The Houston Astros are two wins away from the first World Series championship in franchise history.

Friday night at Minute Maid Park, the Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers (HOU 5, LAD 3) in Game 3 of the World Series to take a 2-1 series lead. The 'Stros jumped out to a big early lead and nursed it the rest of the way.

Here are eight things to know about Houston's Game 3 win.

Darvish had one of his worst starts ever

Right away, it was easy to tell Yu Darvish was not sharp in Game 3. He fell behind in the count 3-1 to George Springer, the first batter he faced, and Springer ripped a booming double into the right-center field gap. Darvish did escape the first inning without allowing the run, but he was not nearly as lucky in the second. Yuli Gurriel started the second with a rocket home run:

When it was all said and done, the Astros tagged Darvish for four runs on five hits and one walk in that second inning, which Darvish exited with two outs. Here's the play-by-play with the exit velocities to really drive home the quality of the contact:

That is an awful lot of loud contact. Darvish, who ranked 13th in baseball with a 12.4 percent swing-and-miss rate during the regular season, registered only two whiffs among his 49 pitches in Game 3. Check out this slider locations. This tells you why he wasn't getting outs or swings and misses. His location was terrible. Sliders aren't supposed to be up high:

Yu Darvish could not get his slider down in the zone in Game 3. Baseball Savant

With a Game Score of 18, Darvish had one of the 20 worst starts in World Series history -- it was the worst since Josh Fogg got blasted for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Game 3 of the 2007 World Series -- and the third worst start of his career overall. This was also the first time Darvish failed to a) complete three innings, and b) strike out a batter in an MLB start.

Yu Darvish
SD • SP • #11
2017 World Series Game 3
IP1 2/3
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Once the Astros took that 4-0 lead in the second, it was the largest deficit the Dodgers have faced in a game so far this postseason.

The Dodgers didn't capitalize on a gift rally

That four-run second inning rally by the Astros took roughly 30 minutes, meaning starter Lance McCullers Jr. was sitting on the bench for quite a while. Don't get me wrong, any pitcher would happily take the run support. But McCullers sat a while and it could've thrown off his rhythm. The fact he came out and walked the bases loaded (with no outs!) in the top of the third suggests the long layoff threw him off at least a little bit.

McCullers did not just walk the bases loaded with no outs that inning. He walked the bases loaded with no outs with Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Cody Bellinger due up. Basically the worst possible part of the lineup to bring to the plate with the bases loaded. McCullers was able to escape the inning with only one run allowed thanks to a gorgeous 3-6-1 double play. Check it out:

Beautiful. Just beautiful. A run scored on the play to get the Dodgers on the board, but in that situation, you'll trade a run for two outs eight days a week and twice on Sunday. Seager missed the NLCS with a back injury that was bad enough to require an epidural, and I wonder whether he's still feeling it a bit, because off the bat, I thought he would beat that double play out.

Either way, the Dodgers turned that gift bases loaded rally with Seager, Turner, and Bellinger coming up into only one run. Better than nothing, but yeah. They needed some more there.

McCullers leaned on his curveball again

As expected, McCullers used his trademark curveball in Game 3 and he used it a lot. All told, 53 of his 87 pitches were curveballs, or 60.9 percent. Throwing more breaking balls than fastballs as a starting pitcher is basically unheard of, even these days. It's almost unheard of for relief pitchers, nevermind starters. But hey, it works, so why stop throwing the curve?

Lance McCullers
HOU • SP • #43
2017 World Series Game 3
IP5 1/3
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Brad Peacock allowed two inherited runners to score, which put a dent in McCullers' pitching line. He was better than three runs in 5 1/3 innings would lead you to believe. After walking the bases loaded in the second, McCullers retired eight of the final 12 batters he faced.

