By Rory Carroll
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Corey Seager’s sixth inning sacrifice fly helped the Los Angeles Dodgers eke out a come-from-behind 3-1 Game Six victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday to force a World Series decider.
Seager’s deep fly ball to right field allowed Chase Utley to scamper home for the go-ahead run, igniting the sold-out crowd of 54,128 as the Dodgers tied the series up at 3-3 to set up Wednesday’s winner-take-all showdown.
Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor continued his clutch hitting in the post-season, tying the game 1-1 earlier in the inning with a double down the right field line off of losing pitcher Justin Verlander.
“I was just trying to put a ball in play,” Taylor said.
“He’s really tough with that fastball up in the zone and a good slider. I was just trying to get the barrel on the ball and hope for something good and it worked out for me,” he said.
Taylor has reached base safely 26 times this post-season, a Dodgers franchise record.
Dodgers slugger Joc Pederson hit a solo 373-foot blast in the bottom of the seventh to provide the National League champions with an insurance run, and reliever Kenley Jansen came in during the eighth inning for a drama-free six-out save.
The loss was the first of the post-season for the hard-throwing Verlander, who had a no decision in Game Two.
Dodgers starter Rich Hill was sharp but gave up a solo home run to center fielder George Springer in the third inning for a 1-0 Astros lead on a cloudy and cool evening in Los Angeles.
Dodgers reliever Tony Watson, who came into the game in the top of the sixth inning and escaped a two on-two out jam, was the winning pitcher.
The defensive play of the game came in the top of the seventh when the Astros had runners on first and third with two outs, and second baseman Jose Altuve hit a soft ground ball to Justin Turner.
The third baseman charged to pick up the ball and make a quick throw to first baseman Cody Bellinger, who took it on the hop to get the speedy Altuve and keep the Dodgers 2-1 in front.
Pederson said keeping emotions in check would be key to finishing off an exciting matchup, which has seen two extra-inning games and the most home runs hit in any World Series.
“You dream about it as a kid,” Pederson said.
“It’s going to be big for me and I think all of us need to just remember it’s still a baseball game. You’ve got to slow it down. Still play the same way that we’ve been playing all year that got us to here and try to limit the distractions.”
Game Seven will pit the Dodgers’ Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish against Astros curve-ball specialist Lance McCullers Jr.
Darvish had a nightmare Game Three in Houston, where he could not get out of the second inning in the shortest start in his major league career.
McCullers Jr had a solid outing for the first five innings of the same game before losing accuracy in the sixth, but still came away with the win.
Wednesday’s encounter will be the first World Series Game Seven played at Dodger Stadium and will either see the hosts win a first title since 1988 or the American League champion Astros secure a first MLB crown in their 55-year history.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ian Ransom/John O’Brien)