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World Series Notebook: Astros vs. Dodgers

   11-02-2017
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World Series, Houston wins series, 4-3.
Nov. 2, 2017 

Houston brings home first World Series title

In the franchise's second World Series appearance, the Astros captured their first World Series title by winning Game 7 on the road. The Astros have gone from losing 111 games in 2013 to World Series champions in just five years. To take home the crown, Houston defeated three of the most-renowned franchises in baseball that have combined for 41 World Series titles – the Red Sox in the ALDS, the Yankees in the ALCS and the Dodgers in the World Series. For the city, the Astros' title is the first since the Rockets went back to back in 1994 and 1995. Similarly, the Rockets' first title went to a seventh game, as the city's NBA team took down the New York Knicks.

Springer is MVP

He slashed .379/.471/1.000 in the seven-game series with eight runs scored, while adding five home runs and seven RBIs. He recorded a hit in every World Series game, and hit a home run in each of the final four games of the Fall Classic. After the Astros won Game 7, 5-1, George Springer was named the World Series MVP. “It's unbelievable. It's indescribable,” Springer said. “When you get to spring you know who you have, you see what you have, and there's always that thought of "we could do it" but the 162-plus games is a lot of games. And a lot of things have to go right in order to get here.” The 28-year old was a homegrown talent drafted by the Astros in 2011 with the 11th overall pick out of the University of Connecticut.

Winning it for the city of Houston

After Houston was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in August and the ensuing high flood waters the storm brought, the Astros set out on a mission to bring as much joy to the city (Jake Marisnick talked about Hurricane Harvey and playing for the city during the Postseason). What better way than to bring home a World Series title. “We literally left when [the hurricane] hit,” Dallas Keuchel told FOX after the game. “For us to not be there through everything, it took a lot out of us, because we wanted to help out in any way possible. Our goal was to win [the World Series] for everybody there – first responders, the people of Houston, everybody associated with Houston. It took us a while, but we got it done in the end.” The team also was affected by storms that hit Puerto Rico and South Florida, as well. “We had three hurricanes in a row, and the last two hit a lot of people around the league,” manager A.J. Hinch said after Game 7. “It wasn't about the Astros, but a lot of our family, the Astro family was there. The second hurricane hit South Florida, and got some of the -- clipped some of the islands. And then the third really did a ton of devastation in Puerto Rico. And we have a ton of Puerto Rican love on our team with Correa and Beltran and Juan Centeno and Alex Cora, our bench coach. We just really had a bonding experience, when you're just getting beat by these hurricanes time and time again ... we'll continue to do our part to rebuild these places.”

Major Leaguers Going to Bat for Disaster Victims

More than 50 current and former Major Leaguers are scheduled to join hosts Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez, Christian Yelich and World Champion Houston Astro José Altuve for a Players Trust fund-raising dinner and auction to benefit victims of the recent natural disasters across the Americas.  Scheduled to join Pudge, José and Christian at the Four Seasons in Las Colinas, TX on Wednesday, November 29, are Hector Santiago, Rajai Davis, Jerry Blevins, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Oberg, Bo Schultz, Jake Thompson, Cameron Rupp, Chris Davis, LaTroy Hawkins, Russell Branyan, Brett Hayes, Mike Lincoln, as well as former players among the Major League Baseball Players Association staff, including Executive Director Tony Clark, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Bobby Bonilla, Steve Rogers, Jose Cruz, Jr., Rick Helling, Phil Bradley, Mike Myers, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Slowey and Jeffrey Hammonds.  For information, please click here.

Dodgers tough pill

Clayton Kershaw and the rest of the Dodgers are still coming to terms with their difficult loss to the Astros in the World Series, which brought to a heartbreaking end a season in which they led the majors with 104 wins and pushed the Fall Classic to a deciding Game 7. The three-time Cy Young Award winner and future Hall of Famer has helped lead the club to seven NL West titles, including the past five, yet the Dodgers still have not won a World Series title since 1988. “There's only one team that can succeed. There's only one team that wins the last game, so that's tough,” Kershaw said. “Once the dust settles and we go home, we can realize that we had a pretty amazing season.” The 29-year-old left-hander, who is 144-64 with a 2.36 ERA in regular season play, is now 7-7 with a 4.50 ERA in the postseason. He pitched well in World Series Game 1, but he gave up six runs in 4 2/3 innings to the aggressive, hard-hitting Astros in Game 5 when the Dodgers had an opportunity to take command before coming back to pitch four innings of scoreless relief in Game 7. Asked whether he had regrets about the crushing 13-12 loss in Game 5, Kershaw spoke like a competitor. “You want to be good every time you go out there, and this postseason I felt like I threw the ball pretty well,” he said. “But, yeah, that was tough, no doubt. So it's something that I'll live with. But at the end of the day, I'm thankful I got the opportunity. There's a lot of times you have to put yourself out there to fail, you can't be afraid to fail. I've failed my fair share of times no doubt.''

 


 

World Series, Game 7
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Nov. 1, 2017 

 "CAPTION THIS" CONTEST:

Followers of the MLBPA's @MLBPAClubhouse Twitter feed have a chance to win daily prizes during the World Series by playing the “Caption This” contest.  Followers who Re-Tweet the @MLBPAClubhouse contest Tweet and Tweet us #entry and a caption for the featured photo will be entered into the random drawing for that day's prize. Up for grabs today is a World Series grab bag that features World Series T-shirts, a Brandon Morrow and a Justin Verlander autographed baseball! Good luck!

 

Game 7s by the numbers

Dodger Stadium will be graced with its first ever World Series Game 7 on Wednesday night. The majors' third-oldest stadium has never hosted a winner-take-all World Series game. In the Dodgers' run to the title in 1988, the stadium hosted Game 7 of the NLCS, and the Dodgers have played in two World Series Game 7s while the franchise was in Brooklyn – 1952 and 1956, both losses – but the largest stadium  that seats 56,000 has never held a seventh World Series game. MLB has seen a recent uptick in Game 7s, with five of the past seven Fall Classics going the distance. This is where the game's legends are made, recent memorable moments include: Madison Bumgarner's five-inning save on two days rest in 2014 for the Giants; Luis Gonzalez walking off against the Yankees in 2001 for Arizona; a 10-inning shutout by Jack Morris for the Twins in the 1991 pitchers' duel against John Smoltz; and most recently the extra-innings seesaw battle ending with the Cubs breaking the franchise's 108-year title drought. Overall, baseball has seen 38 Game 7s, with 1909 being the first instance (Pittsburgh defeated Detroit, 8-0), with home teams winning just 18 of them.
McCullers to start for ‘Stros

Lance McCullers Jr. will take the mound in Game 7 for the Astros, but no one is off limits for manager A.J. Hinch. “I think all of our guys are going to have the adrenaline on their side; they're all going to be ready to pitch,” Hinch said after Game 6. “If it's one pitch or a hundred pitches, I think we're going to have to have all hands on deck.” McCullers started Game 3 in Houston and earned the win, going 5 1/3 innings. He gave up three runs on four hits, while striking out three. “This series was destined to go seven pretty much the whole time,” McCullers said after Game 6. “I think we have two great teams here. I just have to stick with my game plan and execute a little bit better than last time in certain spots. And just be a competitor out there.” 

Undeterred Darvish

Yu Darvish's loss in Game 3 was his first since Sept. 8, about the time he abandoned his split-finger and change-up to focus more on his usually devastating slider. Only it wasn't so devastating in Game 3, so he lasted just 12 batters and 49 pitches and gave up four runs on six hits before getting pulled in the second inning. Now 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA over three starts and 13 innings in the postseason, the 31-year-old right-hander from Japan told the media that he worked on his trademark slider, balance and mechanics between starts. “I threw the bullpen session and my slider is getting there, and it's better.”

Finding success against Darvish

Yu Darvish pitched 1 2/3 innings when he started Game 3 in Houston and gave up six hits and four runs. But historically, Darvish has been better when he faces Houston. In 14 starts, Darvish is 5-5 with a 3.44 ERA, but has only allowed the Astros to hit .199 as a team off him, with 118 strikeouts in 89 innings pitched. Out of the current Astros with at least 15 plate appearances against the right-handed pitcher only George Springer has had marked success, as he is 7 for 20 with two home runs and three RBIs against Darvish. Brian McCann is 3 for 12, while Jose Altuve is 8 for 24 with three doubles.  

Tough to finish these two off

These two teams have been worthy opponents for a series going seven games. Neither has wavered, and it's been tough to put any of the six previous games out of reach. Both teams have elevated their offensive numbers in the late innings. As a team, the Astros have hit .228 in the first through the sixth innings. In the final three innings, the team is hitting .280. The combination of Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Yuli Gurriel have hit .360 with nine home runs and 18 RBIs. The Dodgers have followed suit. L.A. in the early going is hitting just .232, but in the seventh, eighth and ninth the team is batting .273, led by Yasiel Puig's .370/.455/.947 slash line and his three home runs and four RBIs. Justin Turner is 6 for 18 (.333 average) with two home runs and six RBIs.  

Bullpen bounce back

What a difference an off day made for the pitchers in the Dodgers' bullpen in Game 6. Kenley Jansen, who has pitched in all but two of the club's 14 postseason games, struck out three and retired all six batters he faced for the save of the World Series. Starter-turned-big-inning-reliever Kenta Maeda got Jose Altuve on a groundout with runners on the corners in the seventh to preserve a 2-1 lead and lowered his postseason ERA to 0.84. Brandon Morrow, who has been the Dodgers' go-to guy for high-leverage outs with a fastball that reaches 100 mph, came back from a nightmare six-pitch, four-run outing in Game 6, his third straight day of work, to induce a groundout by Alex Bregman for maybe the biggest out of the close contest. If Morrow pitches in Game 7 he will tie Paul Assenmacher's record 14 postseason appearances. “It doesn't matter how many runs they scored on us. That's all in the past,” Jansen said. “The great thing about this bullpen is that we let that go, and don't think about it anymore. We believe in ourselves.” It is Jansen, the 6-foot-5 Curaçaoan closer, who sets the tone for the group, though, in both tone and performance. “He's the best closer in baseball. To see him coming out of the bullpen for the eighth, everybody was really excited,” starter Rich Hill said. “We knew he wanted to come back and prove himself, go out there and win it for every other guy in this locker room. There's nobody else we would want on the mound with the game on the line than Kenley.”

Joctober

Joc Pederson's chest-pounding, hop-skip-and-jumping home run trots have been nearly as memorable as his World Series performances. The 25-year-old slugger's exclamation-point home run in the bottom of the seventh provided the Dodgers a very welcome insurance run in Game 6. The opposite-field blast off Joe Musgrave was Pederson's third of the Series and raised his postseason average to .316, which is pretty good considering he was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City in mid-August and didn't even make the club's Division Series roster. So he had plenty to be happy about as he bounced around the bases in the seventh inning, turning to gesture wildly to his teammates in the third-base dugout during the final 90-foot stretch toward home plate. “You kind of black out in a situation like that,” Pederson said. “I think what happened running the bases, it was just a lot of emotions hit me quickly.”

Dodger Dreams

Like all teams do in high-pressure situations like World Series Game 7, the Dodgers tried their best to convince themselves and those around them that the key to success would be following patterns and going about their business as usual. Not long after driving in what turned out to be the game-winning run, team catalyst Chris Taylor said, “We're going to look at it like just another game, you know, the same approach we've had every day: Come to the park and find a way to win that day. It's going to be the same thing. We're going to come here. Nothing's going to change when we get to the park. We're going to stick to our same routines we've had each and every day. And it's going to be fun.” Of course, the kind of fun Taylor talks about involves coursing adrenaline and butterflies in the stomach for him and his teammates. “It's going to be big for me and I think all of us to just remember it's still a baseball game,” said Joc Pederson. “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.”


World Series, Game 6
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct. 31, 2017 

"CAPTION THIS" CONTEST:

Followers of the MLBPA's @MLBPAClubhouse Twitter feed have a chance to win daily prizes during the World Series by playing the “Caption This” contest.  Followers who Re-Tweet the @MLBPAClubhouse contest Tweet and Tweet us #entry and a caption for the featured photo will be entered into the random drawing for that day's prize.   Up for grabs today is an authentic World Series hoodie. Good luck!

 

What loss?

Some may see the Dodgers' 13-12, 10-inning loss in Game 5 as a devastating and demoralizing blow, but not the Dodgers themselves.  Winning two straight games at home just doesn't seem out of the question to a group of players who won an MLB-high 104 games during the regular season. "This is not going to be finished Tuesday," right fielder Yasiel Puig exclaimed. "There's going to be Game 7. All the fans in Los Angeles expect a lot from all of us. From spring training, we've done a lot of work. A lot of preparation. This is the reason I think we're in the World Series right now." The ultra-confident Cuban slugger wasn't the only voice of optimism in the losing clubhouse following Game 5. “We're determined,” said rookie sensation Cody Bellinger, who homered and tripled to drive in four runs in the loss. “This thing isn't over yet. We have a bunch of resilient guys in here that will come out full force. We're going to do that in a couple of days."

Verlander looks to guide Astros to first crown

Justin Verlander has been great unbeatable since joining the Astros. Most fans have heard or read about his numbers: 4-0 in the postseason after going 5-0 to end the regular season with Houston. Now, Verlander will have a chance to clinch a World Series title for the Astros as he starts Game 6 in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. “These are the moments that you want to be a part of as a baseball player,” Verlander said on Sunday. “It's everything you could ask for ... it's going to be pretty intense.” The 6-foot-5 right-handed starter is looking to become just the second pitcher in postseason history to make five quality starts (6+ innings with three or fewer runs allowed) in a single postseason with the club winning every start he makes. Cole Hamels – in 2008 with the Phillies – is the only other player to accomplish the feat. He went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts, leading Philadelphia to the World Series championship. So far this postseason, Verlander has racked up a 4-0 record in five games (four starts) with a 2.05 ERA. He has struck out 29 opponents in 30 2/3 innings pitched, allowing batters to hit just .183 off of him.

Hill wired to compete

Veteran curveball specialist Rich Hill will take the mound in Game 6 on normal rest and the ultra-competitive attitude he brings to every start. He doesn't have a decision in his three postseason starts, pitching 13 innings and allowing just nine hits (.196) and four earned runs (2.77). In his Game 2 start, he overcame early command issues to allow just an earned run on three hits and three walks over four innings while striking out seven Astros batters. The 37-year-old left-hander from Massachusetts, who was 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA in the regular season, is known for attacking hitters with a variety of curveballs. ”Being in that position and go out there and leave everything on the field is just an amazing thought,” he said. Hill, who turns from easy going guy to hard-nose competitor on the mound, said he's prepared to pitch as long as he can in Game 6 because, well, that's the way he's wired. “So speaking as a player you say, yes, but you have to look outside yourself and look at the team and see what's most valuable for the team and understand that as a player, as a competitor, you have to have that mindset. You have to have that fight in the ring, that boxer-type mentality.”

Not forgotten

Joc Pederson, who is just 25, burst onto the scene in 2015 with 26 home runs and a memorable performance in the Home Run Derby and followed that up by hitting another 25 homers in 2016 for the Dodgers.  But the center fielder struggled in the middle of this year and after going 2-for-37 in the Dodgers first 13 games of August, the club sent him down to Triple-A Oklahoma City. When he came back up in September, at-bats weren't as plentiful and he was even kept off the Dodgers' NLDS roster. Added to the NLCS roster, Pederson got a double in five at-bats and became perhaps the team's biggest cheerleader on the bench. Now in the World Series, he's got two doubles and two home runs in 11 at-bats, the first homer breaking up Justin Verlander's no-hit bid in Game 2 and the second the final blow in their 6-2 win in Game 4. Pederson may have been forgotten in August, but he's batting .313 in October.

High-flying Carlos

Not only did Carlos Correa, who recently turned 23, become the youngest player in baseball history to reach seven career postseason home runs, his seventh-inning moon shot off Brandon Morrow in Game 5 had the highest launch angle (48 degrees) of any home run hit this year, according  Major League Baseball. It reached a height of 169 feet before landing 328 away in the stands.

Homer happy

The seventh and final home run of Game 5, Yasiel Puig's line shot to left in the ninth inning, was the 101st of the postseason and 22nd of the World Series, establishing records in both categories.

Major Leaguers Going to Bat for Disaster Victims

More than 50 current and former Major Leaguers are scheduled to join hosts Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez, and All-Stars José Altuve and Christian Yelich for a Players Trust fund-raising dinner and auction to benefit victims of the recent natural disasters across the Americas.  Scheduled to join Pudge, José and Christian at the Four Seasons in Las Colinas, TX on Wednesday, November 29, are Hector Santiago, Rajai Davis, Jerry Blevins, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Oberg, Bo Schultz, Jake Thompson, Cameron Rupp, Chris Davis, LaTroy Hawkins, Russell Branyan, Brett Hayes, Mike Lincoln, as well as former players among the Major League Baseball Players Association staff, including Executive Director Tony Clark, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Bobby Bonilla, Steve Rogers, Jose Cruz, Jr., Rick Helling, Phil Bradley, Mike Myers, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Slowey and Jeffrey Hammonds.  For information, please click here.  


 

World Series, Workout Day
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct. 30, 2017 

"CAPTION THIS" CONTEST:

Followers of the MLBPA's @MLBPAClubhouse Twitter feed have a chance to win daily prizes during the World Series by playing the “Caption This” contest.  Followers who Re-Tweet the @MLBPAClubhouse contest Tweet and Tweet us #entry and a caption for the featured photo will be entered into the random drawing for that day's prize.   Up for grabs today is an authentic World Series T-shirt signed ball. Good luck!

A day of rest

After four weeks of pressure-packed postseason play, culminating in a 5-hour, 17-minute, emotional roller-coaster of a Game 5, the Astros and Dodgers had a much-needed travel day back to Los Angeles to provide a little rest before continuing their rock'em, sock'em battle. "It's not just the amount of games you play, but emotional investment and the incredible focus that everybody has," said Brandon Morrow, who has pitched in 12 of the Dodgers' 13 postseason games. "It wears on you mentally, and that kind of mental focus kind of wears on you physically. So yeah, it's a grind. Guys are fatigued, but not tired, if that makes sense." The high-stakes, high-attention nature of playoff baseball makes every moment count a little more.  "It's an extra month of baseball, plus big games. Everything counts, everything matters, everything is magnified," Dodgers left-hander Tony Cingrani said. "It's definitely more taxing because every pitch is a competitive pitch, especially with guys on it takes a toll on you as well, but I think this day off is going to help." But the rest will be short-lived. The players had just one day off, and it's a travel day with a flight from Houston to Los Angeles, before the World Series resumes with Game 6 on Tuesday night and the return of postseason adrenaline. “These games are hard on me,” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. “I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack out there every single time.”

Stand-up Morrow

Brandon Morrow, who has pitched in all but one of the Dodgers' 13 postseason games, finally ran out of gas in the seventh inning of Game 5 when, after calling manager Dave Roberts and asking for the ball, he gave up four earned runs on four hits, including two home runs. The top of the Astros' lineup greeted his entry to the game with a first-pitch home run by George Springer, a single by Alex Bregman, an RBI double by Jose Altuve, a wild pitch, and finally a two-run homer by Carlos Correa, turning a one-run lead into a two-run deficit in the space of four batters and six pitches. It was the fifth time he was pitching in six days and the first time in his career that the right-hander has pitched three consecutive days. "There wasn't quite as much life as I've had on the ball," he said. "Velocity is one thing, it was a tick down, but if you have life on it, then you can still get away with some pitches." Afterward, the 33-year-old second-guessed himself for lobbying to get on the mound. “It was probably selfish of me to make that call and try to push to get in,” he said.

Ethier gets first World Series hit

Andre Ethier, the longest tenured player on the Dodgers has few regrets in his 12-year career. He's made a couple all-star teams and earned Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards and been to the postseason eight different times, but he finally got his first World Series hit in Game 5. The veteran left-fielder is no longer a staple in the middle of the Dodgers lineup. He wasn't able to play until September this season due to back troubles and had just 34 at-bats in the regular season. But the left-handed gap hitter has been productive when called upon in the postseason. Starting twice in the NLCS against tough right-handed pitchers, he went 2-for-8 with a homer and a walk. Ethier's one-out, two-strike single in the 10th inning of Game 5 was the Dodgers' last chance against the Astros, but after a fly out he was forced out at second to end the game. "I'm 35 years old, been playing since I was 5, it means a lot to keep doing this for all these years, to have this group of guys to rally around me when I was injured," Ethier told reporters after the championship series. "You can have doubt in your mind, 'Where do I fit on this club?' But they kept cheering me on."

Springer makes up for mistake

It's tough to single out Astros' players to highlight after the team's 13-run, 14-hit outburst at the plate in Game 5. Houston batted .341 as a team, and chased Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw after just 4 2/3 innings. George Springer's home run in the seventh tied the game at 8-8, and was estimated to have traveled 448 feet, according to Statcast. In the prior inning, Springer misplayed a ball off Cody Bellinger's bat that allowed the go-ahead run to score. “We trust George every step along the way,” manager A.J. Hinch said after the game. “And for him to be able to deliver, make up for the judgment that he made in center is, again, one of the hundred stories you guys can write about.” Springer has now hit home runs in back-to-back games. He has slashed .412/.524/1.059 in his last four games with five runs, three home runs and four RBIs.

Altuve keeps hitting

Houston has been nearly unbeatable at home in the postseason, going 8-1. The team's second baseman has been nearly impossible to retire at Minute Maid Park, as well. The 5-foot-6 right-handed José Altuve has hit .472 (17 for 36) with six home runs, 12 RBIs and 12 runs scored in nine home games. In Game 5 on Sunday night, Altuve was right in the middle of the Astros' offensive output again, going 3 for 5 with three runs scored, one home run and four RBIs. After last night's blast, Altuve sits just one home run behind the postseason record of eight home runs, most recently accomplished by Nelson Cruz in 2011. 


 

World Series, Game 5
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct. 29, 2017 

"CAPTION THIS" CONTEST:

Followers of the MLBPA's @MLBPAClubhouse Twitter feed have a chance to win daily prizes during the World Series by playing the “Caption This” contest.  Followers who Re-Tweet the @MLBPAClubhouse contest Tweet and Tweet us #entry and a caption for the featured photo will be entered into the random drawing for that day's prize.   Up for grabs today is an authentic Evan Gattis signed ball. Good luck!

The other way

Entering Game 4, rookie sensation Cody Bellinger was 0-for-the-World Series with seven strikeouts in 11 at-bats, including taking a Golden Sombrero in Game 3, so he was relieved to hit a pair of opposite-field doubles, the biggest a sharp drive that scored Corey Seager to put the Dodgers ahead, 2-1.  “It's a beautiful game — I can come out the next day and help the team to win after a bad day like that,” said Bellinger, who conceded he had been pressing and pulling off the ball.  “Sometimes you see in the postseason you want to try to do too much, and that's what I was doing,” Bellinger said. “Today I tried to make an effort of not doing too much, and when you do that, you get two hits sometimes. It's a crazy game.” Bellinger, who hit 39 home runs in the regular season after coming up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 25 and is a finalist for the 2017 Players Choice Award as the NL Outstanding Rookie, told the media he focused on hitting to the opposite field during batting practice because he had become aware he was pulling off the ball. “I hit every ball in BP today to the left side of the infield. I've never done that before in my life. Usually, I try to lift. I needed to make an adjustment.” He took that swing into Game 4, hitting three balls to left field. His teammates never doubted in his ability. "He's got no pulse," Seager said. "He really doesn't have a memory, either. He forgets things. Things go away. That's what you have to do in baseball. You have to forget the past, forget your last AB and move on to the next one."

Pitching, pitching, pitching

Starting just his second game since Sept. 26, Alex Wood kept Astros hitters off balance for 5 2/3 innings. The only hit he allowed was George Springer's two-out solo homer in the sixth inning. The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Dodgers pitcher to hold an opponent hitless through five innings in a World Series game, a feat even more impressive when you consider the list of Dodgers World Series pitchers includes the likes of Sandy Koufax, Orel Hershiser and Clayton Kershaw. Brandon Morrow, winning pitcher Tony Watson and Kenley Jansen allowed just one more hit – Alex Bregman's ninth-inning homer – the rest of the way. “Woody was phenomenal,” hitting star Cody Bellinger said. “He was hitting his spots, keeping them off balance. He's been great for us all year. We need that out of him to go deep in this game to save our arms in the bullpen.” 

Another chance

Clayton Kershaw got the win in World Series Game 1 at Dodger Stadium, but Dallas Keuchel is confident he and the Astros can prevail in their Game 5 rematch.  Keuchel, who was 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in the regular season, allowed three runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings in the Series opener, getting done in by home runs by Chris Taylor and Justin Turner. “We'll see what kind of adjustments they make to me and what kind of adjustments I make to them,” Keuchel said. “While the Dodgers hitters had an opportunity to face him just five days ago, the confident 29-year-old from Oklahoma doesn't believe the Dodgers hitters saw him at his best, noting that he wasn't finishing his pitches. “To me that's going to work in my favor, although they've seen my pitches,” he said. “They've seen how certain pitches move, and the late movement and this and that, the shape of each pitch.”

In Clayton, Dodgers trust

Clayton Kershaw dominated the Astros in Game 1 and will try to replicate the performance in Game 5 of a World Series now tied at two games apiece. The seven-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner held the Astros to one run on three hits while striking out 11 over seven innings in what was the veteran left-hander's first World Series start. Kershaw, who was 18-4 with an NL-leading 2.31 ERA and 208 strikeouts over 175 innings during the regular season, is now 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA over four starts in the 2017 postseason. The future Hall of Famer tried his best to explain how he goes about his business leading up to and during a start. “You mentally prepare, visualize what you're going to be able to do out there, and come that fifth day you're not thinking, you're just competing,” he said. “You're just trying to say, ‘I'm better than that hitter, I'm going to get him out every single pitch no matter what happens.' Just try to live in the moment as much as you can each pitch.“   His teammates are in awe. After Kershaw's Game 1 win, Justin Turner said, “He's one of the most competitive people I've ever been around in my life.”

Roof closed, crowd loud

Game time temperature in Houston for Game 4 was a balmy 67 degrees, but the roof remained closed at Minute Maid Park, mostly because the Astros enjoy the noise advantage. The decision is up to MLB, technically, but in consultation with the home team. “We want it closed. We've got to have it closed,” reliever Chris Devenski told the Los Angeles Times.  “I feel the electricity when it's closed is so much better. We have so much excitement being here and the electricity and the vibe. I feel like we feed off of it.” Dallas Keuchel, the Astros Game 5 starter, is another Houston player who thrives on the adrenaline rush he gets from the loud crowd and sea of orange at his home park. “Oh, it's always more than I expect,” he said. “And when I think about it in my head it's one way, but then it's actually better each and every time just because we love our fans. We love the city. We like when people come out in the orange. And it's just filled.”

Sleepless Seager

Corey Seager, who is playing in his first World Series and third postseason at the age of 23, described the experience as a kind of blur. "It's fast. It moves. The NLDS seems like it was forever ago," the Dodgers' all-star shortstop said. "It's the same thing every night. You sit in bed waiting for the next day. You can't stop thinking. You can't stop game-planning. You can't stop trying to get ready. We've been talking about it all year, winning [this] series. We had to win the best of seven. Then it turned into a best of five, and now it's the best of three."

Hot Corner

Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman is quickly making a name for himself in the postseason with his stellar defensive play.  Following in the legendary footsteps of such notables as Brooks Robinson and Graig Nettles, Bregman's play is quickly turning the 23-year-old Albuquerque, NM native into a household name.  In Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees, Bregman's laser-beam  throw to catcher Brian McCann nailed Greg Bird at the plate, and last night, in Game 4 of the World Series, it was déjà vu all over again as he repeated the effort against the Dodgers' Austin Barnes.  "He puts it right on the money," McCann said. "You can see he's been playing phenomenal defense since Day 1. Those aren't easy plays he's making look easy. I can't say enough good things about Alex."  Bregman got off to a slow offensive start in the postseason, but his defensive contributions have contributed immensely toward the Astros' run for its first-ever World Series championship.  So much so that he could emerge as a solid Series MVP candidate as the series is down to a best-out-of-three against the NL champion Dodgers. He's also picked it up at the plate during the Series, as he now has four hits, including two home runs, four RBI and he's scored three times.  Bregman completed just his first full season at the big league level in 2017, having been drafted by the Astros with the second overall pick in 2015; the same season he played in another World Series – the College World Series as a member of LSU.  During the 2017 regular season Bregman hit .284 with 19 home runs and 71 RBI.  Game 5 is another swing game in a series that has now gone back and forth, as tonight's winner will be just one win away from a World Series championship.  "I can't wait," Bregman said. "I know everyone in here wishes the game was right now. This is the World Series. This is going to be a dogfight. The two best teams are the teams left standing. It's been that way since Day One, since the season started. I know we're not going to back down."

Major Leaguers Going to Bat for Disaster Victims

More than 50 current and former Major Leaguers are scheduled to join hosts Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez, and All-Stars José Altuve and Christian Yelich for a Players Trust fund-raising dinner and auction to benefit victims of the recent natural disasters across the Americas.  Schedule to join Pudge, José and Christian at the Four Seasons in Las Colinas, TX on Wednesday, November 29, are Hector Santiago, Rajai Davis, Jerry Blevins, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Oberg, Bo Schultz, Jake Thompson, Cameron Rupp, Chris Davis, LaTroy Hawkins, Russell Branyan, Brett Hayes, Mike Lincoln, as well as former players among the Major League Baseball Players Association staff, including Executive Director Tony Clark, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Bobby Bonilla, Steve Rogers, Jose Cruz, Jr., Rick Helling, Phil Bradley, Mike Myers, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Slowey and Jeffrey Hammonds.  For information, please click here

World Series, Game 4
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct. 28, 2017

Choo-Choo Charlie

Houston Astros fans will be hoping for a repeat performance of Charlie Morton's last start when he gets the ball in Saturday's Game 4 against the Dodgers at Minute Maid Park, which occupies part of what was once a train station.   In that start, Morton faced the Yankees in the seventh and deciding game of the ALCS, and he pitched the Astros to the World Series by giving up just two hits and a walk in five scoreless innings in the 4-0 win.  This is Morton's first season in Houston, and he set career highs in wins (14) and strikeouts (163), as his fastball experienced an upward tick in velocity with an average of 96.1 MPH, which compliments a nasty curveball and slider.   "I'm really excited," said Morton, who'll be making his fourth start of the postseason. "Each of these games I've got to throw in - it's a privilege, it's an honor. Most people don't get a chance to play in the postseason, let alone in a championship series or the World Series. I'm going to try to enjoy it, but at the same time I've got a job to do."

 

Tag-team pitching

Lance McCullers entered ALCS Game 7 in relief of Charlie Morton and shut down the Yankees for four innings with his trademark hard curve to nail down the AL pennant. On Friday night, Brad Peacock relieved McCullers and held the final 11 batters hitless, walking just one and striking out four, to put the Astros within two wins of a World Series championship. “Coming in against the Yankees, I came in after Charlie, who threw the ball great that game, and really felt like I had the Yankees on their heels a little bit and was able to execute, use a little bit of their aggression against them. And the Dodgers are, like I said, man, they're as good as it gets. They're in the World Series for a reason,” McCullers said after the 5-3 win. “I grinded through every out that I had. Pea' just absolutely flourished with the opportunity. He looked unbelievable.”

Bright lining

The Dodgers bullpen picked up where it left off before an uncharacteristic showing in the Game 2 loss. Kenta Maeda, Tony Watson, Brandon Morrow, Tony Cingrani and Ross Stripling shut out the Astros for 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and striking out six. Maeda, a starter who has performed exceptionally well in the bullpen during the postseason, came in with runners on second and third in the second inning and got Carlos Correa on a fly ball to right. He allowed just a walk and a hit over 2 2/3 shutout innings.

Crisp curve

Lance McCullers didn't have his usual strong command, but he was resourceful as ever, using his trademark hard curve more (60.9 pct.) than any postseason starter since the advent of pitch tracking in his 5 1/3-inning Game 3 victory. He got into trouble in the sixth, but struck out Cody Bellinger with runners on second and third before handing the game over to Brad Peacock with a 5-1 lead.  The runners ended up scoring on a Yasiel Puig groundout and wild pitch.

Ready and rested

Alex Wood plans to be ready in his first World Series start. Coming off a season in which he earned his first All-Star Game appearance and posted career bests in wins (16), ERA (2.72) and WHIP (1.06), the 26-year-old left-hander gave up three home runs and lost in his NLCS Game 4 start against the Cubs, his only other this postseason.  Wood told the media he felt comfortable in the loss in Chicago and was looking forward to his first Fall Classic appearance. “The circumstances are definitely different and the prize is a lot bigger, pitching in a World Series,” the North Carolina native said. “But at the same time you might -- if anything, you get more information and more things from our front office and things along those lines to prepare. I always pride myself on my preparation and being the best prepared and knowing what to throw and when to throw it and things along those lines.”

Reinvented as a reliever

Brandon Morrow's emergence as a set-up reliever has strengthened the Dodgers' bridge to closer Kenley Jansen. The 33-year-old right-hander was used as a starter for most of his 10-plus years in the majors, but has pitched exclusively in relief in his first year with the Dodgers, giving him a little more freedom to unleash his 100-mph fastball. He was 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA and 50 strikeouts over 43 2/3 innings in the regular season and he's given up just two earned runs while striking out 10 batters in 11 innings over 10 postseason appearances. “He's been incredible,” gushed Game 4 starter Alex Wood. “From the first hitter he faced, everybody turned their heads in the dugout and looked at each other and we're like, okay, there's our set-up guy. He's been monumental for our bullpen and for our team. It's a lot of fun to watch, too, seeing a 100, with that slider at 92. It's pretty special. We're fortunate to have him.”

World Series, Game 3
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct. 27, 2017


Returning home

The roof will be closed. Deep in the Heart of Texas will be played during the seventh inning stretch. The stands will be filled with fans clad in orange. After winning Game 2 in Los Angeles, 7-6 in 11 innings, the Astros now hold home-field advantage. “Getting home is always nice. It's going to be loud in front of our home crowd, that we've played tremendously well in front of,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We're all a little more comfortable in our routine, the backdrop, being in our own clubhouse.” Houston went 48-33 at Minute Maid Park during the regular season, and has been a perfect 6-0 at home during this postseason.

McCullers gets Game 3 start for ‘Stros

Much has been made of Houston's Game 3 starter Lance McCullers Jr. and his stellar curveball. He relied on the pitch to help the Astros advance to the World Series when he threw it 75 percent of the time during his ALCS Game 7 relief appearance against the Yankees. Out of the 54 pitches he threw, 41 were curveballs. Using the breaking ball isn't anything new for the postseason. McCullers led all MLB starters by using his curveball 47.4 percent of the time during the regular season, according to FanGraphs. Moreover, since McCullers entered the league in 2015, he has increased the rate at which he throws the pitch, up from 36.3 percent in 2015. “For me it's been kind of an experience to get here to get where I am,” McCullers said on Thursday. “As time moved on I've learned to pitch better with that pitch. Obviously the numbers have climbed. But I don't view it as an off-speed pitch. I just view it as another one of my weapons that I can use to get people out. And if I have to throw it a lot, if I don't throw it that much, which there are games that I don't, then I don't.” His curve averaged 85.6 mph this season, the fastest among all starters, too.

Gurriel excelling in first postseason

With his unique hairstyle, Yuli Gurriel has stood out during the postseason. In addition to his hair, Gurriel has also been noticed since he's been on base – a lot. Gurriel carries a .385 on-base percentage and .333 average through 13 postseason games. “Yuli has been a really key part of what we do,” manager A.J. Hinch said before Game 1. “Having to learn a new country, having to learn a new team, a new position, he's been remarkable. He's a funny guy behind the scenes. He's very under control. The moment's never too big.” The 33-year old first baseman who hails from Cuba excelled in his first season at the major-league level, hitting .299 with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs in 139 games playing mainly first base.

Not just a slugger

After the Astros' Yuli Gurriel feigned trying to advance to third in the fourth inning of Game 2, right fielder Yasiel Puig unleashed a flat-footed bullet toward third base that Statcast clocked 94 mph, then he promptly stared down his fellow Cuban for another 4-5 seconds. Later, in the eighth inning, Puig made a running dive and almost made an amazing catch, but Alex Bregman's opposite-field drive tipped his glove and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Bregman eventually scored to narrow the Dodgers' lead to 3-2. But those two plays are illustrative of why Puig, along with teammate Corey Seager, on Thursday was named a finalist for a Gold Glove Award. The Gold Glove Awards show will be televised by ESPN on Nov. 7 at 9 pm ET.

On to Yu

It's now on Yu Darvish to tame the Astros' suddenly hot bats in Game 3 for the Dodgers. The 31-year-old right-hander from Japan has as big a repertoire as any starter in baseball, but he set aside his split-finger and change-up to focus more on his devastating slider in September and has been sharper ever since. "Me, personally, like I really don't change much,” Darvish said through an interpreter . . “But to them I'm a different kind of pitcher, different type of pitcher in my pitch selection. So they feel I may have a different approach." Over his final three regular season starts he was 2-0 and brought his ERA down from 4.08 to 3.86 for the season. In the postseason, he's won both of his starts and has a 1.59 ERA, giving up just two runs on eight hits over 11 1/3 innings. Darvish also had 14 starts (5-5, 3.44 ERA) against the Astros when he was with the Rangers, so there is a familiarity factor and he's  4-1 with a 2.16 ERA in six career starts at Minute Maid Park. “It's better to know that I've pitched here before, but it could be totally different from my previous outings here," Darvish said.

The Dodgers' DH will be …

As the World Series shifts to Houston, there will be much interest in who manager Dave Roberts uses as designated hitter in Game 3 against curveball specialist Lance McCullers. Roberts said he planned to start Joc Peterson in left field and that Austin Barnes would catch. "Outside of that there's a couple of guys that I'm thinking through on the DH spot, and just kind of really want to dig into it a little bit more," Roberts said. The Dodgers, who haven't played in an AL park since Aug. 20 in Detroit, have used Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Chase Utley, Cody Bellinger, Enrique Hernandez and Barnes as designated hitters this season. They combined to hit .205 (8-for-39) with 5 RBIs. Turner was used most often and was the most successful, getting 7 hits in 20 at-bats (.350). The Dodgers were 7-3 at AL parks in 2017.

Major Leaguers Going to Bat for Disaster Victims

More than 50 current and former Major Leaguers are scheduled to join hosts Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez, and All-Stars José Altuve and Christian Yelich for a Players Trust fund-raising dinner and auction to benefit victims of the recent natural disasters across the Americas.  Schedule to join Pudge, José and Christian at the Four Seasons in Las Colinas, TX on Wednesday, November 29, are Hector Santiago, Rajai Davis, Jerry Blevins, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Oberg, Bo Schultz, Jake Thompson, Cameron Rupp, Chris Davis, LaTroy Hawkins, Russell Branyan, Brett Hayes, Mike Lincoln, as well as former players among the Major League Baseball Players Association staff, including Executive Director Tony Clark, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Bobby Bonilla, Steve Rogers, Jose Cruz, Jr., Rick Helling, Phil Bradley, Mike Myers, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Slowey and Jeffrey Hammonds.  For information, please click here.  


World Series, Workout Day
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct. 26, 2017 

"CAPTION THIS" CONTEST:

Followers of the MLBPA's @MLBPAClubhouse Twitter feed have a chance to win daily prizes during the World Series by playing the “Caption This” contest.  Followers who Re-Tweet the @MLBPAClubhouse contest Tweet and Tweet us #entry and a caption for the featured photo will be entered into the random drawing for that day's prize.   Up for grabs today is an official World Series T-shirt.  Good luck!

 

Eight is enough 

In the 94-degree Los Angeles heat, the ball was flying out of Dodger Stadium during Game 2. The Dodgers and Astros combined to club eight home runs, setting the single-game World Series record. “This was a night obviously the ball was carrying,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “A lot of big-time players stepping up and getting big swings.” The two clubs surpassed the previous record of seven set by Oakland and San Francisco in the earthquake-delayed Game 3 of the 1989 Fall Classic.

Another Altuve blast 

With his 10th-inning blast, José Altuve now has six postseason home runs, tied for eighth-most in a single postseason. Altuve needs just two more to tie the record currently jointly held by Astros teammate Carlos Beltrán (2004), Barry Bonds (2002) and Nelson Cruz (2011). The Astros are 4-0 in the postseason when Altuve hits a home run. “We like him in every situation that happens,” teammate Cameron Maybin said. “We like him up there in whatever spot it may be. He's nothing short of amazing, and that was another amazing moment from that guy.”

Springer powers the Astros 

George Springer provided the exclamation point on the Game 2 offensive outburst for Houston, which saw the Astros put together 14 hits and score seven runs. He had the eventual game-winning home run in the top of the 11th inning, a two-run shot. It was Springer's first extra-base hit since Game 4 of the ALDS in Boston. The outfielder provided three hits, and wore his emotions on his sleeve for the entire game. “When that last out is made, you finally breathe,” Springer said. “But that's an emotional high, emotional high to low to high again. But that's why we play the game. And that's the craziest game that I've ever played in, and it's only Game 2.”

Career highlight

Maybe Charlie Culberson is a late-blooming superstar who will play in many World Series to come and eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown, but probably not. So it was understandable that he giddily celebrated his 11th-inning home run that brought the Dodgers within a run. It was the high point of his career so far. The 28-year-old Calhoun, Ga., native has appeared in 197 regular season games and another four in the postseason over five seasons, but he played most of this season at Triple-A Oklahoma City and was only on the roster because Corey Seager's been bothered by a bad back in recent weeks. Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel wondered why Culberson “acted like he won the World Series.” TV play-by-play guy Joe Buck wondered aloud whether he thought his home run had tied the game. “I knew the score was 7-5. It was adrenaline, and I think anybody would say the same thing,” Culberson said. “That's a good feeling.” The journeyman shortstop's been in the middle of the action since getting on the Dodgers' postseason roster, going 6-for-13 (.462) with four extra base hits including his first World Series home run. It came in the 11th inning before a capacity crowd at Dodger Stadium that included his family. “I never would have imagined hitting a home run in the World Series, and I did that. I pointed to my parents in the stands and pointing to my wife,” Culberson said. “I was just having fun out there, nothing more than that.”

Leaky pen

The Dodgers bullpen's amazing run of 28 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest in postseason history, ended with the relief staff getting clobbered for six earned runs over seven innings on 11 hits, including four home runs, as the Astros' bats awakened in the late innings of their roller-coaster 7-6, 11-inning victory in Game 2. “We battled out there,” said closer Kenley Jansen, who blew a postseason save for the first time when he gave up a homer to Marwin Gonzalez on an 0-2 pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning. “Every at-bat, nobody was giving up. We still continued to go out there and pitch, and we didn't come up big this time.” In their first nine postseason games the Dodgers' pen, which led the NL with a 3.38 ERA during the regular season, had allowed just three runs on 12 hits in 30 2/3 innings. It was the first time all year the Dodgers gave up a lead after the eighth inning. “We're not frustrated,” Jansen said. “I didn't make my pitch. You can't beat yourself up about that.”

New Faces

Starting for the first time in the World Series, Joc Pederson rewarded manager Dave Roberts' confidence with a fifth-inning home run that broke up Justin Verlander's no-hit bid and tied Game 2. Verlander, whose fastball averaged 95.2 mph during the regular season, had allowed just one homer in 24 2/3 innings in the postseason before Pederson's shot. Roberts explained that he considers the left-handed slugger from Palo Alto one of his better fastball hitters. The only other postseason home run Pederson's hit during his four-year career was in last year's NLDS when he connected off hard-throwing Max Scherzer. "I think that this guy (Verlander) is obviously plus-plus velocity,” Roberts said. “I like Joc a little bit better with the velocity." The 25-year-old's Game 2 homer, however, was on an 88-mph slider from Verlander. All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who returned to the lineup for the World Series after intensive treatment on his lower back, caught up with a 97.3-mph four-seamer from Verlander for a go-ahead, two-run homer the following inning. The 23-year-old Seager, who contributed two hits in Game 1, became the youngest Dodgers player to hit a World Series home run since Pete Reiser's in Game 4 of the 1941 World Series.


 

World Series, Game 2 
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct. 25, 2017 

"CAPTION THIS" CONTEST:

Followers of the MLBPA's @MLBPAClubhouse Twitter feed have a chance to win daily prizes during the World Series by playing the “Caption This” contest.  Followers who Re-Tweet the @MLBPAClubhouse contest Tweet and Tweet us #entry and a caption for the featured photo will be entered into the random drawing for that day's prize.   Up for grabs today is an autographed Justin Verlander baseball.  Good luck!

 

There is a postseason, turn, turn, Turner

Another postseason game for the Dodgers and another heroic moment for Justin Turner. In World Series Game 1 it was a two-run, heat-aided homer in the sixth inning off Dallas Keuchel that gave Clayton Kershaw the cushion he needed against the Astros. It was the fourth October home run for Turner, who is batting .371 in the postseason. It was a good pitch from Keuchel, an 87-mph cutter up and a little bit inside, but Turner, using a slightly lighter bat his third time up against Keuchel, somehow got enough of the ball to loft it just over the left-center field wall on an extra hot Los Angeles evening that featured triple-digit temperatures. "When it's that hot here, the ball does travel a lot better and if it's 10 degrees cooler, that's probably a routine fly ball in left field," Turner said. But it was Turner who hit that homer, extending his run of clutch hitting. “You can't teach what he's doing,” Kershaw told Yahoo! Sports. “No mechanics or anything can teach the mindset and the competitiveness, the clutchness, whatever that is. It seems like every single night he's in the right position to come up with a big hit. We're going to ride him because I don't know if there's an easy way to get him out. He's been unbelievable for us.” The homer gave Turner 14 postseason RBIs this year and 26 in his career with the Dodgers, tying him with Duke Snyder for the club lead. “I call it heartbeat hitting,” Dodgers hitting coach Turner Ward said. “When you get all amped up, there's a way to get so amped up that you tunnel it to your advantage. And you get so amped up you can't control it. His heartbeat, in situations, you can just see it. How he lays off pitches. That is trained. I don't think someone's just gifted with that. That's an awareness that a hitter can have.”

Hill sticking with his plan

Dodgers Game 2 starter Rich Hill, a curveball specialist who overcame blister issues to go 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA and held opponents to a .203 average over 25 starts during the regular season, allowed one run on three hits over five innings in his NLCS start against the Cubs 10 days ago and doesn't plan to alter the way he pitches against the Astros. “At the end of the day it's about attacking and staying convicted in your approach,” the 37-year-old left-hander said. “You get to this point and it's not about changing your game plan or doing something different. You've done your homework, you've prepared throughout the entire season to get to this point.” Hill, who uses his curveball almost as much as Houston starter Lance McCullers uses his, is wary and knows the Astros bats can come alive at any moment. “This is a tough lineup. … You see guys like Jose Altuve, Josh Reddick, who many of us know here from last year, Brian McCann, just some really great players and great people on the other side. And with that, they bring that effort.”

Rich Hill's dad is competitive, too

Eighty-nine-year-old Lloyd Hill Sr. will be back in Milton, Mass., watching his son, Rich, pitch Game 2 of the World Series and keeping a close eye on the umpires to make sure they're giving the left-handed curveball specialist a fair shake. He has a familiar spot on the couch of another son, Rich's older brother, Lloyd Jr., where he watches the games a little bit on edge, because, after all, it's his son pitching. “I don't do anything but watch the game. I don't want to talk to anybody. I just sit and watch, but I will be very nervous,” he told the Patriot-Ledger. “In fact, I've never missed a pitch he has thrown in Major League Baseball.” The former high school principal and Hill family patriarch said, “It's his attitude that I really admire, his competitiveness. He will not accept defeat or failure of any fashion. And to reach the stage of success that he has achieved overcoming any and all obstacles, including shoulder and Tommy John surgery, I truly feel is the result his competitive nature and his uncanny ability to just focus on one pitch at a time. I think he's the most competitive player in baseball.” And if you wonder where that sense of competitiveness might come from, look no further than the couch at Lloyd Jr.'s house in Milton. “I'll be paying particular attention to the umpire making sure that he doesn't give up on Rich's curveball. Is he seeing it? Rich throws the curve more than any other pitcher in baseball. In fact he has 10 different rotations on that one pitch, but sometimes the umpire will give up on it too early.” he said.

Move over Mariano!

Back in 2009 when catching prospect Kenley Jansen was becoming pitching prospect Kenley Jansen and developing his signature cutter, he watched video of Mariano Rivera, who parlayed his cutter and competitiveness to become the best relief pitcher in baseball history. The viewing of Rivera footage has paid off well for the 6-foot-5 Curaçaoan right-hander, whose 12 consecutive saves to begin his postseason career are the most since the stat became official in 1969. Only five other pitchers have started with eight straight postseason saves. Jansen relies heavily on his devastating hard cutter and he throws it about 85 percent of the time. “I can tell you part of having that cutter, (was watching) Mariano Rivera late in his career,” Jansen told Newsday. Jansen is planning a trip East during the offseason to thank – and maybe get a few tips from -- Rivera, who became a staple of postseason play during the Yankees' glory years. “I'm just going to try and pick his brain, get all the information I can,” he said. “You think, over 20 years he did it so successfully. He's been through ups and downs, lost World Series but he won five World Series. He's done it all. Experience-wise, that's the guy you really want to sit down with and listen to and tell you how to get better.” Rivera, who will likely enter the Hall of Fame in 2019, holds the MLB postseason records for saves (42) and ERA (0.70).

 

Puig's Blue Period

Just when you thought there was little more Yasiel Puig could do to bring his fun-loving, attention-speaking style to a new level, he came out for batting practice before World Series Game 1 with a Mohawk haircut died blue with little red streaks in the back and lightning bolts carved in. “This is Dodger Blue,'' the Cuban slugger told the NY Post. Puig, who believes his haircuts bring hits, went 0-for-3 in Game 1 but he was happy with winning 3-1 win on Justin Turner's sixth-inning homer. “Justin Turner is important to us and everybody in the city,'' Puig told The Post after the game. “He is someone I follow. He is a leader.''

Verlander looks to even series 

Justin Verlander, the Astros' co-ace and starter for  Game 2, is one of two Astros' players with World Series experience, the other being Carlos Beltrán. He's come a long way since starting Game 1 of the 2006 World Series as a 23-year-old for Detroit. With 123 innings pitched in the postseason, the veteran ranks fourth in postseason innings among active players, behind Jon Lester (148 innings), John Lackey (144 innings) and CC Sabathia (126 1/3 innings). Verlander has never started a game at Dodger Stadium, and has faced the Dodgers once in his career, a victory in an eight-inning start in which he gave up just one run. During the postseason, Verlander said he brings his pitching concentration up another notch. “I think the mental focus is just another level [during the Postseason],” Verlander said on Monday. “There are times throughout the course of the game where I lose track of where we're at in the game and don't really know what's going on. It's just my sole focus even between innings is thinking about what I can do to execute and thinking about what pitches I should throw and what I've seen and what my instincts are telling me, you're just that much more focused on the task at hand.” Since the designated hitter won't be used tonight in a National League-park, Verlander will get his shot in the batter's box, too. He hit a home run in batting practice before Game 1.

The Altuve Index 

Having José Altuve as anchor of the Astros' lineup means the club is never out of a game. The 27-year old leads the offense in the three spot in the batting order and has hit .386 with five home runs and eight RBIs in 12 postseason games. When Altuve scores a run, the Astros are 6-1 this postseason, while the team is just 1-4 when Altuve does not cross the plate. 

Missing home 

The Astros have held court at home all postseason, going 6-0, and have averaged 5.2 runs per game. On the road it's a different story. The team is 1-5 away from Minute Maid Park and has only scored on average 2.3 runs per game. Diving into the splits a bit deeper, the Astros have hit .276 (53 for 192) in Houston, but have only managed a .196 road batting average (39 for 199). Power numbers are down on the road as well, as the team has clubbed 12 home runs at home, compared to just three on the road. 

 

World Series, Game 1 
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct. 24, 2017 

"CAPTION THIS" CONTEST:

Followers of the MLBPA's @MLBPAClubhouse Twitter feed have a chance to win daily prizes during the World Series by playing the “Caption This” contest.  Followers who Re-Tweet the @MLBPAClubhouse contest Tweet and Tweet us #entry and a caption for the featured photo will be entered into the random drawing for that day's prize.   Up for grabs today is a 2017 World Series letterman jacket.  Good luck!

Note: Giveaway items are limited in size. Tuesday's letterman jacket giveaway is a men's large.

World Series experience 

In Game 1, look for players to soak up the atmosphere of a World Series, as there are plenty of first-timers on both World Series rosters. Only four players – two from each team – have ever advanced to play in a Fall Classic. From Houston, Carlos Beltrán appeared with St. Louis in 2013, while pitcher Justin Verlander played in the 2006 and 2012 World Series with the Tigers. For the Dodgers, Chase Utley won the 2008 World Series MVP with Philadelphia and also played in the 2009 edition of the Fall Classic. Curtis Granderson played in the 2006 World Series with Detroit and the 2015 World Series with the Mets. 

Getting here isn't enough for Clayton

Clayton Kershaw, perhaps baseball's best pitcher in recent years with seven All-Star Game appearances, three Cy Young Awards and even an MVP Award (2014), will get his first chance to pitch in the World Series in Game 1. Getting here, however, is no longer important to the tall, 29-year-old left-hander. “I think it meant a lot in Chicago, when we were saying we are going to the World Series,” Kershaw told the media. ”That's a special thing. But now we're flipping the switch a little bit, and we're trying to figure out how to win four games.” Kershaw was 18-4 with an NL-leading 2.31 ERA and 208 strikeouts over 175 innings during the regular season. He's 2-0 with a 3.63 ERA in three postseason starts. Batters are hitting .194 against him. The last Dodgers pitcher to win a World Series game was Orel Hershiser, who threw two complete-game victories in 1988.

Houston's Dallas makes Game 1 start

Like many of the young Astros, Dallas Keuchel will be making his first World Series start on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. The 29-year old doesn't seem to mind the bright lights of the postseason. This year he is 2-1 in three playoff starts with a 2.60 ERA in 17 1/3 innings. Keuchel has stuck out 25 opponents compared to just five walks. Keuchel also will be matching up against former college teammate Logan Forsythe. The two played together at the University of Arkansas from 2007-2008. “[Forsythe]'s a guy that just brings a smile to my face because I know how hard he works,” Keuchel said on Monday. “I know how hard he's worked to get here and be the player he is.” Maybe Forsythe picked up something on Keuchel during their days in Fayetteville, Ark. – he's  batting .350 (7 for 20) off the tough left hander in his career, which is the seventh-highest opponents' batting average against Keuchel (min. 20 plate appearances). Houston's ace has never faced the Dodgers – and has only faced three hitters currently on the Dodgers' postseason roster. Apart from Forsythe, Chase Utley has gone 4 for 6, and Chris Taylor is 0 for 3. Against National League opponents In 18 career interleague games (17 starts), Keuchel is 7-6 with a 3.13 ERA. 