McCullers, as you may remember, finished off his four-inning save in Game 7 of the ALCS with 24 -- 24! -- consecutive curveballs. Crazy. Here is his curveball breakdown for the season:

  • Regular season: 48.6 percent (118 2/3 innings)
  • ALDS: 47.7 percent (three innings, all in relief)
  • ALCS: 62.2 percent (10 innings total)
  • World Series: 60.9 percent (5 1/3 innings)

A back injury sidelined McCullers for much of the second half, and when he did pitch, he was pretty terrible. Fortunately for the Astros, it seems McCullers has been able to right the ship the last few times out. He looks strong and healthy. And very proud of his curveball.

Maeda was excellent in relief

Darvish bowing out in the second inning was a potential disaster for the Dodgers. Games 3-5 will played on three consecutive days, meaning Los Angeles was in position to tax their bullpen heading into Games 4 and 5. A dream scenario for the Astros and nightmare scenario for the Dodgers.

Enter Kenta Maeda. The regular season starter turned postseason setup man entered the game in the second inning, escaped Darvish's mess, and pitched into the fifth. His final line:

Kenta Maeda
DET • SP • #18
2017 World Series Game 3
IP2 2/3
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Maeda restored order and gave the offense a chance to get back in the game, which they weren't able to do because McCullers and Peacock were so good. Maeda threw 42 pitches in Game 3, which means he's unlikely to be available in Game 4, and he might not be available in Game 5 either. That's a problem. But, with the score only 4-1 at the time, you've got to do what you can to keep the score close. A three-run deficit is far from insurmountable. 

The Dodgers received strong work from Maeda to keep the game close, and they also spared some other relievers from pitching innings they'll need in Games 4 and 5.

Peacock came up huge in relief

It's no secret the Astros have had some bullpen problems this postseason. In fact, their best reliever thus far has been a starting pitcher: McCullers recorded that four-inning save in Game 7 of the ALCS.

There second best reliever this postseason: Peacock, another starting pitcher. He served as the middle reliever, setup man, and closer after McCullers with a 3 2/3 inning save, the first save of his career. Closer Ken Giles did warm up at one point, but Peacock was throwing so well that manager A.J. Hinch stuck with him.

Brad Peacock
KC • SP • #44
2017 World Series Game 3
IP3 2/3
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Houston is not going to win this series without getting better work from their bullpen. The Dodgers were drawing closer and closer in the middle innings and the Astros needed a stopper. Peacock, who threw 132 innings with a 3.00 ERA during the regular season, did the job in Game 3. What a huge performance.

Bellinger looks completely lost

Bellinger, who set the NL rookie record with 39 home runs this season, went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in Game 3. A Golden Sombrero. He was the only batter McCullers struck out, in fact. Here are the last five players to strike out four times in a nine-inning World Series game:

The good news? The last time a player struck out four times in a World Series game (Springer in Game 1), he hit the game-winning home run the next day and snapped out of his slump in a big way.

So far this postseason Bellinger is 10 for 47 (.213) with 19 strikeouts, which is quite bad. Slumps happen, and one is happening at a bad time for Bellinger. He's an important part of the Los Angeles offense and they need to get him going to come back from this 2-1 series deficit.

Another player went deep

With his second inning home run, Gurriel became already the 12th different player to hit a home run in the 2017 World Series. There have been 12 homers hit by 12 different players in the three games. The all-time record is 13 different players with a home run more than a half-century go.

So far the only non-pitchers not to go deep in the World Series are Bellinger, Gattis, McCann, Reddick, Austin Barnes, Carlos Beltran, Andre Ethier, Logan Forsythe, Yasmani Grandal, Enrique Hernandez, and Cameron Maybin.

The Astros have history on their side

According to, teams that taken a 2-1 lead in the World Series have gone on to win the series 66.7 percent of the time. It's 70.1 percent for all best-of-seven MLB postseason series. That history doesn't guarantee a Astros a World Series win, of course. It just goes to show how much taking a 2-1 series lead helps get a team closer to the ultimate goal.