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Analysis: Leary: Alex Wood saved the Dodgers with his big Game 4 performance

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The Dodgers’ Logan Forsythe and Cody Bellinger celebrate after defeating the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the World Series.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Former Santa Monica High and UCLA standout Tim Leary pitched 13 years in the big leagues and had his best season for the 1988 World Series-champion Dodgers, going 17-11 with a 2.91 earned-run average in 35 games.

The right-hander threw three scoreless innings in Game 1 of the 1988 Series against Oakland and 32/3 one-run innings in Game 3.

Now 58, Leary is serving as a guest analyst for the World Series, with an assist from deputy sports editor Mike Hiserman for Game 4.

Hiserman: What was the story of the night in your mind?

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Leary: It’s the old saying with baseball: Pitching, defense and timely hitting wins games. That was the Dodgers tonight. They gave up one hit prior to the bottom of the ninth. [Cody] Bellinger broke out. I’m sure the people of Houston are probably wondering why Charlie Morton was taken out after 76 pitches, but that’s baseball.

It seems like tonight was one of those nights that a lot of the moves the Astros made just didn’t work out.

Well, you walk [Joc] Peterson with two outs and maybe set up a force, but they didn’t do that; he hit a homer that blew it open. [Chris] Devenski was pitching pretty well and they took him out. They took Morton out pretty early.

Cody Bellinger was 0 for 13 in the Series with eight strikeouts until he doubled and scored the tying run in the seventh inning, then doubled again later. There were critics that said he looked so bad, he should be replaced. What was your take?

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I said the same thing [Dave] Roberts did. You got to stick with the kid. What are your options, really? He has to break out for you at some point in a seven-game series. He was more or less the MVP of the team this season, let’s face it. Now his confidence is up and there are three games left.

What was the difference for him?

I think the game finally slowed down for him. It was the third time around with the starter — and there’s a big thing about that this year and all. He stayed back with two strikes on him. He was going to fight off a fastball and he got a breaking ball that stayed knee high and he hit it the other way. It wasn’t like where they’d been pitching him before, down and in. He didn’t get a bad pitch and chase it. He stayed with it and hit it the other way.

Alex Wood made his second start in 31 days and gave the Dodgers the outing they needed. What did he do well?

He kept the ball down. He pitched the game of his life. We’ve seen him do that this year. He’s come into his own. He showed no signs of composure problems. Other than that one hit, they got nothing. A 30-plus homer guy [George Springer] hit a 3-1 pitch for a homer. Not a bad pitch, just a very high level of hitting. [Wood] is the player of the game. If they don’t win this, they are down 3-1.

The Dodgers flashed the leather in the second inning, with third baseman Justin Turner starting a sharp 5-4-3 double play and second baseman Logan Forsythe making a diving stop and throwing out Josh Reddick. Is that any kind of confidence boost to a pitcher, especially early in a game?

It’s very big, especially for a ground ball pitcher like Wood. He can be more aggressive in the strike zone as long as he keeps the ball down. Major league defenses are almost always extraordinary, but when plays like that are made, it’s an in-the-moment confidence builder.

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Before the game, Astros slugger Yuli Gurriel was suspended five games by Major League Baseball. Even though he won’t have to sit out until the start of next season, there has been a firestorm of attention on his actions toward Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish during Friday night’s game, which seems like it could be a real distraction. How difficult might that be for him and his teammates and coaches?

A Cuban mocking a player from Japan? I don’t think anybody can make sense of it. I wouldn’t count on it being a distraction, at least not during the game. … I was a team player rep for seven years, and I think now is the time for baseball and all pro sports to hold conferences and symposiums on sensitivity training, and set guidelines where needed. Pro athletes are role models, yet nobody really defines what that entails. There are 20- to 25-year-olds — or even younger — coming into MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL every year. Those guys need guidance. Some of the guys who come from other countries, who knows what is and isn’t offensive where they come from. They come here and they’re held to standards they’re not even aware of.

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mike.hiserman@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeHiserman


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