The 2017 World Series is now a best-of-three series.
Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the Los Angeles Dodgers came from behind to beat the Houston Astros (LAD 6, HOU 2) in Game 4 of the World Series to even the series up 2-2. The Dodgers came out on top in what was a thrilling pitcher's duel for the first eight innings.
Here are eight things to know about Game 4.
Bellinger broke out of his slump
Boy did Cody Bellinger need a big game in Game 4. He went 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts in the first three games of the series, including going 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in Game 2. Manager Dave Roberts was asked about bumping Bellinger down in the lineup or sitting him entirely prior the game, but Roberts said no, he trusts his rookie first baseman will break out of it.
Bellinger rewarded his manager's faith not once, but twice in Game 4. First he doubled to left field in seventh inning, then scored on Logan Forsythe's double to tie the game 1-1. Then, in the ninth, Bellinger came up with runners on first and second and no outs. The score was still tied 1-1. It was no longer tied following this double into the gap.
After starting the World Series with 13 hitless at-bats, Bellinger doubled in his 14th and 15th at-bats, and they were both huge hits in Game 4. It would've been easy -- and completely understandable -- for Roberts to drop Bellinger down in the lineup rather than continue to bat him cleanup, but he stuck with him and the kid delivered big time in the team's most important game of the season (until the next one).
By the way, later in that ninth inning,Austin Barnes drove in an insurance run with a sac fly, and Joc Pederson clobbered a three-run home run to break the game open and give the Dodgers a 6-1 lead. Los Angeles scored five runs in that ninth inning after scoring three runs total in their previous 17 innings.
Giles melted down again
Something tells me we won't see Astros closer Ken Giles in a close game again this postseason. Giles was charged with three runs in that ninth inning when he failed to retire any of the three men he faced. He started the inning and it went single, walk, double, showers.
So far this postseason Giles has appeared in seven games and allowed a run in six of them. Ouch. He's only the second pitcher in history to allow a run in six different games in one postseason.
Giles was legitimately one of the best relievers in baseball during the regular season, but this isn't the regular season. He's been terrible overall in October -- Giles has now allowed 10 runs in 7 2/3 innings this postseason -- and it's hard to think he'll be trusted in a close game again this series.
Wood's final pitch was his worst
Game 4 was Alex Wood's second start in 32 days -- 32 days! -- if you can believe that. The Dodgers have been trying to limit his workload this year, which meant a ton of time off down the stretch. His only other start since the end of the regular season was Game 4 of the NLCS.
And in his second start over the last 32 days, Wood became the first pitcher in Dodgers history to start a postseason game with five hitless innings. He looked pretty shaky in the first and second innings, when he was missing his spots by a wide margin, before settling down thereafter. The no-hit bid ended with two outs in the sixth. So did the shutout. George Springer visited the Crawford Boxes with a solo homer.
Prior to the game Roberts indicated he wouldn't let Wood go through the lineup a third time, which is how he's managed pretty much all postseason. The third time through the order penalty is real. The more times a pitcher goes through the lineup, the more the hitters see him and more the likely they are to have success.
But, because Wood had a no-hitter going, Roberts left him in to face the lineup a third time. Springer was the first batter Wood faced the third time around. D'oh.
Wood did his part. One run in 5 2/3 innings is more than the Dodgers could've asked for given his long layoff and his issues pitching deep into games.
Morton was dominant
Wood took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but it was Charlie Morton who really dominated Saturday night. His running two-seam fastball hummed in at 95-98 mph, and he was clipping the bottom of the zone with his curveball all night. Morton allowed a leadoff single to Chris Taylor in the first inning, then retired the next 15 batters he faced. His pitch count by inning: 10, 9, 14, 8, 9, 18, 8.
Those eight pitches in the seventh inning were thrown to two batters. Morton's night ended when Bellinger broke out of his 0 for World Series slump with his double to left field. Astros skipper A.J Hinch went to Will Harris, who allowed a single to Forsythe to tie the game. The run was charged to Morton.
Even with that inherited runner scoring, Morton was fantastic again in Game 4, just like he was in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees. In fact, between Game 4 of the World Series and Game 7 of the ALCS, Morton has allowed one run in his last 11 1/3 innings, and he's only thrown 130 pitches. That's 11.5 pitches per inning. Crazy.
Why was Morton so tough in Game 4? Because he was pounding the bottom of the strike zone. He threw very few pitches in the top half of the strike zone:
Keep the ball down like that, and you're going to have a lot of success. Especially when you're throwing 95-98 mph with a hellacious curveball like Morton in Game 4.
Bregman threw another runner out at the plate
The 2017 postseason has been a coming out party for Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who has hit several big home runs -- he took Kenley Jansen deep in the ninth inning of Game 4 -- and made more than a few fantastic defensive plays. In Game 4 on Saturday, he made a brilliant pick on a short hop grounder and threw home for the out to keep the game scoreless. Look at this play:
Outstanding. Bregman made a similar play against the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, when he threw home to get a runner to preserve what was then a 1-0 lead. If casual baseball fans didn't know Alex Bregman coming into October, they sure do now. The kid has been brilliant on both sides of the ball.
An Astros catcher threw a runner out
The Astros were, by far, the worst team in baseball at throwing out basestealers during the regular season. They threw out only 12 percent -- 12 percent! -- of basestealers this year, well below the 27 percent league average and comfortably worse than the second worst throwing team (Blue Jays and White Sox at 18 percent). Their throwing behind the plate is a glaring weakness.
So, naturally, catcher Brian McCann threw out a runner in the very first inning of Game 4. Taylor tried to take second on a delayed steal and was thrown out by a comfortable margin. It had been a very, very long time since the 'Stros last threw out a runner.
That's the first runner thrown out caught stealing for the Astros since the Eisenhower administration. I mean, Aug. 20.— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) October 29, 2017
That was the first baserunner McCann has thrown out since June on Taylor's delayed steal.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 29, 2017
I'm surprised the Red Sox and Yankees weren't more aggressive stealing bases earlier in the postseason. They attempted three steals total in 11 games between the ALDS and ALCS.
The Astros finally trailed at home
Going into Game 4 the Astros were an incredible 8-0 at home in the postseason, outscoring their opponents 36-10 in the process. They hadn't trailed for a single inning at Minute Maid Park this postseason. Here are the numbers going into Game 4:
The Astros have yet to trail at home this year in the postseason (63 innings).— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) October 28, 2017
The Astros stretched that streak to 71 innings before the Dodgers scored five runs in the top of the ninth. That is the longest home shutout streak in postseason history.
Prior to Bellinger's go-ahead double, the last time the Astros trailed at home was 34 days ago, in a loss to the Angels in Game 155 of the regular season on September 24. Amazing.
The Dodgers avoided a massive series deficit
According to WhoWins.com, teams that have fallen behind 3-1 in the World Series have come back to win the series only 13.3 percent of the time, historically. That was the situation the Dodger would've found themselves in had they not won Game 4. This is now a best-of-three series. First team to win two gets the glory. That's a heck of a lot better than having to win three straight, two of which would've been started by Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.