LOS ANGELES -- We already knew the Dodgers starting rotation heading into the series, but there was at least some question in the Astros' rotation after aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander got the call for Games 1 and 2. Manager A.J. Hinch put those questions to rest Tuesday when he announced that it was Lance McCullers for Game 3 and Charlie Morton for Game 4.
"Those are two guys that we really believe in," Hinch said. "The order is kind of what it is. It opens up Lance a little more in Game 6 and 7, if we can get that far, and if we don't clinch before that or if they don't clinch before that. The home start, coming home, and having Lance McCullers go, there is going to be a ton of energy in the building. And we had to pick one."
"Both are equipped to pitch and both have been very successful for us, so we just had to pick an order."
McCullers was ace-like for the first few months of the season, but he was derailed -- at least in part by injury. In seven starts from July to the end of the regular season, McCullers had an 8.53 ERA with opposing players hitting .338/.424/.485 against him. He wasn't very good against Boston in the ALDS, either, but things seem to have clicked again.
In his one start in the ALCS, McCullers allowed just one run (a solo Aaron Judge shot, which can be forgiven) in six innings. Then, in relief in Game 7, he closed things down with a four-inning save. He was masterful, allowing only one hit and one walk while striking out six. He threw 24 straight curveballs and the Yankees still couldn't get to him.
Interestingly, the Dodgers were first in the majors in batting average (.274) and slugging percentage (.464) against the curveball, so we will see a bout of strength vs. strength.
Morton pitched well in September, but then had a subpar ALDS outing followed by being shelled by the Yankees in Game 3. In Game 7, however, he threw five scoreless innings with five strikeouts. He only gave up two hits and a walk.
Things might have looked shaky for the Astros in the rotation after their big two a week ago, but Games 4 and 7 likely give them confidence in McCullers and Morton. Those will be the Games 3 and 4 starters to match up against Yu Darvish and Alex Wood, respectively, of the Dodgers.