Column: Dodgers stick to the script, look for Hollywood end
Dave Roberts was going to stick to the script no matter what.
Now the Dodgers have a shot at a Hollywood ending never before seen in the history of Dodger Stadium.
One game, winner take all. Just how it should be, because this World Series has been way too much fun not to go to Game 7.
Two nights earlier, the Astros and Dodgers clubbed each other’s pitchers for more than five hours in one of the most exhilarating and exhausting World Series games you’ll ever see. On Tuesday night, they engaged in a pitching duel that ended with the great Sandy Koufax applauding from his seat near the field as the Dodgers forced a seventh game with a 3-1 win .
Now they’ll be at home for a Game 7 for the first time since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles 59 years ago.
“Two incredible teams, trying to get to the finish line,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
Cue the celebrities and all the wannabes. Because Dodger Stadium will be the place to see and be seen Wednesday night when Yu Darvish takes the mound against Lance McCullers Jr. with the World Series trophy going to the winner.
“Never been a part of a Game 7,” Roberts said. “So this is when you’re a young kid and you’re kind of trying to play through all the heroes and heroics and talking about a Game 7 in the World Series, and here we are. I know that we are happy to be at home.”
Relieved might be the better word for it in the elimination game. Justin Verlander was dominating and the Dodgers were trailing 1-0 before they scraped together a pair of runs in the sixth inning and never looked back, much to the delight of the delirious crowd.
They won largely because they’re a very good team, the best in baseball during the regular season. They also won because their manager didn’t veer from the script that got them there, even if a game earlier it all seemed to go awry.
Let Chris Taylor hit away with runners on first and second in the sixth when the situation screamed sacrifice bunt?
Sure, the Dodgers have been doing the same thing all year.
Put Joc Pederson in the middle of everything when he had only two hits in September before being sent down to the minor leagues to find his swing?
Well, it did pay off with a home run — his third of this World Series — to give the Dodgers a cushion they badly needed.
Trot Kenley Jansen out for yet another six-out save opportunity when he failed to get six outs in both Game 2 and Game 5?
Of course, because that’s the way Roberts and the rest of the Dodgers brain trust had it already drawn up.
“He put us in a position where you could entertain him going out there for the ninth,” Roberts said. “When I used him, when I called on him in the eighth, I wasn’t certain. I just knew that part of the order, I just wanted him to attack those guys.”
Attack Jansen did, using only seven pitches to get through a perfect eighth. And when he set down the side in the ninth there was a big sigh of relief from the dugout that might have been heard over the huge roar in the stands.
“We all have each other’s backs,” Pederson said. “You’ve been watching the Series, it’s been quite hectic, emotionally draining, mentally, physically, everything you could think of. And we stick together.”
If the Dodgers prevail, though, it may come down to gut instinct as much as the analytics the team prides itself on. Putting Pederson on the roster was as much a gut call as it gets, gambling on a player who had such huge holes in his swing that the Dodgers traded for Curtis Granderson to take his place in August.
All Pederson has done is show great plate discipline and great emotion to get the team where it is. Keep this up another game and he could be looking at one of the most unlikely MVP awards ever.
Pederson screamed and pointed to the dugout as he rounded third in the seventh when his opposite field home run made it 3-1. Afterward, he sat next to his brother, Champ, who has Down syndrome and participated in the Dodgers’ opening ceremony before Game 1.
“He keeps me humble and just makes me realize that it’s just a baseball game and there’s a lot more to life,” Pederson said. “And he always has a smile on his face, even through stressful situations. So, yeah, I’m thankful to have him in my life.”
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
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