Column: Dodgers dig deep and unearth the will to survive another day

Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke predicts the winner of Game 7 of the World Series.

A dozen outs from the end of their season, pushed by a raucous Halloween crowd and fueled by their own desperation, the Dodgers dug deep.

They trailed by one run. They had one hit. They were leaning on a tattered bullpen. The night was cooling. The sky was spitting. Winter was coming.

But then, in the sixth inning of Game 6 of the World Series against the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night, it happened, the wondrous realization of a nightly cry that brought back summer.

It was time for Dodger baseball.


They rallied. They were relentless. They mounted a sixth-inning push against Astros ace Justin Verlander that included two line drives, a fly ball, and a bounced pitch that hit a savvy veteran on the foot. The bullpen worked out of three consecutive chilling jams with exhausted arms throwing twisting pitches. The fans roared with each throw, each swing, each push into the Astros psyche.

By the time the digging was finished, the Dodgers had unearthed what today are the two most wondrous words in the language of Los Angeles.

Game 7.

Yes, there will be a final and deciding game in this classic World Series, the first in the 56-season history of Dodger Stadium, the biggest baseball game in the history of this city.


Seven months and 176 games are not going to be enough to decide this Dodger season. It will come down to one more night, Wednesday at Chavez Ravine at 5:20 p.m., one game for the World Series championship after the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over the Astros on Tuesday tied this seven-game series at three games apiece.

“You talk about Game 7 so much that it becomes a cliche, but the idea that it’s now a real thing?” said pitcher Brandon McCarthy. “Surreal.”

It is so monumental, it renders even the most frequent of baseball chatter useless. Just listen to infielder Charlie Culberson.

“Well, it’s win now or go home,’’ he stated, pausing, raising his eyebrows. “Wait a minute. I guess we go home either way.”


The Dodgers will start the veteran Yu Darvish, acquired from Texas last summer just for moments like this. The Astros will start Lance McCullers Jr., a 24-year-old kid who the Astros surely hope is too young to realize the enormousness of the situation.

But nearly every pitcher on both teams will be available to pitch, including Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw, who showered quickly Tuesday night so he could hustle home and sleep.

“I’ll be ready to go from pitch one, whatever they need from me, whatever they need,” said Kershaw, who would be working on two days of rest. “I can’t even fathom this, it’s going to be so fun.”


It was already fun for the 54,128 who filled Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, some of them in Dodger-themed Halloween costumes, many of them exchanging high-fives with strangers on the escalators as they partied together into the night. After 29 years of waiting, a World Series championship could now be as close as 27 outs away.

“One more game!” they chanted. “One more game.”

This giant game will come about because of the Dodgers’ ability to do the smallest things, throwing pointed little jabs in what could have been their final hour.

Entering the bottom of the sixth, the Astros led, 1-0, on George Springer’s third-inning home run. Verlander was nearly unhittable. And the Dodgers had already gone through starter Rich Hill and relievers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson in working out of two earlier jams.


Yet instead of panicking, the Dodgers somehow managed to play patient. Leading off the sixth, Austin Barnes watched two pitches, then singled to left. Up stepped the team’s elder sage, Chase Utley, 0-for-14 in this postseason yet still cool enough to stand and let a bouncing two-strike Verlander pitch hit him in the foot, putting runners on first and second.

“We’re grinding, grinding, grinding,” said shortstop Corey Seager. “That’s what we do.”

Next up, Chris Taylor, who connected on yet another two-strike pitch, lining this one into shallow right field for a hustling double that scored Barnes with the tying run and brought several Dodgers bouncing out of their dugout. Moments later Seager drove a ball to the right-field wall for a sacrifice fly to score Utley from third and the Dodgers had a lead they never lost.

Joc Pederson added his third home run of this World Series one innning later — the same Joc Pederson who was sent to the minor leagues in August — and then closer Kenley Jansen took over.


Just two days after allowing the winning run in Sunday’s Game 5 loss, Jansen showed off his short memory by finishing with two scoreless innings. Before him, in relief of Rich Hill, Brandon Morrow worked out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth, and both Tony Watson and Kenta Maeda worked out of ensuing jams in the sixth and seventh.

“Just trying to stay in the moment ... focusing on wherever you are at the time … not get too amped,’’ said Taylor of the Dodger way.

The Dodger fans do not share that philosophy. They spent three hours amped up. Chavez Ravine might not have been this consistently loud for one game in the last 29 years. Those fans are one reason the Dodgers have the best home record in baseball not only this season, but for the last three years, and once again the crowd dominated.

“When they’re behind us rumbling that stadium, that’s what we want, that’s what we need,’’ said Culberson. “I can’t hear myself talk. I don’t want to hear myself talk.”


The fans were especially loud for Yuli Gurriel, the Astro who was suspended for five games — next year — for the racist gesture he made toward Dodger pitcher Yu Darvish during Game 3. They booed and jeered him every time he came near a base or a ball. The Dodgers loved it. The Dodgers can’t wait for Wednesday night.

“I know the city is going to be pumped up for this,” said Justin Turner. “Our house is going to be rocking.”

They will need it all, the hitting, the pitching, the rocking, for one more game, one more time, Game 7, so beautiful, so scary, so perfect.

The digging is only just beginning.


Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke


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