LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers bullpen showed vulnerability for the first time in a long while, unable to hold a lead for the first time all postseason. The Astros hit four home runs against Dodgers relievers to win a back-and-forth wild Game 2, 7-6 in 11 innings on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.
The World Series is now even at one game apiece.
The winning blow came off the bat of George Springer, a two-run home run against Brandon McCarthy, making his postseason debut. Springer, who was 3-for-30 since the start of the ALCS, was 3-for-5 with a double, a home run and a walk on Wednesday, making a prophet of manager A.J. Hinch.
“I think his swing is great,” Hinch said before the game. “He's one of the most electrifying players in the game.”
McCarthy was the eighth reliever used by the Dodgers. In the 10th inning, Josh Fields faced three batters and allowed an extra-base hit to all three, including back-to-back home runs by Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
But the Dodgers rallied to tie in the bottom of the inning. Yasiel Puig homered in the ninth inning against Ken Giles — working his second inning — to pull the Dodgers within a run, and walked Logan Forsythe with two outs to put the tying run on base, then wild pitched him into scoring position. Kiké Hernandez singled to right field to bring home the equalizer.
Kenley Jansen, asked to get six outs for the first time this postseason, suffered the first blown save of his postseason career, allowing an inherited run to score in the eighth inning — Alex Bregman doubled against Brandon Morrow to lead off the eighth inning, just out of the reach of a diving Puig in right field — and a solo home run by Marwin Gonzalez in the ninth inning to tie the score at 3-3.
The near catch by Puig was incredible, but he wanted more.
“I wasn’t able to make the catch on that play. For a while I felt it was my fault and that’s why we were losing, but that’s how the game is,” Puig said. “I feel like every ball that goes to right field is a ball that I should catch.”
The six runs allowed in Game 2 snapped the Dodgers’ bullpen streak of 28 consecutive scoreless innings. It also was two more than the total runs allowed by the bullpen before Wednesday night, in 30⅔ innings.
The Astros scored in each of the final four innings.
It was just the second inherited runner Jansen has allowed to score in his postseason career — out of 11 total inherited runners — and his first since Game 1 of the 2013 NLCS. Jansen was 12-for-12 in postseason save attempts in his career before Wednesday night, and waas 41-for-42 during the regular season.
Naturally, the Dodgers scored in the bottom of the 11th, on a home run by Charlie Culberson, but couldn’t get the tying run home this time around.
Sixth inning script
Both games were tied at 1-1 in the sixth inning, and both saw a two-out walk by Chris Taylor to extend the frame. In Game 2, it was against Justin Verlander, who was carving up Dodgers hitters most of the night, allowing only two hits.
The second of those hits was an opposite field home run by Corey Seager, one night after Justin Turner did the same against Dallas Keuchel. Seager knew it was gone right away, based on his reaction:
Rich Hill had an eventful start, striking out seven and walking three, including one intentionally. He was also done after just four innings even with a relatively low pitch count of 60. But with five consecutive right-handed batters due up for Houston, that was the Kenta Maeda signal.
“I just felt that right there at the top of their order coming up, and with the way our bullpen has been throwing, you look back behind that, we had three scoreless innings after that,” Dave Roberts said. “The bottom line is I’ll take Kenley any day of the week with a one-run lead going into the ninth inning.”
“The competitive side of me wants to stay in the game. I felt good, and the ball came out of my hand the way I wanted to,” Hill said. “The curveball was good tonight.”
Hill allowed a run on two hits, and it was the first run the Dodgers have allowed without a home run since Game 1 of the NLDS. The Dodgers’ string of seven straight games without allowing a hit with a runner in scoring position ended in the third inning, snapping an 0-for-16 string.
But you know things were going right at the time for the Dodgers when they allowed two consecutive hits with RISP but only one run scored, thanks in large part to the strangest carom in recent memory, directly off the brim of a diving Taylor’s cap in center field to the waiting arms of Joc Pederson, preventing further damage on the play.
De-troit ja vu?
Pederson, inserted into the lineup in Game 2 because Dave Roberts liked the matchup against Verlander, paid further dividends in the fifth, slamming a home run to right field to break up Verlander’s no-hitter, and tie the game.
It was reminiscent of Pederson’s other postseason home run, in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS. That was against another former Tigers pitcher in Max Scherzer, and also the game at 1-1.
Maeda actually allowed a hit in his relief appearance, so now batters are 1-for-20 against him this postseason, but he did not allow a run. There were tense moments against the Dodgers bullpen in the middle innings, but a pair of 5-6-3 double plays induced by Tony Watson and Morrow, one to each side of the infield (Justin Turner shifted against the left-handed Josh Reddick in the sixth inning), kept the Astros at bay.
Game 2 info
Home runs: Joc Pederson (1), Corey Seager (1), Yasiel Puig (2), Charlie Culberson (1); Marwin Gonzalez (1), Jose Altuve (6), Carlos Correa (4), George Springer (2)
WP - Chris Devenski (1-0): 1⅓ IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 strikeout
LP - Brandon McCarthy (0-1): 1 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs