"Two on and two outs."
If Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is having nightmares this week that phrase is probably haunting him.
Game 7 might have provided an unremarkable finish to a rather remarkable 2017 World Series, but it wasn't for lack of equal opportunity. While the Houston Astros were using the "punch-and-judy" approach and playing small ball to build an early 3-0 lead, the Dodgers created more traffic jams on the basepaths than you could find on the various Interstate highways in California.
In four of the first five innings, the Dodgers had at least two men on base. It seemed like every time the Dodgers were batting, the announcers were saying there were "two on and two outs."
By the time the third inning started the Dodgers were behind 5-0, thanks to George Springer's two-run homer, which put an end to small ball -- and the scoring -- for the Astros. The Dodgers were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the first five innings of Game 7, when Roberts made the move in the sixth he probably regrets today.
He ordered two intentional walks to load the bases and force the decision to pinch-hit for Chris Devenski, the fourth pitcher used by the Astros. This was definitely a case of "be careful what you wish for."
The immediate strategy worked, as the Astros didn't add to their lead and Devensky, who at various times this season had been the closer, had to leave the game. In his place came Charlie Morton, who gave up one run -- and then put the Dodgers on lock-down the rest of the way, allowing two hits over the last four innings.
The final three innings produced nary a threat by the Dodgers, and for the second time this postseason, the Astros used a starting pitcher to finish the game (Lance McCullers Jr. had done it in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series). It capped an impressive run by a young, aggressive Astros team that is built to contend for years to come.
If that last line rings a bell, it should. We were saying the same thing about the Chicago Cubs last year.
As for the Dodgers, likewise built for the long haul, Roberts can be forgiven if he's heard mumbling over and over again … "two on and two outs" ... "two on and two outs" ... "two on and two outs."
A lot of people wondered why Morton got credit for the win in Game 7 instead of a four-inning save. One reason there wasn't as much uproar was because there wasn't a "true" closer in the game (as in the famed Mariano Rivera debate a few years ago), so nobody got "cheated" out of a save. But that's not the reason this was the correct decision.
Technically, Brad Peacock who worked two scoreless innings could have been credited with the win, and Morton the save, but this was a clear case of the pitcher who was most effective -- and protecting as much as possible the integrity of the win. In a similar circumstance in 2014, San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner originally was credited with the win, but it was later changed to a five-inning save.
I think the original call three years ago was correct, and agree that Morton, despite allowing the Dodgers' only run, deserved the win this year as the clearly dominant pitcher. Some may tend to discredit the value of a win, but as long as they keep score it will be a vital statistic.
Not that it's going to change anything, but it would be interesting to hear an explanation for some of the listings for Game 7 by StubHub, which is actually a "partner" of Major League Baseball.
Courtesy of my Los Angeles "source," Mike Janofsky, here are some of the "bargains" StubHub listed Nov. 1, the day of the final game of the 2017 World Series:
Dugout Club 2, Row AA -- $50,000
Dugout Club 1, Row FF -- $25,001 (one dollar for handling maybe?)
Dugout Club 2, Row DD -- $20,000
Dugout Club 13, Row BB -- $17,500
Dugout Club 5, Row AA -- $12,250
All prices listed per ticket.
I have no idea how much those tickets actually sold for, or even if they were, but I'm sure MLB knows exactly who got those tickets at face value. In today's world you don't hear the words "scalpers" or "scalping" very often -- it's now call the secondary ticket market, where the motto is everything is for sale and is worth whatever somebody is willing to pay.
Whether you spent five figures for a ticket to see it live or watched from the comforts of a recliner, there were some interesting oddities in Game 7. The Dodgers actually out-hit the Astros, 6-5, which is not totally unusual, but what is even more interesting was the fact that Astros pitchers threw more pitches (148) than the Dodgers' (138), a rarity in a game decided by four runs.
That number further highlighted the Dodgers' inability to take advantage of the early opportunities, which could have led to nightmares for Roberts.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com