We resume the World Series on Friday night, with a pair of starting pitchers brimming with confidence. Yu Darvish and the Dodgers take on Lance McCullers and the Astros in Game 3 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Darvish has allowed one run in each of his two postseason starts with the Dodgers, both road wins in Games 3.
Dating back to the regular season, Darvish is 4-0 with a minuscule 0.88 ERA in his last five starts, with 35 strikeouts and only two walks in 30⅔ innings. Opposing batters are hitting .159/.189/.234 during that span.
Since joining the Dodgers, Darvish has made mechanical adjustments to his delivery and has shifted his approach — Daniel Brim at Dodgers Digest has a good breakdown of Darvish’s recent spike in usage of a cut fastball, for instance — but for Darvish it mostly boils down to simplifying things. He’s not worrying about his mechanics, but rather just focused on executing pitches.
“When he came over, there was a lot of him trying to feel his way through a start, where now he can just worry about executing pitches. So that's got to lead to clarity,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I think that he's in a great place. And he says it himself, that he's very comfortable and confident.”
In Game 7 of the ALCS, McCullers pitched the final four innings for a save, and in doing so threw curveballs for his last 24 pitches of the game.
“As I was throwing curveballs and I was reading the swings, for me it was just, I'm not really going to make an adjustment until they do,” McCullers explained. “It would have been the same thing if I threw a lot of fastballs or a lot of changeups.
“It’s the old saying of, don't fix it if it ain't broke or something like that. I just kind of got in the groove and felt like it was working, which is kind of the pitch after pitch was the same thing.”
McCullers made 22 starts for the Astros in 2017, posting a 4.25 ERA and 3.10 FIP, with 132 strikeouts in 118⅔ innings. His strong peripherals had him tied for the third-largest difference in ERA and FIP on the unlucky side, among the 134 major league pitchers with at least 100 innings.
This postseason McCullers has started once and pitched in relief twice, posting a 2.08 ERA with 13 strikeouts and five walks in 13 innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .143/.243/.214 this postseason, with one extra-base hit — a home run — in 47 plate appearances.
He threw his curveball 47.4% of the time in 2017, tops among major league pitchers with at least 80 innings, with a substantial lead over the second-place finisher Rich Hill (37.5%).
“I've never been around or never caught a pitcher like McCullers, who literally the last 25 pitches [of the ALCS] you don't even have to put a sign down. McCann just said ‘bring it.’ It's unique,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “It shows the quality of the pitch. Because hitters, he's not sneaking up on anybody with his stuff. People know.”
For plate appearances that ended in a curve, the Dodgers’ offense ranked third in the majors in 2017 in weighted runs above average per 100 pitches (+0.69), trailing only the Astros and Marlins.
Game 3 history
There have been 58 previous times a World Series has been tied 1-1, and the winner of Game 3 has won the championship 37 times (63.8%).
The home team has won Game 3 in 26 of those 58 times (44.8%), and in the last 11 such occurrences only three times has the home team won Game 3 of a 1-1 series — the 2006 Cardinals, the 2008 Phillies, and the 2013 Cardinals.
World Series Game 3 info
First pitch: 5:20 p.m.
TV: Fox (coverage starts at 4:30 p.m.)
Announcers: Joe Buck, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal, Tom Verducci
Online streaming: Fox Sports Go
Local radio: AM 570 (Charley Steiner, Rick Monday)
National radio: ESPN Radio (Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone)