World Series Game 3 Pitching Matchup

The World series reconvenes at 8:20EST tonight from Minute Maid Park in Houston with the series tied at 1 game apiece. After a wild Game 2 that saw each team blow leads in an 11-inning instant classic, Houston looks to take command of The Series while LA tries to regain home field advantage. Both offenses have played well throughout the postseason after having excellent regular seasons. With LA’s depth, the use of the DH in the American League park is a wash. Getting off to a strong start has been the model for success for both clubs, so let’s focus in on the starting pitchers. Here’s your quick viewer guide to the pivotal Game 3 pitching matchup.

Dodgers: Yu Darvish spent the first 4+ years of his career playing for the Rangers in the AL West meaning that, since the Astros joined the division in 2013, they have seen the Japanese ace and his 8-pitch arsenal with some regularity. However the current Houston squad doesn’t have as many at bats against him as one might expect. In fact only Springer has fared particularly well in the matchup. Darvish has been good in the postseason, but hasn’t pitched in 10 days.

This brings us to the curious decision not to start Darvish in Game 2. We may be looking at a classic case of “rest versus rust” with the Dodger righty tonight. He essentially took the mound every five-six days all season long but tonight he makes his third start of October meaning that he has thrown just 11 1/3 innings since his final regular season start on 25 September. I have long criticized the MLB playoffs for completely destroying the game rhythm players are used to. The schedule slows down quite a bit once October starts and it seems like we sacrifice routine for dollars in order to make sure the schedule is stretched to its max and every game is played in prime time. Aaaaaaanyway, don’t be surprised if Darvish looks a little rusty . . . or totally fresh and rested. However, my guess is that he’ll scuffle in the early innings giving Houston a chance to take the oh-so-important lead.

Astros: Lance McCullers, Jr. had two solid starts against the Yankees in the ALCS, but overall has not demonstrated the ability to go deep into a game in recent months. The Astros will likely end up getting into their bullpen. I expect AJ Hinch to be more than willing to pull his starter if he shows signs of not being up to the moment. It’s worth pointing out, however, that Houston has been extra good at home (6 straight playoff wins) and McCullers was undefeated there in the regular season going 4-0 in 9 starts. Additionally, the Dodgers did not face the young right-hander this season so his devastating knuckle-curve—a pitch SI called the best secondary pitch of any starter in MLB this season—may be tough for the LA hitters to track.

For those not familiar with McCullers, allow me to provide a little background. The 24 year old was drafted straight out of high school in 2012 as a top notch pitching prospect. He was called up to the Astros in 2015 and has been a regular part of their rotation since. He actually made his first postseason start as a rookie in 2015 going six strong innings against eventual champion Kansas City. In fact before the 2017 season began, FanGraphs picked McCullers to win the Cy Young. He got off to a great start and was selected to the All-Star Game, but struggled in the second half of the season ultimately spending time on the DL with a sore back. The kid is a big talent and will be a crucial part of the Astros rotation for years to come. As for tonight, my sense of it is that McCullers will pitch well and give his team a chance to win this one.