2017 World Series Game 3 Preview: Yu Darvish, Dodgers Face Lance McCullers...

2017 World Series Game 3 Preview: Yu Darvish, Dodgers Face Lance McCullers Jr., Astros In Pivotal Swing Game

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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The World Series heads to Minute Maid Park for Game 3 as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros look to take a 2-1 advantage in the matchup. The Game 3 winner of a best-of-7 postseason series tied 1-1 has gone on to win the series 68.9 percent of the time.

Making his third start of the postseason is Yu Darvish, who looks to continue his stretch of dominance in October. In 11.1 innings, Darvish has posted a 1.59 ERA and 0.79 WHIP with 14 strikeouts to one walk.

He is undefeated in the playoffs, earning wins against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series and Championship Series, respectively.

Darvish, who spent five years with the Texas Rangers prior to being traded to the Dodgers this past July, is quite familiar with the environment he’ll be pitching in on Thursday.

The 31-year-old owns a lifetime 2.16 ERA and 0.74 WHIP in six starts at Minute Maid Park. With the series shifting to an American League ballpark, Darvish won’t be tasked to step into the batter’s box.

“I think it’s going to be a big advantage for me not to go out there and swing a bat and I don’t have to run or anything like that,” Darvish explained through an interpreter. “So I think it’s a big advantage.

“I feel like it doesn’t really matter [starting at Minute Maid Park]. It’s better to know that I’ve pitched here before. But [Friday’s] game, it could be totally different from my previous outings, here.

“But like I said, it’s better to know this stadium and I pitched here before. Maybe it will give me a little bit of an advantage, but it really doesn’t matter.”

In 89 career innings against Houston, Darvish has pitched to a 3.44 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with 11.9 strikeouts per nine. Though he’s altered his pitch selection since joining the Dodgers, the right-hander isn’t changing his approach against the top-ranked Astros lineup.

“Me, personally, like I really don’t change much going into [Friday’s] outing, but to them I’m a different kind of pitcher, different type of pitcher in my pitch selection,” Darvish said.

The Astros send Lance McCullers Jr. to the mound for his fourth appearance of the playoffs. In two games (one start) against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, he posted a minuscule 0.90 ERA and 0.60 WHIP over nine innings pitched.

In Game 7 of the ALCS, McCullers earned a four-inning save without allowing a run, and ultimately propelled the Astros into the World Series.

All-in-all this postseason, McCullers Jr. owns a 2.08 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 13 frames with 13 strikeouts to five walks.

Cody Bellinger, batting cleanup, is hitting .256 (10-for-39) with two doubles, two home runs and four RBI in the postseason. He’s just the 34th rookie in MLB history to record two-plus homers in the playoffs.

Although Kiké Hernandez struggled during the regular season against right-handed pitching, he’s in the lineup, in part due to McCullers’ reverse splits. Hernandez is 3-for-5 with a home run against righties during the playoffs.

The Dodgers initially had Hernandez as their designated hitter, and Joc Pederson playing left field, but swapped the two.

The Astros have posted a collective .495 slugging percentage, are averaging 5.2 runs per game, and are 6-0 at home during the 2017 playoffs.

Dodgers lineup:

CF: Chris Taylor
SS: Corey Seager
3B: Justin Turner
1B: Cody Bellinger
RF: Yasiel Puig
2B: Logan Forsythe
C: Austin Barnes
LF Joc Pederson
DH: Kiké Hernandez

Astros lineup:

CF: George Springer
3B: Alex Bregman
2B: Jose Altuve
SS: Carlos Correa
1B: Yulieski Gurriel
RF: Josh Reddick
DH: Evan Gattis
LF: Marwin Gonzalez
C: Brian McCann