After 13 years, Beltrán helps Houston make World Series

After falling one game short of taking the Astros to the 2004 World Series, Carlos Beltrán has advanced to the World Series with Houston 13 years after falling to St. Louis in the seven-game NLCS. In the 2004 postseason, Beltrán hit .435 in 12 games with eight home runs and 14 RBIs. Now at 40 years old, Beltrán is the oldest player on Houston's 40-man roster. He also holds the distinction of being the only position player with any prior World Series experience. Beltrán played in the 2013 Fall Classic as a member of St. Louis, when the team fell to Boston. In 20 years of baseball and seven years of postseason play, Beltrán still hasn't captured the elusive ring. “He's a future Hall of Famer for a reason,” teammate Dallas Keuchel said on Monday. “He has one of the most storied postseason careers, especially for what he did with Houston the first go-around.” Beltrán is closing in on some important career postseason milestones. He's ninth all-time with 42 postseason RBIs and is also ninth with 16 home runs. ­­­­­

Gonzo gone but not forgotten

The Dodgers players understand Adrian Gonzalez's decision not to attend postseason games this year, but they miss him. Only Ichiro and Brandon Phillips have played more games without a World Series appearance than Gonzalez, so this might have been his best opportunity if he was healthy. As luck would have it, though, this is the first season the durable 35-year-old first baseman has even been on the disabled list. This season, the five-time all-star went on the DL in May and again in June. On Sept. 26, Gonzalez homered in his final at-bat of the regular season, but the next day the Dodgers said he had aggravated his back injury and would be shut down. He had played 156 games in 11 consecutive seasons before this year. “He's a really good friend of mine,” Justin Turner told the Los Angeles Times. “I'm proud of him and happy to be a teammate of his. I text him almost every day: We miss you, we want you to be here with us, you should be here enjoying this with us. But I understand.”

Solving Altuve

As Jose Altuve goes, so go the Astros, so Clayton Kershaw's first order of business will be trying to stop the 5-foot-5 superstar, or at least slow him down a little. The 27-year-old second baseman is hitting .400 with a .500 on-base average and five home runs in the postseason. Altuve led the NL with a .346 batting average and 204 hits and made his fifth All-Star Game during the regular season, becoming a finalist for the 2017 Players Choice Award as Player of the Year. “I think that he's super aggressive,” Kershaw said. “But at the same time he hits a lot of different pitches. It's not a guy that just hits fastballs well or just hits breaking balls well. He does everything pretty evenly throughout the board.” Which should make it a fun battle for Kershaw, Altuve and those of us watching. “Just a matter of execution with him,” Kershaw added. “You're just trying to mix up spots, pitches, locations, don't give him any predictable counts, predictable pitches. He's a tough out. I think he's one of the toughest outs in the game. You just can't give in to him.”

Dodgers' bullpen advantage

Led by closer Kenley Jansen, who has allowed two hits while striking out 12 and picked up three saves in seven appearances, Dodger relievers have allowed just three earned runs, two walks and one homer in 28 2/3 postseason innings (0.94 ERA). Jansen and set-up man Brandon Morrow, who has eight strikeouts in eight innings, each pitched in seven of Los Angeles' eight postseason games, so they were likely helped by the five-day rest leading up to the World Series. The Astros reached the World Series despite a bullpen that has struggled. Manager A.J. Hinch used starter Lance McCullers for four shutout innings to seal ALCS Game 7 against the Yankees. The Astros bullpen has 5.03 ERA while allowing 14 walks and eight homers over 34 innings in the postseason.

 


 

World Series, Media Day
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct. 23, 2017 

 

Win $1 million

Infield Chatter, the new app created by the players to connect with fans, is giving away $1 million in its “Sweep The Series Challenge” to a lucky contest entrant who correctly picks the score of each World Series game as well as the Series MVP. To play, you need to download the app (http://www.infieldchatter.com/), click the promotional banner and register. You have until 3 pm ET on Tuesday Oct. 24 to enter. Additionally, Infield Chatter will donate $5 for every download to the Players Trust to help provide relief to people in need in the aftermaths of this year's natural disasters across the Americas.

Setting the stage

Having home field advantage through the Championship Series, the Astros held court at home, going 5-0. Now the team will be on the road to start the World Series on Tuesday from Dodger Stadium. The Fall Classic matchup will feature two 100-plus win teams for the first time since 1970, when the Baltimore Orioles (108-54 in regular season) defeated the Cincinnati Reds (102-60 in regular season) in five games Houston hasn't faced the Dodgers since 2015, when they swept an August three-game series at Minute Maid Park. However, because of Houston's NL roots, the two teams have matched up over 700 times, the most ever by two World Series opponents. Los Angeles holds the advantage with a 388-323 all-time record against Houston.

Summer-like Fall Classic

Not only did both World Series teams top 100 wins this year, but weather forecasters are predicting temperatures might top 100 in Los Angeles before Game 1, too, although with the late-afternoon start it might be down into the 90s by then. The hottest World Series game was Game 1 of the 2001 World Series between the Yankees and Diamondbacks in Phoenix, where the first-pitch temperature was 94 degrees and Major League Baseball elected to play the game with the retractable roof open at what is now Chase Field.

There's a (Second) First time for everything

The Astros will be making their first World Series appearance as the American League champions. Prior to joining the AL in 2013, Houston represented the NL in the 2005 World Series when the team got swept by the White Sox. The Astros are the first franchise in major-league history to advance to a Fall Classic from both leagues.

McCann can

Brian McCann has been splitting time between catcher and designated hitter during the 2017 season. For the Astros sake, it's a good thing he was catching in Game 7 on Saturday night. In the fifth inning, McCann handled an Alex Bregman throw home and tagged out Greg Bird, who was trying to score from third. McCann got a chance to help eliminate his former team in the batter's box. Coming back home facing elimination, McCann delivered in both Games 6 and 7 with clutch RBI-doubles. 

Eager Seager

It was excruciating for shortstop Corey Seager to sit out the National League Championship Series, but he never doubted the wisdom of the training staff's recommendation to have his painful lower back treated. "It was the right thing," he said during Sunday's workout day. "I was able to get one-on-one treatment and I feel so much better. I've been able to do all baseball activities with no setbacks." Seager, 23, who stayed back in Los Angeles for treatment during the final three NLCS games, was watching from the hotel room he's taken (now that his summer rental lease is up) as Enrique Hernandez slugged three home runs to help send the Dodgers to their first series since 1988. “That was probably one of the few times I screamed in my hotel room,” the normally reserved Seager said. Seager took batting practice and ground balls during the Dodgers' workout and told manager Dave Roberts his back feels better than it  has in weeks. The plan is to have him back in the lineup at shortstop for Game 1 on Tuesday night. Charlie Culberson, who along with Chris Taylor filled in at shortstop, batted .455 in the NLCS but was as happy as anyone to have his budding superstar of a teammate back. “We need Corey out there,” Culberson said. “He's an MVP-type player.” When Seager, who batted .292 with 22 homers, 33 doubles and 77 RBIs during the regular season, finally sat down to address reporters after his workout, he knew he was ready to play in the World Series. “I haven't smiled in a while. It's nice to smile again,” he said.

From the outhouse to the penthouse

Left-hander Rich Hill, who will make the Game 2 start for the Dodgers, has played parts of 13 seasons in the majors and has  never been to the World Series before. But nerves won't be a factor for the cool-as-a-cucumber Boston native because he worked his way to this position the hard way and overcame obstacles along the way. “A couple years ago, I was using a bucket in independent ball as a toilet,” he told the Los Angeles Times. Hill was 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA in the regular season and he's allowed three runs on six hits over nine innings in two postseason starts without getting a decision.

#MLBPlayers411

During the 2017 regular season, MLBPlayers.com posted a daily feature, titled #MLBPlayers411, which offered a glimpse into some of the game's top young players.  Below are links to the players from the Dodgers and Astros we featured during the season.  Learn more about these players by clicking on their names.  Enjoy!

Los Angeles Dodgers: 

Chris Taylor

Kenley Jansen

Cody Bellinger

Houston Astros:

 Marwin Gonzalez

Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh

Dallas Keuchel

Nori Aoki