Dodgers whip Astros, 6-2, level World Series


HOUSTON—Two unlikely heroes, a pitcher who lost his only prior playoff start and a batter in an 0-for-13 slump, rescued the World Series title hopes of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

Alex Wood baffled Houston batters for 5 2/3 no-hit innings and Cody Bellinger snapped his drought with two crucial doubles as the Dodgers downed Houston 6-2 to level Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven final 2-2.

“It’s hard to put into words really right now. I needed a win and I was glad to keep us in it long enough to where our bats came alive,” Wood said. “It’s a big win for us.”

Clayton Kershaw, an 18-game winner, will face Astros ace Dallas Keuchel in a matchup of star left-handed pitchers Sunday, when the winner will reach the brink of a World Series crown ahead of game six on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

“I like where we’re at,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “There have been so many emotional swings and we’re dead even right now. It’s a three-game series and we’ve got our ace going tomorrow so I know in our clubhouse we feel good.”

Joc Pederson (31) of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates hitting a three-run home run during the ninth inning against the Houston Astros in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. AFP

The Dodgers seek a seventh championship but their first since 1988 while the Astros are trying for the first World Series title in their 55-year history.

“It’s game five of the World Series, so there won’t be any need to press any buttons or let them know how big these outs are,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Every game feels like a critical game.”

Wood, a 26-year-old US left-hander, sparked talk of the first World Series no-hitter since New York Yankees’ legend Dan Larsen’s perfect game in 1956.

“He pitched an incredible game,” Roberts said. “Woody’s command, his ‘compete’ was just off the charts. Woody set the tone for us — just outstanding.”

But Houston’s George Springer blasted a 3-ball, 1-strike offering over the left-field wall in the sixth inning for a home run on the only hit Wood surrendered, giving the Astros a 1-0 lead and ending the Dodgers’ deepest World Series no-hit bid.

“Once I was heading into the fifth, I thought about it a little bit,” Wood said of his no-hit bid. “It has been a whirlwind of emotion for me. Kind of caught up to me between innings there.”

Houston’s Charlie Morton surrendered only one hit while striking out seven in facing the minimum 15 batters over five innings, but allowed the Dodgers level at 10-1 in the seventh when Bellinger, who had eight strikeouts in the World Series drought, doubled and scored on Logan Forsythe’s single.

“Sigh of relief,” Bellinger said. “I was just hoping that it faded into the wall, just so he didn’t catch it. I just had a super sigh of relief, that’s for sure.”

Hinch then made the ill-fated ninth-inning move of inserting reliever Ken Giles, who had allowed two runs in game two. He gave up a single to Corey Seaver, walked Justin Turner and allowed Bellinger another double to give the Dodgers the lead for good.

“It seems like right now for some of these guys it’s one pitch and things unravel a little bit,” Hinch said. “That’s what happened to Kenny in the ninth.”

– Bellinger comes up big –

Bellinger’s run-scoring double ended Houston’s major-league record playoff run of more than 70 home innings without trailing.

“He came up big. It was absolutely good to see him come back with a couple of big doubles,” Roberts said. “For him to really keep that calmness about him says a lot about the makeup of the player.”

Austin Barnes drove in another run with a sacrifice fly and Joc Pederson followed with a three-run homer.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen surrendered a solo homer to Alex Bregman or Los Angeles would have boasted the first World Series one-hitter since 1967.

The Astros had been 7-0 at home in the playoffs this year, matching the best post-season start in major league history.

It was practically a must-win game for the Dodgers, since teams falling behind 3-1 in the Series have lost 84 percent of the time while those pulling level at 2-2 have won 45 percent of the time.

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