Against a backdrop that’s been muddied by Yulieski Gurriel’s racial gesture and five-game suspension that won’t begin until the 2018 regular season, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers meet Saturday night for Game 4 of the World Series.
The Dodgers need a win to avoid falling into a 3-1 series deficit that doesn’t guarantee elimination but certainly presents a daunting challenge. In order to avoid such a hole, they’ll need to solve an Astros team that is 7-0 at Minute Maid Park this postseason.
Some of that falls on the shoulders of Alex Wood, who is making his first start since facing the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. “I feel fortunate that I’m finally getting to start in the postseason,” Wood said.
“My three previous postseason experiences have all been out of the bullpen. So really my first start against the Cubs in the postseason, I felt way more comfortable, not really much nerves. Just seemed like another game with a little bit of higher expectations for yourself and a little bit more pressure.
“But I felt really comfortable in Chicago. If you can feel comfortable there, you can feel comfortable anywhere. So I’m really excited about the opportunity.”
Wood allowed just four hits over four innings against the Cubs, but yielded three solo home runs — which turned out to be the deciding factor in the Dodgers’ loss. The outing was his first time pitching in a game in three weeks.
“It has its pluses and minuses,” Wood said of the long layoffs. “Something to where physically it helps me feel a lot more ready, because you have so much time off, but at the same time trying to stay sharp and stay on top of your game, I don’t think there’s any right answer.
“So we’ve tried to do our best with bullpens and lives and throwing flat grounds try to stay mentally locked in. And it hasn’t been too difficult. I didn’t feel too rusty my start under Chicago. Really at this point it’s more about kind of mental fortitude than anything. It’s how focused can you stay and how mentally prepared can you be, and then it comes down to execution. From those aspects I feel confident and I’m ready to go.”
The Astros counter with Charlie Morton, who owns a 6.23 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 13 innings over three starts this postseason.
In his most recent outing in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, Morton tossed five shutout innings against the New York Yankees. But for the series as a whole, he allowed seven runs and 12 baserunners in 8.2 innings (7.27 ERA, 1.27 WHIP).
Kiké Hernandez, batting ninth and again starting in left field, has reached base safely in his last six games. He’s 6-for-12 (.500) in that span with three home runs and eight RBI.
The Dodgers and Astros are both using the same lineup from Game 3. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts restated his confidence in Cody Bellinger, who went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in the loss.
CF: Chris Taylor
SS: Corey Seager
3B: Justin Turner
1B: Cody Bellinger
RF: Yasiel Puig
2B: Logan Forsythe
C: Austin Barnes
DH: Joc Pederson
LF: Kiké Hernandez
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