For the first time since 2005, the Astros will be hosting a World Series game in Houston.
The 2005 Astros have been held in high reverence for the past twelve years. At least in Houston. And they will likely be held in a similar light regardless of the 2017 World Series outcome. They were the squad that actually made it to the Fall Classic. Sure, the 2005 Astros were swept by the White Sox. But getting there actually means something.
Fast forward to Game 2 on Wednesday in Los Angeles and this Astros team accomplished a franchise first: a World Series victory. A very dramatic victory, mind you, but a victory all the same.
This sets up the table for Game 3 in Minute Maid Park. The first World Series game in Houston since Orlando Palmeiro was barely thrown out in time at first base. Yes, I admit, he was most likely out.
For the Astros, their Game 3 starting pitcher will be Lance McCullers. You may remember him as the guy who picked up a four-inning save last Saturday night against the Yankees. That effort enabled the Astros to clinch their first AL pennant, second overall. And 24 straight curveballs. Yes, he threw 24 cureveballs in a row to finish off the Yankees.
McCullers, when on and healthy, has great potential. Unfortunately, the “health” part of the equation has prevented him from taking a step towards “ace-hood”.
For the Dodgers, we see a familiar face, and arm, in Yu Darvish. You may remember him as the starting pitcher for the Rangers a few years ago who nearly threw a perfect game before Game 2 hero, Marwin Gonzalez, made contact with a ball that went up the middle for a base hit. That was back when Gonzalez wasn’t thought as anymore than a backup infielder on the worst team in the majors. And look at him now. Baseball is unpredictable, right?
Anyway, this should be another good pitching matchup.
Darvish may have the edge against the Astros though as he is familiar with them and their tendencies. But so are the Astros.
Friendly reminder: Darvish had a lot of early career success against the Astros due to the opponents he was facing then. His near-perfect game was before the likes of George Springer, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel. Jose Altuve and Gonzalez were young in their major league careers. But don’t expect for the current Houston batters to just pounce on each of his offerings. Darvish is a very, very good pitcher.
I won’t offer a prediction, but this game is vital to the Astros chances. If they manage to pull off the victory, then they are just two wins away from their first World Series title with two more games in Houston. If they don’t, well, you must win at least one more game in Los Angeles. That’s a tall task.
**Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference**