Astros: World Series Preview – Game 6

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Alex Bregman
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Alex Bregman /

Tuesday evening is Game 6 of the 2017 World Series. Astros versus Dodgers. The battle between two Goliath’s.

Could this be the day that the Astros win their first World Series title? Maybe, just maybe. Or not. Regardless of the outcome, it’ll be suspenseful.

Game 6 starts later on Tuesday evening in Los Angeles from Dodger Stadium. While the Dodgers lean on Rich Hill to save their season, the Astros are counting on Justin Verlander to end it.

Honestly, there is no prediction I feel comfortable with in this World Series. There’s a case to be made for both the Dodgers and Astros. The logical went out the window way back in Game 2. And Game 5 only enforces the chaos that is postseason baseball.

Alas, the Astros are in need of a solid, if not better, performance from Verlander. And they need it in a major way once you take one look at the bullpen.

When you examine the Houston bullpen, is there anyone you feel comfortable with in Game 6?

Ken Giles has been shaky at best in the postseason. Of his seven appearances, he’s surrendered at least a run in six. Chris Devenski has been tattooed multiple times. He hasn’t been been the same lockdown reliever we fell in love with back in April. Will Harris has yet to show the All-Star form since his return from injury late in the regular season. Joe Musgrove has produced solid results, but is far from the lockdown reliever a team needs at this juncture.

Francisco Liriano cannot be trusted in a high-leverage situation. Luke Gregerson could, in theory, pitch an inning or two if needed, but he’s been largely ineffective in 2017. Brad Peacock would be a solid option if he wasn’t used multiple times this World Series. Fatigue has to be high for him and his arm could fall off at a moments notice. Not literally fall off, but as close as it can actually happen for a pitcher.

The key for the Astros lies in their starting pitcher.

There is cause for optimism with Verlander taking the mound in Game 6. For one, the veteran pitcher had a solid Game 2. Sure, he wasn’t at his best and gave up three runs. Both hits were via the long ball but you get the point. Look for cooler weather in Los Angeles for Game 6 than Game 2, which may help keep the ball in the park. You just never know about the change in these postseason baseballs.

Regardless, Verlander was able to keep the Astros close. A similar performance may get the job done. And it wouldn’t be surprising to see Verlander step up his game.

On the other hand, there is no guarantee that Verlander will perform the way we hope and expect.

After all, this postseason has been something else on pitchers. Plus, the fatigue is real. While I understand the thought of pitching on adrenaline, the fatigue factor has to be a concern. It arguably affected the Dodgers’ starting pitcher on Sunday night in Clayton Kershaw. But if there is a pitcher who can pitch his way past it, Verlander is one I would lean on.

In terms of the offense, it is preferred that Houston jumps out to an good start. And the track record against left-handed pitchers is there. After all, the Astros were quite good against left-handed pitchers – 120 wRC+ – in the regular season. And Hill is a left-handed pitcher. However, Hill did shut down the Astros’ offense in his start during Game 2. And the veteran pitcher is quite good at, you know, pitching.

Another interesting aspect will be the effect that a rest day has on each team’s relievers. And it was a much-needed rest day for both sides. This game could come down to who gets the best out of their bullpen. And do not be surprised to see Alex Wood for the Dodgers and Lance McCullers for the Astros make an appearance before the night is over.

If Game 6 is anything like Game 2 through Game 5, then we are due for another nerve-wracking affair. I’m not sure if I can take another one. Heck, I don’t think I can handle a Game 7 on Wednesday if it came to it.

Next: Astros somehow pull off an improbable Game 5 victory

All I know is that the Astros, in theory, have a terrific opportunity in front of them. But so do the Dodgers. Both games are in Los Angeles so it’ll be wise not to expect an easy win along the way. Not saying it won’t happen for either side, yet this World Series has been anything but predictable.

**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs**