Heading into Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, the bullpens for the Dodgers and Astros had been heavily used and hit hard. Los Angeles' relief corps' ERA was 4.50 (14 earned runs in 28 innings) through the first six games of the Fall Classic, and Houston's bullpen ERA was 7.29 (17 earned runs in 21 innings).
Both 'pens rose to the occasion in Wednesday's Game 7, but it was the Astros' relievers that played a prominent role in securing a 5-1 victory, clinching their first World Series title in 56 seasons of play.
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Brad Peacock (two innings), Francisco Liriano (one-third of an inning), Chris Devenski (one-third of an inning) and Charlie Morton (four innings) combined for 6 2/3 innings, over which they gave up one run on three hits, walking two and striking out six. By shutting down the Dodgers' attempts at coming back from an early deficit in a winner-take-all Game 7, the Astros' bullpen earned the title of Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford for the World Series.
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As part of the MLB Prevailing Moments program, MLB.com has honored the "Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford" throughout the 2017 season. An industry-wide panel of MLB experts, including legendary stats guru Bill James, constructed a metric based on James' widely-renowned game-score formula to provide a weekly measurement of team bullpen performance.
Here's how the Bullpen Rating System was compiled for each week during the regular season. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:
• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add five points for a save
• Subtract two points for each hit allowed
• Subtract four points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract one point for each walk
• Subtract five points for a blown save
Similar considerations were used to measure bullpen performance during the postseason.
• McCullers hits 4, blanks LA in short G7 start
Houston's relievers were tasked with a tall order in holding Los Angeles' offense at bay over 6 2/3 innings with a World Series championship hanging in the balance. But after starter Lance McCullers exited in the third, they rose to the challenge.
The unexpected: With the Astros leading, 5-0, in the sixth inning, manager A.J. Hinch turned to right-hander Morton, who tossed 6 1/3 strong innings in a Game 4 start. Morton found himself in trouble right away, giving up a Joc Pederson single and walking John Forsythe. After getting Austin Barnes to pop out to shortstop, Andre Ethier singled home a run.
How they prevailed: From there, Morton locked things down, striking out Chris Taylor and getting Corey Seager to ground out softly. Morton, making only his second career relief outing (186 regular-season starts), proceeded to retire the next nine consecutive Dodgers to close out the game.
"We held down a really tough lineup," Morton said. "You know, it hasn't really sunk in, but I don't know, I felt pretty good. I thought early on, I was just kind of amped up. I was overthrowing a little bit, but settled in a little bit and started making some pitches."