A day later, the Houston Astros were still beaming.
“We’re coming off one of the most epic baseball games in any of our careers,’’ said their manager A.J. Hinch. “That feels good.”
A day later, the Dodgers were still wondering.
“Yeah, last night hurt,” acknowledged manager Dave Roberts. “We’ve turned the page.”
Well, at least they’ve changed the location, the World Series now moving from picturesque Chavez Ravine to a garage named after a juice box. The Dodgers and Astros will take their duel to Minute Maid Park on Friday tied at one game apiece, but they arrived there Thursday from vastly different directions.
The Astros were still celebrating a night that could have changed a series, still waxing over their comeback, 7-6, 11-inning win in Wednesday’s Game 2 at Dodger Stadium.
“It was an incredible game, it was just fun to be a part of, and it gave us a little bit of momentum,” said Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, were still answering questions about how a team that was 98-0 this season when leading after eight innings could break that goose egg at the worst possible time in one of the worst possible games.
Why did Roberts pull starter Rich Hill after just four innings when he had given up one run with seven strikeouts? Why did he pull reliever Tony Watson after just one double-play pitch? Why didn’t he bring in Kenley Jansen to start the eighth, before Brandon Morrow could give up that ground-rule double to Bregman? And how could he burn through so many relievers that the game was decided by the bullpen’s two mop-up men, Josh Fields and Brandon McCarthy?
That answer, of course, is that Roberts was simply managing the way he has managed all season, less reliance on starters, scripted work by relievers, the formula resulting in 104 regular-season wins and an 8-1 playoff record until Wednesday night.
When it worked, and it worked up until Jansen gave up the leadoff homer to Marwin Gonzalez in the ninth, Roberts was called a genius. Even in the middle of this game, all over social media, when his relievers were finishing up a 28-inning scoreless streak, he was called brilliant.
But one bad pitch from Jansen and suddenly Roberts is a fool?
“[It’s] the way we’ve done things all year long, I know our players understand it, believe in it, I know I believe in it,’’ he said. “You just can’t really get caught up in chasing results, you have to kind of really believe in the process, and I know I do.’’
By not chasing results, the 2017 Dodgers have gotten the best results in baseball until now. With less than a week left in the season, the process has already worked, helping the Dodgers to within three wins of their first World Series championship in 29 years.
It’s not about the process anymore, it’s about the players. For as many as five more games, it’s about how the Dodgers players respond to their first bit of October adversity. They have to play the next three games in a place where the Astros are 6-0 in the postseason. They have to play two of those games without their ace Clayton Kershaw.
And they have do it with the memory of how they had this series in their grasp and suddenly dropped it.
“We’re upbeat, we’re upbeat,” Roberts claimed. “It’s not down, it’s not disappointed, there’s definitely no feeling sorry for ourselves.”
There’s definitely no time for it.
Two days after telling the media, “I’m just human,” Jansen will have to figure out how to be superhuman again, the Dodgers’ entire pitching plan being based around that fact.
Noted baseball scribe Jayson Stark came up with a couple of statistics that showed the stunning depths of Jansen’s Game 2 fall. Before Wednesday night, Jansen had been given a lead 20 times in the last five postseasons, and blown zero of those leads. Also, the Gonzalez blast was the first time in Jansen’s career that he had given up a tying or go-ahead home run on an 0-and-2 pitch
Other Dodgers will ponder other struggles from Wednesday. Ross Stripling faced one batter in Gonzalez, threw four balls, and was lifted, and the Dodgers need more from him. Morrow gave up the Bregman eighth-inning double that started the Astros comeback, and it was one of his first stumbles.
Offensively, even though Joc Pederson homered early, he also struck out with Cody Bellinger on third and one out in the seventh, failing to bring in a potential insurance run. Bellinger is still looking for his first World Series hit, while Puig’s only hit was that 10th-inning homer. As a team, the Dodgers are batting only .172.
Meanwhile, the Astros are clearly having all the fun. Carlos Correa is flipping his bat and Justin Verlander is running into the dugout giving pep talks while half dressed and, with every big hit, it seems the entire team erupts in a dance.
Even their manager Hinch is reportedly fighting for them. TMZ Sports reported that after the Astros Game 1 loss, Hinch was involved in an altercation with hecklers at a Pasadena hotel bar. Hinch denied this report Thursday, calling it a, ‘’fabrication,’’ but his players were undoubtedly not upset at the news.
Meanwhile, accompanied by the strains of soft country music, the Dodgers worked out at Minute Maid Park on Thursday, and you’ll never guess who was taking grounders at third base.
Yeah, it was Kenley Jansen, and why not? He’s certainly in the hot corner. They all are.