A pair of Cy Young winners will take the mound tonight as the Dodgers and Astros face each other in a pivotal Game 5 of the World Series.
Tied up with two wins apiece in the best-of-seven Series, the game matches Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw against Houston’s Dallas Keuchel at Minute Maid Park.
With the Dodgers come-from-behind 6-2 victory in Game 4 Saturday, the Fall Classic now comes down to a best of three series. Following the win, while his team celebrated on the field, Kershaw took a moment by himself on the mound, standing in his pre-pitch stance, peering at the plate, simulating preparing to throw at a Houston batter. He then rushed off to be with his teammates in the Dodger clubhouse. “Just checking it out,” Kershaw said during a postgame press conference. “I do that every time when it’s a place I haven’t pitched in awhile.”
Kershaw only has five starts in Minute Maid Park over the years, far less than Keuchel, who has recorded a 2.94 ERA at home in 81 appearances.
Tonight’s game is special in that it matches the two main players who have won the Cy Young Award in recent years, Kershaw in 2011, 2013, and 2014 and Keuchel in 2015. However, the latter wasn’t fully on top of his game in the World Series opener, giving up homers to Chris Taylor on the first pitch of the game and another to Justin Turner in the sixth.
“Physically, I felt great,” said Keuchel, talking about his Game 1 start. “I had never been at Dodger Stadium for a 5 p.m. game before. I couldn’t even see [catcher Brian] McCann or the plate while I was warming up. It was kind of a feel warm-up, and obviously when I got to the mound, that was when the fun started.”
Houston, struggling at the plate on Saturday, lost for the first time at home in the postseason. Tonight’s game marks the final home game of the season for the Astros as the Series moves back to L.A. for Game 6 on Tuesday night. Game 7, if necessary, is scheduled for Wednesday. Both games will start at 5:20 p.m.
Kershaw enters Sunday’s matchup looking for his second World Series win. He limited the Astros to only three hits with no walks and struck out 11 in the Dodgers’ Game 1 victory.
Houston third baseman Alex Bregman homered off the Dodgers left-hander the last time the two teams met. “He attacks hitters, and we’re going to have to be ready to go,” he said. “He’s tough. He’s one of, if not the best in the game. But we’ve got one the best in the game going too in Dallas Keuchel.”
Kershaw simply wants to keep the ball in the park as all eight runs he’s given up in October have come off home runs. “It just a matter of making good pitches to these guys,” he said during the postgame press conference Saturday night. “As long as you’re making your pitches, you might hit one off the wall that you’re not supposed to or something, but other than that, you can’t really change.”
Houston scored a run in the bottom of first and the Dodgers evened it at one apiece with a run in the top of the seventh. The Dodgers’ 5-run 9th inning last night was the key to the comeback win over the Astros. Going in, Cody Bellinger, 0-for-13 with eight strikeouts in the World Series, belted two doubles, the second one part of the ninth inning explosion. Joc Pederson, who played in the minor leagues for part of the season, blasted a three-run home to break the game open. The Astros tallied another run in the bottom of the ninth before the rally fell short.
To some degree Los Angeles’ late inning power at the plate overshadowed a pitching dual between Alex Wood of the Dodgers and the Astros’ Charlie Morton. Wood had a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings, and Morton, didn’t allow a hit until Bellinger ripped his first double on the night late in the contest. Los Angeles pitchers gave up only two hits, both going over the fence.