LOS ANGELES -- A few hours before the Astros and Dodgers were set to take the field for Game 7 of the World Series, Houston manager A.J. Hinch was asked what he expected from his starter, Lance McCullers
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"Nine scoreless would be perfect," Hinch said with a smile.
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Houston went on to win, 5-1, to clinch its first World Series title.
"I don't think you can put it into words what it means to the people of Houston," McCullers said. "We wear that [Houston Strong] patch, and we wore it proudly. The people in Houston are never far from our minds. We know they're at Minute Maid [Park] watching, they're going crazy for us. … They deserve this as much as we do, man, and we're going to party hard."
McCullers -- who notched an RBI groundout in the second -- couldn't even get through nine outs, let alone nine innings, but he held up the scoreless part of Hinch's prediction, tossing 2 1/3 innings before being pulled with a 5-0 lead.
"Yeah, no runs came across," McCullers said. "Man, I came into this game. I knew [Tuesday] I didn't have much. I knew I didn't have much to give other than just trying to gut it out as long as I could. The team knew I was on a short leash, but everyone was ready to go in the bullpen today. You saw all of our best guys come out of there, I gutted it out as long as I could. This is crazy."
The right-hander allowed three hits and struck out three, though he hit four Dodgers with pitches, becoming the first pitcher in postseason history to do so in a game.
McCullers allowed a leadoff single by Corey Seager in the third, then hit Justin Turner for the second time in the game. McCullers fanned Cody Bellinger -- also for the second time -- but Hinch lifted him as Yasiel Puig stepped to the plate.
Brad Peacock recorded the next two outs, keeping Los Angeles scoreless. He tossed two scoreless innings, then Francisco Liriano and Chris Devenski each notched an out. Charlie Morton finished it off, tossing four impressive innings of one-run ball to earn the victory.
"Everyone was ready to go," McCullers said. "Brad came in, kept those runs off the board that I left on the bases, you know, pitched well. Liriano came in, got a huge out of Bellinger. Devo came in, did a great job with Puig, and then Morton took it the rest of the way. Hats off to the Dodgers, man. They're an unbelievable team, they're well-coached. They got a bunch of guys on that team who know how to win who just love these types of moments. But we came out on top."
With McCullers lasting only 2 1/3 innings and L.A starter Yu Darvish recording only five outs, it marked the first winner-take-all game in which neither starter lasted eight outs. It hadn't happened at all in the World Series since Game 2 of the 2002 Fall Classic between the Angels and Giants.
McCullers had pitched well for much of the postseason, beating the Yankees with six innings of one-run ball in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series before closing Game 7 with a four-inning save in which he allowed only one hit.
McCullers gave up three runs over 5 1/3 innings in a Game 3 win in the World Series, joining Clayton Kershaw as the only starters to record a victory in this seven-game series.