke it open in the 1oth inning. Jose Altuve and Correa hit back-to-back home runs off reliever Josh Fields to put Houston up 5-3.
It had been a catastrophe and did not look promising for the Dodgers at all. Sometime shortly after falling behind two runs, they tied the score. By then, Roberts unwisely deployed his most reliable relievers and the only option left was to call on Brandon McCarthy. This was a guy who hadn’t pitched in the postseason and it showed, but he was the only pitcher available out of the bullpen. This was a guy who was added to the roster for this series, but he gave up a game-deciding, two-run homer to George Springer in the 11th.
A bullpen, which looked erratic and worn down mentally and physically, will disintegrate if Roberts micromanages and overworks his relievers. The Dodgers’ chances of winning the World Series have just took a nasty hit.