LOS ANGELES -- The Astros scored more runs on the road during the regular season than any team in baseball. If they hope to emerge from Wednesday's Game 7 with the first World Series championship in franchise history, they're going to need to get some of that magic back.
Houston's Game 6 loss to the Dodgers, a 3-1 decision that forced Game 7, continued a disturbing trend for A.J. Hinch's team, which has struggled to score runs away from Minute Maid Park during the past two series. The Astros scored 501 runs on the road and 395 at home. In the postseason, they have scored only 14 in their past six games on the road.
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"We've been playing like this all postseason," Jose Altuve said. "It's been crazy. We got some games against the Red Sox and the Yankees where we scored a lot of runs and then we went to New York and we couldn't score a lot of runs. But I have a lot of confidence in my team. Tomorrow is it. The last game of the season and we're going to go out there and play hard."
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After scoring a total of five runs in the three ALCS games at Yankee Stadium, the Astros lost a 3-1 World Series opener at Dodger Stadium. They broke out for seven runs in their 11-inning Game 2 win, but Game 6 saw them score only one run again, the sixth time in the past 13 games that they've been held to one or no runs.
"It was a well-pitched game," Carlos Correa said. "Tomorrow we have to turn that around."
George Springer has done his part to carry the Astros, bashing his fourth home run of the World Series to stake Justin Verlander to a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Since his four-strikeout performance in Game 1, Springer is 9-for-20 (.450) with four homers, five RBIs, five walks and only three strikeouts.
Still, with so many innings left, Springer wasn't thinking that his blast would hold up as the Series winner.
"That's a good offensive team over there," Springer said. "One run is probably not going to hold up. It doesn't matter who's in the game. That's a good feeling right there to strike first."
Only Reggie Jackson (1977) and Chase Utley (2009) have hit more than four homers in a single Fall Classic, while Springer became only the eighth player in history to go deep in three straight World Series games. Lenny Dykstra (1993) is the only other hitter to hit four homers in a World Series out of the leadoff spot.
"He sets a tone at the top and it doesn't get any easier from there," Brian McCann said. "We've seen that from him all year. That's what he does."
The most impressive part of Springer's Series? All four of his homers have either tied a game or put Houston ahead, making him only the second player in history to hit a game-tying or go-ahead homer in three straight games. The other? Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig in 1928.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Astros' lineup had trouble getting the big hit in Game 6, finishing 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position while stranding eight.
The biggest threat came in the fifth, when McCann led off with a single and Marwin Gonzalez doubled, but Houston couldn't get either one home. Rich Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, then after an intentional walk of Springer loaded the bases, Brandon Morrow came in from the bullpen and retired Alex Bregman to strand all three Astros.
Houston had another opportunity in the sixth, putting runners at first and second with two out. Gonzalez hit a hard line drive that Utley -- who was shifted toward second base -- caught for the final out, a ball that had a 65 percent hit probability according to Statcast™.
"We just didn't get hits; that's the game," Springer said. "I feel like if we had gotten one of those hits it might have put them on the ropes some, but that's the game."
In the seventh, with the Dodgers now holding a 2-1 lead, the Astros had runners at first and second with one out. Bregman hit a fly ball to center that advanced pinch-runner Derek Fisher to third base, but Altuve grounded out to third as first baseman Cody Bellinger made a terrific scoop on Justin Turner's low throw.
"The fifth inning, sixth inning, seventh inning we had pressure on them, and they just made pitches or made plays," Hinch said. "We wish we would have had a little bit of a breakout. I thought Marwin in the sixth had a line drive and Utley is playing right up the middle. Obviously Altuve's play was close, first and third. And they navigated around the bottom of the order with the pitcher. Tough not to tack on a few runs."
Wednesday, the Astros will square off with Yu Darvish, who they knocked around for four runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings in Game 3. That game was in Houston, but the Astros aren't going to let the hostile environment of Dodger Stadium set the tone for them in the most important game any of them have ever played.
"Team confidence is at an optimum level right now," Correa said. "We're going to go out there tomorrow like nothing happened today and we've just got to win one game. If you told me at the beginning of the season, You've got to win one game against Yu Darvish to win the World Series,' I would take those odds. Just go out there tomorrow and try to win that last game."