By Frank Pingue
HOUSTON (Reuters) – The Houston Astros chased Los Angeles Dodgers starter Yu Darvish in the second inning and rolled to a 5-3 victory on Friday that gave them a 2-1 lead in the World Series.
The win stretched Houston’s unbeaten home record in the postseason to seven games and put them two victories away from their first World Series title since the inception of the team 55 years ago.
The Astros’ vaunted offense made short work of Darvish, who allowed four runs on six hits and a walk through 1-2/3 innings in a World Series debut that fell apart for the Japanese right-hander in the second inning.
“Four runs in any game is big. Four runs in the World Series is huge,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “To get that kind of momentum started, get the crowd into it, have a lead puts a ton of pressure on the other dugout.”
Houston’s Brad Peacock entered the game in the sixth inning and did not allow a hit the entire way as he earned his first save when he got the game’s final batter to fly out to right field in the early hours on Saturday.
Yuli Gurriel opened the scoring when he led off the second with a scorching drive over the left field wall. Josh Reddick followed that up with a double before Darvish walked Evan Gattis.
Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann then hit consecutive run-scoring singles before Darvish finally registered his first out of the inning.
From there Alex Bregman hit a sacrifice fly that scored Gonzalez before Jose Altuve ripped a double to left that marked the end of Darvish’s night with Houston in total control.
“The fastball command wasn’t there, and the slider was backing up,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Darvish’s outing. “So he just really didn’t have the feel and couldn’t get any type of rhythm going.”
But the Dodgers, who had the best record in all of Major League Baseball during the regular season, were not ready to roll over.
There were in position to storm back when Astros pitcher Lance McCullers walked the bases loaded to start the third but he managed to escape the inning having only allowed one run.
The Dodgers then allowed the Astros to restore their four-run cushion when Josh Reddick scored from first on an infield hit and throwing error in the fifth.
Los Angeles took a bigger chunk out of the Astros’ lead in the fifth inning when a ground out and wild pitch pulled them to within 5-3 but that was as close as they would get.
Game Four is scheduled for later on Saturday in Houston when the Astros will try to become the first team to win their first eight homes games in a postseason.
The Astros, who are only four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, have never before led a Fall Classic and their deep postseason run is helping to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.
“I can really appreciate what this city has gone through, what our team has gone through, but we’re going to be able to keep it in proper perspective,” said Hinch.
“We represent the city … We’re proud to be Houstonians; some of us live here year-round. To see the city respond to the team and us respond to this city’s needs is something that I’m most proud of.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford/Amlan Chakraborty)